And other words from readers
The story about Martha Marks’s efforts to build Republicans for Environmental Protection is a good reminder of why some of us oldies wax nostalgic for the Good Old Days. She is right that the real Republicans used to be wonderful conservationists, with a string of landmark laws to their credit.
But your article makes it seem as if somehow it is the conservationists who are to blame for the shift. Your summary of the article read: “As long as the environmental community reflexively backs one party and aggressively demonizes the other, responsible environmental stewardship won’t become a two-party issue — or a reality.” Well, it doesn’t need to “become” a two-party issue — it was always a two-party issue. But it wasn’t the enviros who declared war on the Republicans so much as some radicals in Republican clothing who declared war on the environment. I remember supporting the great actions of many Republican lawmakers and activists. At my organization, the National Wildlife Federation, we have given many awards to sterling Republican leaders. And that was common practice among many groups.
It does no good to write as if the environmental community somehow arbitrarily decided to become Democrats and refused to support the “good” Republicans for political reasons. We are desperately looking for Republicans to support. The few brave Republican souls who deserve our praise are among the true endangered species.
Director, Alianza para la Vida Silvestre
National Wildlife Federation
I am so glad to hear from Martha Marks. I am not a Republican, but a conservationist who votes for the Democratic Party in national elections because of the hijacking of the national GOP by stridently anti-conservation “conservatives” from the South and interior West. But in New England, we do not think of “green Republican” as an oxymoron, because we retain a relict population of this threatened species.
I have long thought that, as Marks says, having conservation become a partisan issue has been a disaster. I admire her courage and resourcefulness and wish more of what I suspect is a silent majority of centrist Republicans would stand up to the radical-right politicians and self-appointed spokespeople who appear to have captured their party. I would like to hear a progress report, or some analysis, from Marks on a regular basis in Grist.
I, a flaming liberal and an environmentalist, attended a REP conference in Albuquerque, N.M., in the fall of last year. It was a wonderful experience, and I am so very, very glad I made the effort to become acquainted with members of “the other side.” Thanks for the article. It, too, is great. My hat’s off to REP!
Environmental Defense strongly agrees with Martha Marks, cofounder of Republicans for Environmental Protection, on the need for stronger environmental bipartisanship in our nation’s capital. Some of America’s most important environmental victories — the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and more — were won because pro-environment alliances in both the Republican and Democratic parties. These bipartisan alliances understood that Americans, regardless of their political persuasion, support a clean and healthy environment and the protection of wildlife and wild areas.
We are seeing a remarkable example of this environmental bipartisanship right now in Washington on the urgent issue of global warming. Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) have introduced the Climate Stewardship Act, a landmark bill that, if passed, would rein in global warming pollution, helping avert one of the biggest environmental threats of our time. However, the Climate Stewardship Act will not pass without support from senators of both parties. It’s especially necessary now to “restore the environment as an important issue for both Republicans and Democrats,” as Marks writes. Environmental Defense suggests that policy makers in Washington resume this tradition of bipartisanship and support the McCain-Lieberman global warming bill.
For more information on the Climate Stewardship Act, or to send a message to your senators supporting this bill, visit Grist‘s Do Good section.
Director, Global and Regional Air Program
Thank you for posting this article. I have been hoping for a while that Grist would provide a little more politically balanced coverage of environmental issues. After all, it’s easier to refute your opposition when you understand their arguments.
Having said that, this particular article did not give me any more faith in the Republican Party than I had before. I think it dangerously oversimplifies the differences between Democrats and Republicans to discuss only conservation. While I agree that I would much rather have a Republican in office who advocates conservation of the environment, I would want to know a lot more about their politics. What are the values of their conservation? Is the environment simply considered a resource to be sustainably consumed by humans? Or does the natural world have inherent value? This doesn’t even get into social-justice issues. At the end of the day, it’s nice that there are conservatives who value the environment, but I question how they value it. I also wonder how they feel about other important political issues.
