Readers opine on Greens, Kucinich, Schwarzenegger, and more
I salute Howard Dean for the strong statements he made on environmental issues in San Francisco, as reported in Daily Grist. However, I worry that his record in Vermont was only decent, and that in some cases he both favored corporate interests and put Vermont’s local environment ahead of national and global concerns (e.g., on the issue of Yucca Mountain). The corporate and political pressures that he would face as president of the U.S. are enormous, and Dean’s record and campaign speeches indicate that he will be a friend of the environment only when it is politically advantageous to do so. This is of course better than Bush since Dean is supported by a more progressive crowd, but it’s not the real answer.
The Democratic candidate who consistently demonstrates true understanding and concern for the environment is Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio]. He fights for conservation not for political reasons but for ideological ones, and he has shown time and again his courage in standing up to corporate and political powers. And whether you believe he can win or not, it is important that environmentalists stand with him to show the other candidates that we will accept nothing short of strong action that puts environmental concerns above profits.
I’m wondering about the absences I note in Grist. Why is there almost no mention of Dennis Kucinich’s campaign? Howard Dean is interesting, but every talking-head media ho has given him space. I thought Grist would dig deeper. Kucinich has been saying, since the beginning of his campaign, many things that “the good doctor” is just now adding to his platform. Why not talk about the original, rather than the “me-toos”?
Reading the interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, Louis-Dreyfus’s comment — that “We need a Martin Luther King kind of leader. … Someone who is willing to risk their careers and personal lives to put their ideologies ahead of everything else” — struck a deep chord in me.
I fully agree that this country needs such a leader after difficult years of heading in the wrong direction on so many fronts. And I believe that leader does exist, in media-neglected Dennis Kucinich. He’s the only presidential candidate who strikes me as speaking from the heart, not basing his positions on political maneuvers to design the most attractive platform. He’s the only candidate to address the core issues of so many of our current problems: the effects of globalization and the consolidation of power in huge corporations. Kucinich promises to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA and to break up the monopolies in agriculture, energy, communications, and media. These steps would go a long way toward putting power back in the hands of those more likely to respect environmental considerations.
Wanna talk about risking a career? Elected as mayor of Cleveland in 1977 on a platform that promised not to sell off the municipally owned electric system, he was approached the next year by the largest banks in Ohio. The banks refused renewal of $15 million in loans taken out by a previous mayor, unless Kucinich agreed to sell the city’s public electric system to a private company seeking monopoly status. As it turned out, the banks had many financial ties to the private company, from 1.8 million shares held by the banks combined to interlocking directorates. Kucinich knew that refusing to sell the public system would save the taxpayers money and be the right ethical decision, but would cost him his job as the city would be forced to default on loans. He did the right thing anyway, and was voted out of office in the next election. Twenty years later, it is widely recognized that his decision saved customers more than $200 million dollars. It is interesting to note that in Ohio the only customers who currently have the ability to buy green power directly are those serviced by municipal utilities, as the private sector has ignored the potential of environmentally friendly generation methods.
I think the answer to Louis-Dreyfus’s plea is Kucinich, and for the first time in my life I am excited about supporting a truly progressive presidential candidate!
I enjoyed reading your interview with Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and especially their comments about the need for leadership on renewable energy issues in this country. While the two of them don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about any of the Democratic presidential candidates, I’d suggest that one candidate has already demonstrated the kind of bold, passionate leadership that they — and many Grist readers — seek on these issues.
One of the many reasons that I’m excited about the candidacy of Dennis Kucinich is that his knowledge of environmental issues and his passionate commitment to sustainability and renewable energy (wind and solar) set him apart from the other candidates. As an ethical vegan, he’s also the only candidate whose commitment to the environment extends to his personal food choices.
When I heard Kucinich speak to a gathering of young social-change activists in San Francisco earlier this year, I was inspired and deeply moved by his passion, his sincerity, and his vision for this country. John Robbins, the best-selling author, introduced Kucinich as this country’s first preeminent moral leader on the national political scene since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — high praise indeed, especially from someone of Robbins’s moral stature. I’d encourage anyone who’d like more information on the campaign to visit www.kucinich.us.
