Archive for April, 2010
What in heaven’s name is going on with conservatives? Their principle print media outlet in the nation’s capital, the Washington Times, paid “tribute” to Earth Day with the following disclosures on its opinion page. First, theTimes editors boasted that their newspaper was “printed on 100 percent non-recycled paper.” Then they “proudly” declared that their publication was “printed with toxic crude-oil-based inks,” and that “business operations were powered by 100 percent natural coal.” As the coup de grace, they proclaimed that “any eco-friendliness is entirely coincidental.”
Was this all tongue in cheek? It’s hard to find any humor in their “disclosures.” Besides, there was no suggestion that they were putting the readers on. The statements were presented in a straight forward manner at the end of three anti-Earth Day editorials which assailed President Obama’s environmental policies, the validity of global warming, and the marketability of solar power and other renewable energy sources.
Okay, they didn’t like Obama’s approach. But what could have been their reasoning in trumpeting a devotion to material waste, toxic pollution, and dirty fuels that are heating up the planet? Why exude antipathy towards any environmental protection efforts? It’s difficult to figure, given that their acerbic rhetoric was hardly a way to expand readership and solidify their credibility on the national stage.
Perhaps these editors had become so partisan that they could only view environmental issues through a narrow ideological prism, resulting in robotic opposition to their political adversaries’ every stand, regardless of merit. If that is the case (and there is every reason to believe that it is), they failed to recognize an elemental truth. Reducing the massive amounts of waste, increasing recycling, cleaning up toxic pollution, transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable ones, and curbing global warming are not liberal or conservative causes; they are national ones.
Trying to politicize environmental protection in a negative way is a formula for ultimate alienation from society’s mainstream. What other outcome could be expected? Reveling in the buildup of municipal waste, toxic chemical contamination, and greenhouse gas pollutants is sick, regardless of whether the Washington Times editors were jesting or dead serious.
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication this summer. Telephone (202) 363-1270. Address: Suite 609, 1330 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036
Most conservatives today are conservative in name only. Their stance on numerous issues bears no resemblance to the positions held by their forebearers in the original conservative movement.
Consider the congressional father of conservatism, Senator Barry Goldwater or the icon of contemporary right wingers, President Ronald Reagan. No one would question their patriotism, which is why they would be appalled at conservatives who in 2010 seem to care more about having President Obama fail than the country succeed.
Nowhere is the adulteration of original conservative principles more manifest than in the treatment of environmental concerns.
Russell Kirk was the author of the 1953 treatise, The Conservative Mind, regarded as the classic introduction to modern day conservatism. More than a half century ago, Kirk declared that “The issue of environmental quality is one which transcends traditional political boundaries.”
Tell that to today’s conservatives, who have made environmental protection a highly contentious, partisan issue despite the words of their idol, Ronald Reagan. He at least paid lip service to unity when in 1984, he asserted that “preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge. It’s common sense.”
When the Democrats moved to make environmental protection one of their signature issues shortly after the first Earth Day (1970), conservative Republicans’ political response was to discredit and obstruct the trend rather than outdo it. This strategy resulted in a majority of the GOP robotically opposing stringent environmental regulation at virtually every turn. Today, the conservative Republican leadership characterizes environmental activists and their crusade for strong anti-pollution regulation as the embodiment of leftist collectivism and totalitarian rule.
I don’t think this unflattering description would appeal to Kirk, who 50 years ago already was critical of where he perceived conservatism to be heading.
“Practical conservatism has degenerated into mere lauding of private enterprise, economic policy has almost wholly surrendered to special interests,” he opined. One could understand his disappointment in light of his view that “Nothing is more conservative than conservation.”
Nor would Barry Goldwater be happy with the environmental intransigence of his successors. Back in 1970, the Arizona senator stated that “while I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”
Many of today’s conservatives consider the global warming threat a hoax, environmental regulations a repressive and unnecessary weight on the economy, and the appropriate energy policy to be “drill [for oil], baby drill”.
These views would not likely enthrall Richard Weaver, author of the 1946 tract that launched the American conservative moment. “Nature is not something to be fought, conquered and changed according to any human whim,” he once commented.
Jeffrey Hart would also be displeased. A senior editor at the conservative National Review and a former speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Hart recently remarked that “when the free market becomes a kind of utopianism, it maximizes ordinary human imperfection, unleashing greed, short views, and the resulting barbarism.”
Run this by today’s conservative bigwigs and they would denounce it as “liberal propaganda”.
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication at the end of this summer. Telephone (202) 363-1270. Address: Suite 609, 1330 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
By Edward Flattau
Most disparagers of Earth Day in the past have not questioned the enormous significance of environmental concerns. Their line of attack has been to denounce the environmental movement’s celebration of the day as a thinly disguised attempt to raise money and impose a socialist agenda through sweeping anti-business regulation. For these critics, the best way to cleanup and preserve the environment is to let the marketplace work its will. Competitive pressures will purge pollution.
