By Wallace J. Nichols
Growing up in the 1970s, I idolized Evel Knievel. To me, he was a rock star, sports hero and folk legend in one. He was both a daredevil and a cool character. Back then, his jumps over buses, fountains and canyons inspired me to launch my bicycle, into the air and over puddles, mounds of dirt and my hapless friends. Occasionally, in honor of his ill-fated jump over the Snake River Canyon, I’d jump my bicycle into the neighbor’s pond.
Now, I find new inspiration in my childhood hero.
In 1961 Robert Craig Knievel, long before “Evel” became a household name, hitchhiked through the dead of winter from Butte to our nation’s capital to protest the culling of elk in Yellowstone National Park. He lugged the rack of a massive bull elk along as a gift. It dominated the White House office of Mike Manatos, assistant to John F. Kennedy. The administration responded and many elk were saved.
Half a century later our country and our world face ever more serious environmental crises — loss of biodiversity, a warming planet, collapsing fisheries, looming food and water shortages for billions of people and the realization that our pollution has reached nearly every corner. Scientists forecast the 2050 Scenario as the convergence of a hotter, dirtier, more overcrowded Earth where nature will have been forgotten by most of the nine billion inhabitants who fight in violent wars for what’s left.
Jumping that chasm is the greatest challenge we have ever faced. Waiting until later is foolish at best and disastrous at worst.
Solving the biggest problems we face will require the most revolutionarily of changes in society and technology, rather than incremental steps.
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