I find it ironic that building a second home (more sprawl) with some eco-friendly materials and design is the basis for an eco-warrior moniker. One needs to remember that it would have been better for them not to have built at all! In fact, instead of spending all that money on a second home, why didn’t they just use it to buy up more land and set it aside as habitat? Your presentation, though informative, seemed more appropriate for People magazine than Grist. I mean, come on — are we to believe that Hollywood celebrities have a lighter touch on the environment than most other Americans? My guess is no.
Re: Field of Greens
I like Norman Solomon and agree that a “smart movement selects its battles and cares about its impacts,” that the Green Party must “consider the effects of its campaigns on the country as a whole,” and that it must learn the “differences between principle and self-marginalization.” However, I totally disagree that “[w]hen putting up candidates in … higher-level campaigns, the Greens usually accomplish little other than on occasion making it easier for the Republican candidate to win.”
While we can agree that these types of Republican victories are the result of a dysfunctional and corrupt electoral system, those victories are not the only significant accomplishments of running Green candidates. The large move to the right by the Democrats noted by Solomon (allowing “pro-corporate centrists to dominate the Democratic Party for a dozen years”) must be stopped, and if the Green Party is unable to win a statewide or congressional office, the party can at least show the Democrats that they cannot win without Green support. This is more important than winning an individual election; it is akin to being willing to lose battles in order to win a war. When the Democrats finally realize that they will not be successful by moving ever farther to the right for the purpose of attracting corporate dollars, they will move back toward their traditional values. While even that is far too conservative for those of us who are, say, Earth First!ers, it is exponentially better than today’s Democratic Party, which is controlled by corporate money to almost the same extent as the Republican Party.
I agree that the Bush administration “has turned out to be so terrible in so many ways that even a typically craven corporate Democrat would be a significant improvement in some important respects,” but we must be willing to make sacrifices now in order to build a better future. Those who would preclude the Green Party from running candidates for major offices are focusing on the wrong issue: We must focus on moving the Democrats back toward the center-left (from the center-right, where they are now) while continuing to build the Green Party, not focus on how bad the Republicans are compared to the awful Democrats.
I’m sure that Norman Solomon meant well, but we should all give deep thought to this issue. It is not as simple or clear as those who would preclude the Greens from running for major office either think or would like us to believe. Let’s stop this distinctly American shortsighted attitude that only focuses on immediate results, the future be damned.
San Francisco, Calif.
Re: Field of Greens
Norman Solomon is being far too easy on the Greens. “In 2000, the Green presidential ticket, headed by Ralph Nader, had a significant impact on the campaign,” he writes. No kidding: Nader gave the presidency to Bush. There’s no disputing that fact, despite the Greens’ evasive insistence that the electoral system was to blame and that instant-runoff voting would prevent such a travesty from happening in the future. But the simple truth is that Al Gore would have won the election if Ralph Nader had pulled out, as many of his supporters urged him to do.
Anyone who thinks that an Al Gore presidency wouldn’t have been much different from the Bush regime must be living on a different planet. Solomon writes: “The presidency of George W. Bush has turned out to be so terrible in so many ways that even a typically craven corporate Democrat would be a significant improvement in some important respects.” Some important respects? I can’t think of any respects in which a Democrat or even a moderate Republican in the White House wouldn’t be an improvement.
The stakes in next year’s election are incredibly high. Another four years of Bush are guaranteed to take a serious toll on all the causes and issues that the Greens claim to care about. If they really do care, they won’t risk it. I urge every environmentalist in the country to write to the Green Party headquarters in Washington, D.C., and ask them to reconsider their decision.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Re: Field of Greens
I agree 100 percent with this article. The truth is that the United States has a two-party political system. At the end of Election Day, there will be a Democrat or Republican in the White House. Therefore, the best strategy is to influence, as much as possible, the selection of a favorable candidate from one of these two parties. Then, back that candidate and hold them responsible for their campaign pledges.
Re: Field of Greens
Green Party for president? No! Greens for mayor, city council, school board, state representative, yes. Even governor or congressperson. Change happens at the grassroots. Build the foundation from the bottom up. Conservatives know one thing much better than liberals, and that is how to stick together. Dividing up the liberal field with Democrats and independents merely assures us of the horrors of the current administration. The GOP is praying that the Greens offer a presidential candidate like Nader.
