Stampeding Black Elephants

Stampeding Black Elephants, Tom Friedman, NYT

Did you realize that PLAN Jeffco and Jefferson County Open Space are an integral part of a world wide effort to deal with massive environmental problems such as global warming, climate change, deforestation, mass extinction and water pollution? Well, we didn’t either until we read Tom Friedman’s op-ed piece in the New York Times Sunday Review Section on November 23, 2014 entitled “Stampeding Black Elephants”.

So what’s a Black Elephant? When Friedman was at the recent World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, he heard this term used for the first time. The Black Elephant is a cross between “…‘a black swan’ (an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications) and ‘the elephant in the room’ (a problem that is visible to everyone, yet no one still wants to address it).”

The Black Elephant in question is the plethora of environmental issues which are influencing each other — global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, mass extinction and massive fresh water pollution. These tragedies strike and we claim they’re unpredictable black swans. In truth they’re the elephant which is already in the room.

The Congress brought together some 6,000 scientists and environmentalists from around the globe, all of whom were focused on the same goal: “guarding and expanding protected areas, which are the most powerful tools we have to restrain the environmental black elephants.”

Russ Mittermeier, one of the world’s leading primatologists, said to Friedman that “…protected forests, marine sanctuaries and national parks are not zoos, not just places to see nature. They are the basic life support systems that provide the clean air and water, food, fisheries, recreation, stable temperatures and natural coastal protections that sustain us humans…”

This article brings a global perspective to what we’re trying to do in Jefferson County, in preserving and conserving our open spaces. Friedman cites perspective after perspective, from countries across the world, and they all point to a common thread of thought…our open spaces and “parks are really the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems of the world — and they’re all endangered.” You can read the entire column in the New York Times online, at

(The New York Times is a subscription-based newspaper; a paid subscription may be required.)

About the author /

Michelle Poolet

PLAN Jeffco Board Member. Michelle Poolet is a relative new-comer to PLAN Jeffco, but not to the world of volunteer work. She has been on the Board of PLAN Jeffco since 2008, and in that time has worked hard to ensure the success of various PJ conferences and events. She is part of the PLAN Jeffco web content subcommittee, and liaisons between the PLAN Jeffco Board and the Open Space Advisory Committee. Her “day job” is as President and Chief Enterprise Architect of Mount Vernon Data Systems, a BBB A+ accredited database consulting company. Michelle lives on Lookout Mountain, in unincorporated JeffCo, with her best pal, TessaRose the collie, with whom she enjoys daily trekking in the forests.

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