James Inhofe -- Republican senator from Oklahoma, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and tormentor of enviros -- yesterday introduced a bill that would let the EPA waive for 120 days any environmental regulations that could stand in the way of the Katrina response effort. Never mind that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said environmental rules weren't hampering post-hurricane cleanup.
No conceivable Bush (or Clinton, or G.H.W. Bush) administration energy strategy aimed at slowing or reversing global warming -- least of all ratifying the Kyoto treaty -- would have protected lives or averted property destruction on the Gulf Coast. Think of smart energy policies as you might of tobacco taxes: good idea, but they probably wouldn't have saved your Uncle Ned from lung cancer. So write Grist's own Dave Roberts and Chip Giller in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Read the rest for yourself.
"The Katrina tragedy should become a watershed in American politics," writes lefty framing guru George Lakoff on AlterNet. "This was when the usually invisible people suddenly appeared in all the anguish of their lives -- the impoverished, the old, the infirm, the kids, and the low-wage workers with no cars, TVs, or credit cards. They showed up on America's doorsteps, entered the living rooms, and stayed. Katrina will not go away soon, and she has the power to change America." Lakoff argues that Katrina gives us the perfect opportunity to highlight the "heart of progressive-liberal values," namely "empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy)." "A lack of empathy and responsibility accounts for Bush's indifference and the government's delay in response, as well as the failure to plan for the security of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, the aged, the children," he claims. Put more succinctly: The Katrina disaster is the best possible argument for strong, vibrant, well-funded government that takes care of its people. I wholeheartedly agree. You won't find many Americans this month who would sympathize with anti-tax crusader and government-hater Grover Norquist and his aim "to get [government] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, that quote sends shivers down the spine.
And they're off! The League of Conservation Voters has made its first endorsement for the 2006 election, 14 months ahead of time, throwing its green weight behind Washington state's junior senator, Maria Cantwell, and promising to mount "an aggressive campaign" to reelect the Democrat. Cantwell will need all the help she can get; she's likely in for a tough fight. She won by a teensy margin in 2000, against Slade Gorton, and then proceeded to piss off much of her liberal base in 2002 by voting in favor of the Iraq war resolution. Republicans have determined that hers is one of the five most vulnerable Democratic seats in the Senate and will be pumping resources into the campaign to defeat her. It's not clear who she'll be up against -- state Republican Party Chair Chris Vance and former Rep. Rick White are two prominent potential contenders -- but whoever it is, they'll be well-funded. LCV says Cantwell was one of only two senators to get a 100 percent rating on the group's 2004 National Environmental Scorecard. Among her eco-achievements as touted by LCV: leading the effort to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pushing for creation of the Wild Sky Wilderness Area in Washington, fighting to hold polluters responsible for their Superfund messes, and battling Enron on behalf of bilked ratepayers. They should have listed her notable though unsuccessful effort to attach to the energy bill a provision requiring the feds to reduce imports of foreign oil by 40 percent in 20 years.
"Is the Bush administration anti-science?" asks Daniel Smith in The New York Times Magazine. When Donald Kennedy, a biologist and editor of the eminent journal Science, was asked what had led so many American scientists to feel that George W. Bush's administration is anti-science, he isolated a familiar pair of culprits: climate change and stem cells. These represent, he said, "two solid issues in which there is a real difference between a strong consensus in the science community and the response of the administration to that consensus." Smith cites a number of other scientists and advocates who are fed up with the right's distortions of and interference with science, including Chris C. Mooney, author of the new book The Republican War on Science (watch for a Grist Q&A with Mooney coming up soon). But Smith also gives a fair bit of space to presidential science adviser John Marburger, who continues to defend the admin's record. Guess which side makes a stronger case.
FEMA chief Michael Brown has been widely excoriated for his pathetically and tragically inept response to Katrina. But lest you think he came to the job unequipped to lead the nation's emergency-response efforts, Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief, points out that his previous experience as a commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association has come in handy: "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," she told Knight-Ridder.
Amusing, as always.
Daphne Eviatar spells it out nicely in a Washington Post op-ed:
See climate change in action in a series of photos from the Anchorage Daily News (login: firstname.lastname@example.org, password: misteree). They accompany a lengthy article by Doug O'Harra about permafrost warming in Alaska and all heck breaking loose. Earth frozen since woolly mammoths and bison wandered Interior steppes has been turning to mush. Lakes have been shrinking. Trees are stressed. Prehistoric ice has melted underground, leaving voids that collapse into sinkholes. Largely concentrated where people have disturbed the surface, such damage can be expensive, even heartbreaking. It's happening now in Fairbanks: Toppled spruce, roller-coaster bike trails, rippled pavement, homes and buildings that sag into ruin. And the meltdown is spreading in wild areas: sinkholes, dying trees, eroding lakes. These collapses bode ill: They are omens of what scientists fear will happen on a large scale across the Arctic if water and air continue to warm as fast as climate models predict. And if O'Harra's article doesn't quench your thirst for news of drunken forests and sinking houses, read Elizabeth Kolbert's fascinating, in-depth New Yorker piece from May on climate chaos in Alaska and beyond.