Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908


“THE CLIMATE HAS CHANGED AND IS STILL CHANGING.” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908





Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908


As a Canadian, I’ve never had much to do with party politics.

OK, I’ve posted the occasional Patriotic Rant, but then, being a big teddy bear by nature, moved on to laughter, love and a good cold glass of Moosehead Ale…

My favourite Canadian Prime Minister remains Conservative John Diefenbaker. As a boy, I loved his fierce loyalty to country and his sense of personal independence. I’ve mentioned elsewhere his historic speech introducing his Bill Of Rights (“We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage”). [1]

I’ve applauded Conservative Brian Mulroney for his work on the environment, earning him the title “Canada’s Greenest Prime Minister.” Although I’ve also lamented his joining with Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher in that whole Free Trade thing. Still unsure about FT after all these years.

I’ve celebrated Justin and Sophie’s appearance on the world stage, not for political reasons, but because of the cred they’ve given Canadian culture. As of this writing, there’s a number of women positioning for leadership of the Conservative party — a good sign for the Dominion.

My Mom is an English war bride and I lived in Yorkshire from ages 4 to 8, so I’ve followed all things British over the years. Those old Britcoms still break me up (“Are you free, Mr Humphries?”). Cheer for England in the FA Cup. The Brexit thing — well, I kind of agree with it, sort of, but it’s not my place to go on about it either way.  Except to cheer: “God Bless England!”

American politics?  I keep out of it.  There’s one exception. Teddy Roosevelt.

teddy-roosevelt-climate-changeI read a library book about him as a kid and he earned a respect that has stayed with me. Probably the Rough Rider charge up San Juan Hill first caught a youngster’s imagination. Ranching out in the Wild West. Exploring the Amazon jungles. A young asthmatic growing up to lead a Strenuous Life outdoors. Bully stuff.

Later, it was his dedication to Conservation and National Parks that kept my interest. He later said that these were his proudest achievements.  A true outdoorsman to the end.

In his “Eighth Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives” of Tuesday, December 8, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a long and astute summary of the State of the Union and, in fact, much of the world. [2]

Among detailed accounts of Finances, Business, Law, Education, Public Health and Soldiers’ Homes, he certainly caught my attention with his Forests, Inland Waterways and National Parks sections.

“The climate has changed and is still changing? And Teddy wrote that in 1908?”

Well, yes.  There it is.  Word for word.

Today, when it’s taken for granted Fossil Fuels are the primary cause of extreme climate change, I’ve drawn some fire by saying, “No. Deforestation is the Number One Cause of global climate change.” Not that I’m letting Fossil Fuels off the hook. Three and a half centuries of coal-fed industrialism, with oil and gas following along, have added immensely to real eco-callapse. [3]

Thing is, many petrochem industries are now beginning to invest in Green technology. The recent announcement that Japan has now “more electric car charging stations than gas stations” caught our own Green Techies by surprise.  Our Green tech and Green Energy sectors are already scrambling to catch up.

But Humankind has been busily hacking down those thriving magnificent forests for the entire Age of Civilization — for over 5000 years. And the destruction has been clearly affecting the Earth ever since. The Industrial Age has seen a gigantic leap in that forestland destruction.

The cure is no longer “Plant A Tree” but PLANT ENTIRE FORESTS – OR ELSE!

And Teddy Roosevelt gave us the reasons why in his 1908 Message:

“If there is any one duty which more than another we owe it to our children and our children’s children to perform at once, it is to save the forests of this country, for they constitute the first and most important element in the conservation of the natural resources of the country,” Teddy said.

“Shortsighted persons, or persons blinded to the future by desire to make money in every way out of the present, sometimes speak as if no great damage would be done by the reckless destruction of our forests…

“All serious students of the question are aware of the great damage that has been done in the Mediterranean countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa by deforestation. The similar damage that has been done in Eastern Asia is less well known.

“A recent investigation into conditions in North China by Mr. Frank N. Meyer, of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture, has incidentally furnished in very striking fashion proof of the ruin that comes from reckless deforestation of mountains, and of the further fact that the damage once done may prove practically irreparable…

The climate has changed and is still changing. It has changed even within the last half century, as the work of tree destruction has been consummated….”

Teddy concluded: “What has thus happened in northern China, what has happened in Central Asia, in Palestine, in North Africa, in parts of the Mediterranean countries of Europe, will surely happen in our country if we do not exercise that wise forethought which should be one of the chief marks of any people calling itself civilized.

“Nothing should be permitted to stand in the way of the preservation of the forests, and it is criminal to permit individuals to purchase a little gain for themselves through the destruction of forests when this destruction is fatal to the well-being of the whole country in the future.”

Well said.

teddy-roosevelt-bearI really recommend that you read Teddy’s entire Forests report. And the Waterways and National Parks sections that follow.

Maybe you’re not an American and all you know about Teddy is that he once spared the life of a bear while hunting — and a stuffed bruin was named after him.  Entire generations have grown up with fond memories of their childhood teddy bears…  No matter — you should read it.

Here’s an unquestionable fact, my friend: Just over a Hundred Years after Teddy Roosevelt gave his impassioned warning, we’re seeing the global climate change effects, the results of inattention, indulgence and inactivity are here…

It will be the entrepreneurial free enterprisers who will put in the hard work and reap the rewards of our new Green Economy.  For a look at these issues from a Conservative voice,  SEE  Global Climate Change Facts: COP21 Climate Change Conference Paris 2015


[1] For more on Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, see Old Stock Canadian vs Newcomer: A Patriot’s View

[2] To Read the Complete “Eighth Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives” by President Theodore Roosevelt, Dec 8, 1908: Click Here  (Note: if page doesn’t immediately load, you may have to click on Reload)

[3] Besides investing in Green Tech, the Petrochem industry could really up their public relations game by explaining the disastrous results of Deforestation — and Planting New Forests!

Brian Alan Burhoe


Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908

Keywords: climate change, climate change effects, deforestation, forests, destruction of forests, global climate change, global warming, greenest prime minister, patriotic rant, teddy bear, Teddy Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, wilderness



About Brian Alan Burhoe

A Graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course, Brian Alan Burhoe has cooked in Atlantic Coast restaurants and institutional kitchens for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Brian's articles reflect his interests in food service, Canadian history, imaginative literature, wildlife writing, animal rights, wilderness preservation and our best friends -- our dogs. See his CIVILIZED BEARS!
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