Paulette Jordan, Weary of Politics, Speaks to the 'Rights of Nature' at Boise State 

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Lex Nelson

The Idea of Nature lecture series is back on at Boise State University after a one-year hiatus, and its new season kicked off Feb. 6 with an the unexpected voice: that of former Idaho House Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan.

Like the series itself, Jordan, too, had dropped temporarily off the map, in her case following her unsuccessful bid for governor. After a period in Washington state advocating for orca conservation, she said it's "good to be back."

"I'm really tired of the politics, as you can see," Jordan told the crowd packed into Boise State's Simplot Ballroom Wednesday night.

Comments like those peppered Jordan's talk, "Rights of Nature: The Future of Idaho's Landscape," which focused largely on her Native American heritage and the importance of protecting both public lands and wildlife. Between stories about growing up on the land and ideas for securing legal rights for nature, she dropped political tidbits, saying, for example, that her run for governor was part of an attempt "to do what is right" rather than a bid for power.

Despite her clear disappointment with the current state of environmental protections—she told the crowd she feels people are often "blinded" by political and economic aims—Jordan's talk looked to a hopeful future. At one point, she had all of the attendees under age 18 stand for a round of applause, and called on them to lead the fight against climate change, and to challenge political figures.

"It's the young people that are part of this community that are going to take on the next step," she said.  "... It's like an army. It's an army of hope and love that will continue to persist."

The hopeful future she painted would include breaching four dams on the Snake River currently impacting migrating salmon; the legalization of hemp to reduce dependence on plastics, oil and natural gas; keeping public lands in public hands; and amending Idaho's constitution to secure rights for nature, rather than just guidelines for the extraction of resources.

Jordan closed her talk with another nod to her ancestry, saying, "If you mess up this lifetime, trust me, you will come back again. So let's do our best in this cycle."

When Jordan took the stage Wednesday night she became the first politician to give a talk in The Idea of Nature series' seven-year history; usually, the nature-focused lectures come from academics. But Dr. Samantha Harvey, the Boise State English professor behind the program, said she was happy to make an exception for Jordan.

"I really value having an Idahoan talking about the Idaho landscape, and from a Native American perspective," she said. 

Jordan's full lecture should soon be available for viewing online. Upcoming lecturers include "Thomas Jefferson's Nature" from University of Virginia history professor Peter S. Onuf (Wednesday, March 13), and "Changing Views of Nature" from University of Vermont biology professor Bernd Heinrich (Wednesday, April 17). 
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