Re: Field of Greens
We are in the process of building a political party. We have almost l00 Green Party elected officials in California. How dare anyone outside the party try to marginalize us. We don’t have to decide whether our votes are hurting one party or the other; that is their problem. No one in any other party is addressing the issues we are. Why should we have to hope that maybe one of the other parties will take on our issues? I don’t believe anything anyone in the Democratic Party says because as soon as they are elected they only care about the Democrats staying in power and will abandon our issues as soon as it becomes politically advantageous to do so. Don’t tread on the Green Party. We might just bite back.
Culver City, Calif.
Re: Field of Greens
I must say I was very disappointed to see Grist bashing the Green Party by publishing Norman Solomon’s editorial. At least you could have provided equal time to a Green Party point of view. I am seriously considering canceling my free subscription to your service!
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Re: Field of Greens
The Green Party appears to be setting itself up to do not only itself but the entire country another grave misdeed. The 2000 presidential election could very easily have turned out quite differently if the Greens hadn’t had a symbolic candidate on the ballot draining votes away from Al Gore, who for all his faults would certainly have been a far better choice than George Bush.
Along with all the war, degradation of civil liberties, and economic malfeasance, George and his people have already done a pretty good job of gutting more than 30 years of progressive environmental legislation. Another four years of such an onslaught and one has to wonder what will be left. It seems obvious that the primary goal should be unseating the neocons and religious fanatics, even if the results aren’t quite as satisfying as we’d like.
Besides the damage done to everyone else, the Green Party does itself a tremendous disservice by insisting on running candidates in hopeless races when the only effect the candidacies have is to take votes away from others who, while not Greens, would at least pay some service to Green ideals. Particularly in the case of the U.S. presidential contest, one is given cause to wonder just who the Greens are really working for, and what the Green goals really are. If the primary result is to facilitate the election of George Bush, then it is hard to claim that the Green Party is focused on progressive social values, or even just protecting the environment.
Making a true difference takes a long time. The Greens can win many local elections, if they’d concentrate on them, and over time the base so built could very well be just the thing for producing a successful presidential campaign. Short of that kind of long-range planning and dedication to principles, the Greens are just producing more noise pollution and betraying their ideals through Republican proxies.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Re: Flexible Fools
While the national policy regarding flexible-fuel vehicles and CAFE standards does need some reworking, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Minnesota has been making an impressive run at trying to work within the intent of the law and get flex-fuel vehicles to use E85 fuel and create a competitive market for it. We have more than half of the E85 stations in the country and hope to sell 2 million gallons of E85 this year. Admittedly, this is a drop in the bucket, as Minnesotans use 2.6 billion gallons of gas each year (more than India), but we have doubled the use of E85 every year for the last five and are trying our best to work within the system.
St. Paul, Minn.
Re: Flexible Fools
We should all begin to pressure more of our local gas stations to carry E85. While it is not a perfect fuel source, it certainly is a renewable resource rather than a petroleum-based fuel, it burns cleaner, and it is produced right here in the U.S.A. These are all huge pluses, given today’s economic and political climates. In addition to the importance of cleaner-burning fuels, energy independence is also a very important goal to strive for!
In Minnesota, E85 is relatively easy to find, and I know of several individuals who burn only E85 in their flexible-fuel vehicles. If we all burned E85 in our vehicles tomorrow, we would decrease our transportation-based petroleum consumption by 85 percent — an astounding number! Until we begin to finally find ways to reduce our dependence on fuel in general (perhaps by perfecting solar power, wind power, and other forms of “earth-friendly” technology), E85 represents a way for us to reduce our dependence on foreign-supplied, pollution-causing petroleum fuels in the meantime.
Every American citizen has a personal stake in this nation’s national parks. America was the first country to set aside places of wondrous beauty, biological and historical importance, and great recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy. In 1916, Congress established a government agency called the National Park Service. Congress gave that agency the sole responsibility to preserve these national treasures and to provide public access for everyone. For 87 years, the employees of this agency have faithfully worked as public servants to protect and interpret the parks. Millions of Americans visit the national parks and parkways, historic sites, and recreation areas (there are more than 350 units) every year, and most visitors have experiences they will remember and enjoy all their lives. The national parks of the U.S.A. are the exemplary models for efforts in other countries throughout the world.
