What's Tony Thinking

A Modest Proposal


We’re home from our Malheur Refuge trip. It was a grand trip. In addition to the many birds, we were excited to see two dozen wild horses, members of the “Hollywood Herd.” I imagine that moniker owes to sighting them evokes the “Old West” of Hollywood movies.

They were an array of colors and looked quite healthy. The BLM does occasional round-ups of the wild horses of the Steens Mountain. I suppose that is to keep herds from getting too large and doing some damage.

On our way back from viewing the wild horses, we stopped in the small town of French Glen where a sign on the local “Mercantile” said, “Practicing Social Distancing Since 1872.”

Another fun, and new thing for me, was seeing antelope on the high desert (between 4,000 and 5,000 feet elevation on the plains you see in these photos). One local told me that “quite a herd is developing.” I include a couple more photos, the first is one of Linda’s, and then one of mine, to give you a sense of the vastness of the high desert lands. One of the best books on the area, a collection of writings is called, aptly, Edge of Awe. That’s the emotion I experience there.

Here’s a bit from writer Bill Kittredge, making a return trip to lands his family ranched near Malheur when he was growing up. “Driving through the watered and sometimes swampy interior of the refuge, I spooked herds of mule deer and passed silent, long-legged herons as they stalked, and trumpeter swans and red-tailed hawks and one falcon before the end of my afternoon, when I wandered through French’s (Peter French, early rancher in the area) headquarters, where he built his long barn and woven-willow corrals and put up his white-painted, two-story house while his vaqueros were driving yearly herds of steers to the railroad in Winnemucca.”

It was a long drive from Malheur to Seattle. Close to the top of Mt. Hood we were back in winter, with snow pelting down. But as we descended to Hood River and its blooming fruit orchards, and then to the Columbia Gorge, we were back in spring again.

As we drove I came up with this “modest proposal” for what you and I can do about climate change and to support the Ukrainians. It is this: drive the speed limit.

I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy school ma’rm, but few people do drive the speed limit. The ones that do look like slow pokes. My unscientific observation leads me to conclude that, by and large, people drive at about 10 mph above the speed limit on freeways and rural highways.

I’m old enough to remember a sweater-clad Jimmy Carter urging us to turn down the thermostat and drive at 55 mph. And yes, he took a lot of flak for that. That doesn’t change the fact that he was right. Even if people just drove the posted speeds of 65 and 70, that would have quite an effect on overall fuel/ oil consumption.

Beyond going fast, it is also my impression that people are driving more aggressively these days. It may be a sign of pent-up pandemic frustration. But it might also be that the idea of societal norms has suffered damage from a political climate where norms have been degraded and impulsive behavior is rewarded.

Anyhow . . . we could, rather easily, reduce oil consumption benefiting the climate and reducing the need for Russian fuel in other parts of the world. It is within our power.

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