Sustainability Podcast/Our National Parks

As part of the strategic planning process currently underway at the Alliance, we have been looking at existing sustainability resources in order to identify where we best fit. I get most of my news and information through podcasts (I have an active young son, and do not have much time to sit and read), so I have been surveying and sampling the universe of sustainability podcasts.

KEXP Seattle has an impressive Sustainability Segment. Listen, and let me know what you think.

The August 19 interview with Kristen Brengel is worth your time, particularly in this time when we reflect on what we did or did not do over the summer. Ms. Brengel, Director of Legislative and Government Relations for the National Parks Conservation Association, reminds us of how the Federal sequester cuts have affected our National Parks, and how this in turn affects the economies of park gateway communities.

In the podcast interview, Ms. Brengel talks about efforts to diversify income sources and reduce National Parks’ dependence on tax dollars. This may sound good in theory, but in practice it means doing things that make park visits less affordable for average Americans.

This made me think of an experience my family had this summer. My mother lives far away and wants to develop a tradition of taking her grandsons on special adventures during her annual summer visit. We started with a manageable trip for Oma and two four year-old boys — an overnight in a hotel with a pool. Of course, engaging two young boys can be exhausting, and sometimes an hour of cartoons can provide a good break for all. Oma did what she does at home — turned on PBS (our local affiliate, Twin Cities Public Television, is quite wonderful). Nothing but static — grey fuzz. Turns out the hotel is happy to sell you an hour of PBS Kids programming for just $7.99…

PBS is diversifying its income sources by joining the other paid television options in hotels. To some, this may seem like a smart move — if you are staying at a hotel, you have some disposable income, and if you feel strongly enough about limiting your children’s viewing to non-commercial television you will pay for the privilege. I just see it as making a simple “staycation” less affordable for the average American family by creating a $7.99 fee instead of increasing taxes by 1/100th of one percent (PBS and NPR get 1/14th of one percent of the federal budget in 2012) to support PBS.

Back to our national parks. The National Parks Conservation Association makes a great case that at just 1/14th of one percent of the federal budget, national park funding should not be cut any further. I think national park funding should be increased, but that’s for another time…