As a retired employee of the National Park Service (33 years of service) and someone who retains a sustained interest in the welfare of the parks, I must submit to you that there is today an ominous threat to the health of your national parks. There are actions being taken by the current administration that are posing a serious threat to the ecological health, visual beauty, and tranquil nature of our national parks. The efforts to clean up the air we breathe are being thwarted by the policies proposed in Washington, which also adversely affect the health of flora and fauna in parks as well as scenic visibility. Loyal employees that have accepted low pay to participate in the noble goals of the National Park Service are being threatened with the loss of their jobs to the lowest bidders (private contractors), who often will not have similar altruistic goals. Oil wells and natural gas wells are encroaching on lands in and near your national parks, while plans are being moved forward to support oil exploration and extraction in the pristine lands of Alaska. Park infrastructure (roads and buildings) is aging and deteriorating and needs repair or replacement. Snowmobiles were allowed back into wilderness parks after nearly 10 years of scientific research proved that such use was detrimental to the parks. Business interests are encroaching into the decision-making process, running counter to good resource management and preservation principles. Profit is trumping principle in the policies that political appointees in Washington are sending to the parks.
If you are concerned about your national park system, as I am, then you may wish to convey your concern to members of Congress. The senators and representatives of the United States established the national parks and enacted laws to protect and preserve those lands for the American people. If you tell them you want your parklands protected, they will listen to you.
Arthur C. Allen
Re: The Smoking Gun?
We have the specter of radiation poisoning from the use of depleted-uranium (DU) penetrators in armor-piercing ammunition raised yet again. The same warnings were raised after the Kosovo campaign, perhaps by the same anti-nuke alarmists. Not to negate the possible damage from dust from fired DU rounds, but in lands like Kosovo and Iraq, with hundreds of thousands of landmines and unexploded ordnance from years of warfare littering the landscape, doesn’t this concern for a “potential” contamination problem seem a bit precious? As another letter-writer has commented, we are terrified by the dangers of West Nile virus, while ignoring the death toll from auto accidents. Just depends on what makes your knee jerk, I guess …
In this article, there is mention of direct marketers directing their mailings better, using products that are more easily recycled, and helping to establish local recycling efforts. Nowhere is there mention of them buying and using more recycled products and helping to create a market for the increasing amount of recycled materials. If direct marketers used 100 percent recycled material (with at least 50 percent post-consumer content), then maybe they’d have an impact.
Re: Green Giant?
Pardon my griping, but I couldn’t help but fall out of my chair laughing at this headline: “Green Giant? The rebuilt World Trade Center complex could be a model of sustainable building.” Have you all gone mad? A “sustainable” new World Trade Center? That’s like saying, “Crack usage could be a model of sustainable drug abuse.”
Consider that the area that is now the hellhole of New York (I lived there, I know) used to be ancient forest, with thousands of species of wildlife and plants, streams and clean rivers, and untold variety of life. Elk, passenger pigeons, cougars, bears, and hundreds of other species since wiped out once lived on what is now a canker of pavement, crawling full of people who have no clue where their food, fuel, clothing, and water come from — or what was on the ground beneath their feet for the past 15,000 years.
In light of this, the idea of a “sustainable” World Trade Center — or any modern building — is an insane and egotistical joke. What nonsense. Get out of your space station and spend some time in the only sustainable development possible on this Earth — the developing world of nature.
Anna, my heart soars like a hawk as I think about you and your article. I’m a firefighter in Baltimore and a vegetarian. As I began reading your story, I couldn’t help but think about a quote from a product box that I recently came across. It simply said, “A dream too big is just the right size.” I too dream many of the same visions you do. The folks who control the vast majority of the wealth, power, and resources would have us think that we are in the minority, but there are billions of us. Keep the faith; perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
Some of my happiest memories are from my time as an apprentice at Shelburne Farms, the most pastoral place in North America. It was great to read your diarist’s entries. I love the Daily Grist, but was tickled to see a familiar place. It is an exciting place where lots of kids from around Vermont forge wonderful memories while learning the basics of agriculture, stewardship, and natural history.