It is criticism that has had inconsequential effect in dampening enthusiasm for past celebrations of the special day.
Now, critics are shifting to a different approach to diminish the occasion as Earth Day reaches its 40th anniversary. While not outright denying the importance of environmental concerns, denigrators are seeking to devalue Earth Day with a two-pronged attack. First is that some of the threats, global warming in particular, are exaggerated. The occasion, they maintain, has become a publicity stunt, and the truth is that advanced technology has the problems well in hand.
Secondly, all the hullabaloo about environmental degradation is a distraction from the primary concerns—a severely depressed economy and widespread unemployment.
This downgrading of Earth Day (primarily by hard core Right Wingers) resurrects the tired old shibboleth that when economic growth and environmental reform appear to be in conflict, the latter must give way. It is an appealing argument for corporate polluters. But it is contrary to the reality that the health of the economy and environment are integrally intertwined and cannot achieve their optimum state in the modern world without a finely tuned synergistic relationship.
If this positive message of collaboration drowns out the renewed attempts to minimize the true meaning of the “green” holiday by sowing dissension where there should be none, the 40th Earth Day will be the most successful to date.
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication at the end of this summer. Telephone (202) 363-1270. Address Suite 609, 1330 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.
By Edward Flattau
Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin is going to host a television travel documentary celebrating her state’s “majestic natural beauty”, much of which was threatened by despoliation from her catering to commercial interests while in office.
Will hypocrisy then be rampant in her TV series of planned $1.2 million episodes that the Discovery Channel has agreed to carry later this year? Or will she have experienced an epiphany regarding the preservation of Alaska’s pristine natural resources?
Chances are that Palin’s production will show a polar bear bounding over an ice flow, given there are few more awesome wildlife images in the state that is called our “last frontier”. Yet as governor, Palin chose to legally contest the federal designation of the polar bear as a threatened species despite reams of scientific evidence justifying such protection.
I betcha there will be dramatic footage of salmon fighting their way up Alaska’s spectacular wild rivers. These are the same breed of fish that the then Governor Palin refused to protect against stream contamination from gold and copper mining in the biologically bountiful Bristol Bay watershed. The balance sheets of the mining company took precedence over natural resource conservation.
What would a documentary of Alaska’s magnificent wilderness be without some film of wolves roaming the state’s forests and tundra? At some point, the former Republican vice presidential nominee will undoubtedly focus her camera lens on these canine predators so closely identified with the Alaskan wilds. That would contrast with her time as governor when the sights she set on wolves were attached to gun barrels. One of her crusades was to defy a national ban on the aerial hunting of wolves. She authorized a turkey shoot from helicopters, claiming that an excess of wolves were depleting the elk and caribou herds favored by sport hunters. State wildlife biologists disputed her claim, saying the caribou and elk populations were not in danger. Palin’s edict was simply a thinly veiled ploy to allow airborne “sportsmen” to mow down helpless wolves for trophy purposes, and in the process, upset the regional wildlife’s ecological balance.
Lord knows filmmaker Palin would be hard pressed to ignore the Beluga whales found in Alaska’s spectacular Cook Inlet. Should these creatures appear in her production, be apprised that when in office, Palin opposed listing them as endangered species even though less than 400 remained. She contended that such protection would harm the economy of the Cook Inlet area, and scoffed at the grim data warning of the whale population’s precarious status.
No Alaskan wilderness panorama is more breathtaking than the Arctic National Wildlife’s coastal plain in the height of summer, with teeming herds of migrating caribou dotting the tundra and the majestic Brooks Range towering in the distance. Our nation’s last great intact ecosystem –often labeled America’s Serengeti— should be a natural for inclusion in Palin’s Alaskan odyssey. If that turns out to be the case, one can’t help wondering about Palin’s frame of mind. As governor—and to this day—she insists that oil drilling can, and should, take place on ANWR without any significant adverse environmental impact. Yet it is clear that such energy development would require hundreds of miles of roads and other infrastructure to crisscross the Arctic coastal plain, in effect transforming it into an industrial complex.
No doubt Palin will show us other dazzling views of Alaska’s wild pristine landscapes that she sought as governor to open up to mining, drilling timber cutting and other commercial ventures.
Much of the Palin travelogue’s message will most likely visually inspire viewers, but what about the messenger? Actions speak louder than words. Maybe production of this documentary will instill in her a newfound appreciation of Alaska’s unspoiled natural wonders. Maybe, just maybe…?
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication this summer. Telephone (202) 363-1270. Address: Suite 609, 1330 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.