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E is for: Environmental entropy and educing elections

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 14, 2002


"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." — H.G. Wells

Is it just me, or does the result of the 2002-midterm elections seem like we just took a giant step towards a whole lot of hurt? Described as a Republican romp by Dan Rather, it is hard to see it as anything other than a wake up call for environmentalists. With GOP control in the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, those of us concerned about environmental sustainability must now prepare for the coming chaos.

With the new imbalance of power in the Washington, we can expect a new commitment to mineral and oil extraction of federal lands. Closer to home it is a certainty the Bush Administration will attempt to activate oil-drilling leases off the California coast. We can also expect increased logging, less habitat protection, and a growing threat to civil liberties.

In Alaska, Senator Frank Murkowski, a Republican, was elected Governor. In the Senate, Murkowski has been pressing for passage of an energy bill that includes provisions for oil and gas exploration in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As Governor, Murkowski is expected to replace himself in the senate with a Republican who favors opening the north slope of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

With a Republican majority, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is now in position to open more public lands - including wildlife refuges, national forests and national monuments - to energy exploration. The loss of Senate control will also make it more difficult for Democrats to pursue investigations of Bush administration actions like the Dubya's plans to overhaul some of the nation's most important environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and most importantly the endangered Endangered Species Act.

George's jihad should kick into high gear before Christmas, already his administration has proposed new restrictions on citizen lawsuits that could make it more difficult to challenge federal actions like the diversion of scare water resources from wildlife to agriculture. With a new climate in Washington, environmentalists can expect outright derision and hostility. Because of this, I predict environmental activism will gain in popularity and street force. Which of course will only deepen the divisions.

Here in California we find ourselves in a distinctly adversarial relationship with the federal government. Governor Gray, for all his shortcomings, sent Simple Simon packing, thereby keeping California resoundingly in the Democratic camp. George W. will do everything possible to punish California. To that end we can expect renewed efforts to open more oil leases of the coast, more attacks on California's air quality standards and our efforts to further reduce auto emissions, and wholesale destruction of forest ecosystems in the name of fire suppression.

The feeling from the environmental community is of severe dread. Not only is President Bush pushing us into a war that will prove to be dirty in every sense of the word. Goddess only knows the magnitude of environmental destruction that will be done to those not serving American interests. Will Saddam ignite more oil wells, what chemical weapons will we use to prevent Saddam from using his, and what about the lasting legacy of bombs being dropped in the name homeland security? Let's face it folks the world just became a more threatening place.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the results of the 2002 elections, it is that the Greens have continued to build their support base. In Northern California, Green Party candidates all had over 10% in votes in many counties, with Camejo getting 16.3% in Mendocino County. Statewide, Gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo received five percent of the vote, and several California cities now have a Green majority on their City Councils.

Regardless of what the rest of the nation tends to do, California will be an impossible nut for the GOP to crack, because as Republican clout slowly fails, Green Party politics continues to make inroads. Sadly most support for Green candidates will result from the environmental chaos being fostered by the Bush Administration. Whatever the case, those of us working towards environmental sustainability have an even rougher road ahead of us.

If there is one thing we can all be sure of, it's that the next two years will be a very bumpy ride. Seatbelts not included.

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