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The excess of elections is a sign of the times

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 22, 2008


Now that the 2008 campaign season is over, races have been run, mud slung, and votes counted perhaps "we the people" can be the change we were looking for at the end of a ballot.

I suggest we begin by changing the way politics are played and how elections are conducted.

Having just campaigned for office I can attest to a disconnect between environmental ethics and electioneering. Unable to meet and greet every possible voter candidates and their campaign machines, revert to the use of yard signs, fliers, banners, posters, leaflets, and direct mail pieces. Hold overs from 19th and 20th century paradigms, paper intensive elections contribute to a global deforestation crisis, while adding to the landfill problem.

Single use election materials are both expensive and wasteful. Offering little more than shallow talking points, drive-by politics undermines democracy and weakens the social fabric the holds communities together. No longer a contest of ideology and issues, modern politicking has become the art of sign placement and font size.

Campaigns signs are not only traffic hazards, they are also a visual blight inflicted on neighborhoods and commercial districts. Often targeted by vandals, campaign signs become roadside litter. Then there is the issue of sign theft perpetrated on opposing camps. Another form of waste, campaigns purchase more and bigger signs, thereby driving up the cost of elections and the level of visual blight.

Campaign mailers are another form of political pollution. It's hard to imagine the number of trees destroyed in this years elections. From Del Mar to Delaware the amount of paper used to elect our representatives, or pass a Proposition, should give everyone pause.

It's time to bring our electoral system into the 21st century and embrace emerging technologies to reach voters in an environmentally sustainable manner. On line advertising, public access candidate spots, radio and direct e-mail. Using less resources to reach more people should be the goal of all politicians.

Future focused voters should demand fiscal restraint and ecological wisdom from all candidates, rejecting those that show a wasteful disregard for their communities by obstructing the view with name recognition strategies. The world is changing, and it's time for the political process to change with it.

Drive-by democracy serves only those creating the clutter and filling mailboxes with glossy bullet points. Drive-by democracy generates tons of waste, yet little understanding of the issues facing the electorate. Drive by democracy should be a thing of the past.

Shrinking government and reducing pollution begins and ends at the ballot box. The challenge for all of us is how to conduct business while limiting the impact on global ecological systems and maintaining a quality of life that leaves room for future generations.

Two years from now there will be another election, I suggest we start planning for a leaner, cleaner, and greener election cycle. Anything else will be a failure of responsibility. Anything else would be shortsighted and selfish.

Be the change we need.

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