Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

What’s 5 million years old, but was only created 6000 years ago?

Posted by metaphorical on 30 December 2006

The Grand Canyon, of course. Moreover, the rock there itself goes back about 2 billion years.

From the National Park Service’s own website:

… the thick sequence of rocks exposed in the walls of the Canyon. These rocks provide a remarkable (but incomplete) record of the Paleozoic Era (550-250 million years ago), as well as scattered remnants of Precambrian rocks as old as 2000 million years. The story these rocks tell is far older than the canyon itself….

How old is the canyon itself?

The early history and evolution of the Colorado River (of which Grand Canyon is only a part) is the most complex aspect of Grand Canyon geology and far beyond our scope here. We do know, however, that the erosion which has shaped the canyon has occurred only in the past five to six million years—only yesterday, considering the age of the rocks through which the Canyon is carved.

Nevertheless, the Park Service continues to sell a religious-based, scientifically absurd book at its visitor centers, apparently at the insistence of fundamentalist political appointees back in Washington. So reports Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, “a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals.”

Moreover, the park service employees are apparently not permitted to tell park visitors the same things the official NPS website tells virtual ones.

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

It’s a shame what park rangers, many seasonally out of work every year, and always underpaid, have to put up with.

I remember attending a conference in Durango, Colorado, about 10 years ago. Knowing there was great climbing, rafting, and hiking in the area, I arranged an extra day for myself afterward. When I saw on a map that Mesa Verde was only about 4 hours away, my day was set. I got to the main Visitor’s Center about 1:00pm, and waited patiently as an out of shape, 50ish woman quizzed a ranger. “But how far is that from where you park?” and “How far a walk is that?” was pretty much all she wanted to know.

When it was finally my turn, I asked the ranger, “I have three and a half hours. Where can I go and see some cool stuff and as few of that type of people as possible?” The ranger, a full-time park employee who looked to be in her early 30s, grinned and mapped out a perfect afternoon for me, visiting Spruce Tree House and hiking the Petroglyph Point Trail.

My question for the rangers at Grand Canyon National Park and the good people at PEER is this: Can’t you just toss the stupid books in some boxes and stash them into a back room until our Orwellian nightmare ends and sanity returns to the White House in 2008?

3 Responses to “What’s 5 million years old, but was only created 6000 years ago?”

  1. Vicki said

    You’re so absolutely right about the books. It’s insane. And you’re also right about the rangers, their helpfulness and the way they are unappreciated for what they do.

    Paul and I always ask about walking distances because if Paul has to walk too far that’s the end of walking for a couple of days because of the blinding pain. He doesn’t look like he’s in pain. He looks kind of 50ish and out of shape. He has to ration his mileage; the pain is always there, it’s relentless, but there’s no reason to make it even more intense when, with intelligent planning, we can actually get out and enjoy the park. It would be nice to know that we’re not being judged for that by people who don’t know anything about us.

  2. Lara said

    What Vicki said. I’ve been looked up and down and snarled at for politely asking for a chair at a service desk. Apparently disabled people “bring their own chairs”, and everyone else is just fat and lazy.

  3. To be sure. And Rachel, with her bad ankle, has good days and bad days too. Even though I didn’t hear the beginning of that particular conversation, and even though the ranger was very nice and accommodating, I had the impression from the questions and responses that there was no physical impairment in this case.

    The general point remains. I can’t find the statistic, but some absurd percent of national park visitors never go more than 100 yards from the visitor’s center. Our kids are being taught that going to the visitor’s center is visiting the park, and that parks are places to go to buy stuff, just like the mall.

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