Martha Marks has a good point: So long as only one party in the two-party duopoly even pretends to care about the environment, a change in power to the one that doesn’t pretend to care is environmentally disastrous. The question we should all be asking is: If 85 percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists, how can strongly anti-environmental candidates like President Bush get elected? The answer is that while Americans like to think of themselves as enviros, one must look at what they do, not what they profess. An environmentalist is someone who gives priority to the environment in his or her daily actions. In this society, that means making sacrifices, such as not driving, donating significant amounts to environmental causes, and refusing to buy things one doesn’t need. Instead of 85 percent, we thus find that only about 5 or 10 percent of Americans are truly environmentalists.
Americans are the biggest consumers on the planet, and consumerism is one of the root causes of environmental destruction (along with overpopulation). So long as Americans continue to consume at their current gluttonous rate, politicians can safely assume that the people they represent would rather have unnaturally high level of comfort and convenience than protect ecosystems or try to live more in harmony with the Earth. We thus end up with one party that pays lip service to the environment and sometimes does some good things, and another party that doesn’t even pretend to care about the environment. Until Americans stop their gluttonous consumption, we have no one to blame for this mess but ourselves.
San Francisco, Calif.
Thanks. That was a super, informative piece on where Dean stands on a variety of issues. I also enjoyed the humor of the interviewer being transformed into a handheld device. Kudos to Amanda for that interesting piece.
Your interview with Howard Dean was excellent. Now you should interview Dennis Kucinich — the only vegan candidate!
Los Angeles, Calif.
Editor’s note: We’re working on it! Keep your eyes open.
I love Grist, including Umbra’s column. The info on the enviro impact of smoking was right on, but perhaps the tone was a bit harsh.
As a physician who is “dead” set against smoking, I nevertheless try to take into account the obstacles some smokers face in trying to quit. Increasing evidence supports the idea that many of the most recalcitrant smokers suffer from depression, and are, in effect, treating themselves. Tobacco smoke contains, among other things, a molecule called monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which is the exact same molecule found in an older class of antidepressant medicines. Also, successful quitters with a past history of major depression are more likely to have a relapse of depression than non-quitters. I don’t believe in coddling smokers, but inducing guilt in people whose addiction is poorly understood is perhaps not the most productive approach. The fact that the letter writer literally “asked for it” does not change the inappropriateness of the tone of the reply.
I’ve just printed out Umbra’s article on smoking and will carry it with me at all times. I’m a tree-hugging smoker, too, and just want to quit. If I can’t do it for me, maybe, just maybe, I can do it for the farm workers and the environment. Please cross your fingers.
Yet another one-woman industrial smokestack,
Port Townsend, Wash.
I have translated Umbra’s question and answer about tobacco into Croatian. The nice presentation of the less-noted but deadly [environmental] aspects of the whole poison industry makes this text worthy of distributing outside of the English-speaking population. I’ll be putting it on another ecological website, www.vodenica.net, vodenica meaning “watermill”).
All the best,
Re: Dairy Godmother
You committed the sin of many greenwashers who make claims about the “recyclability” of their products: The gable-top cartons are only recyclable in limited locations where collection programs have found markets for the “creamy pulp” produced by hydrapulpers. In most communities, this recycling option is not available. On the other hand, if a recycling program collects any plastic, it no doubt is the “cloudy” HDPE of which plastic milk bottles are made. This practical recyclability issue may be a deciding factor for some in their dairy purchases.
Though the questioner did not mention glass, this is an option for the “local” and “organic” choices you rightfully recommend as sources of milk. Glass is refilled many times and can be readily recycled in most communities, making it the next best container choice to the milk can … or the cow itself!
East Lansing, Mich.
The idea that any dairy operation of this size could be environmentally benign is ludicrous. Add in the factor of it being in a desert, which is a very fragile ecosystem, and this proposal is a recipe for environmental disaster. The roads and traffic alone would cause massive environmental damage — forget about the problems from an unnaturally large number of cattle in one place.
San Francisco, Calif.
Re: Gushing Praise
To me, replacing a natural flowing river with a series of dams is like amputating a healthy limb to replace it with a robotic one. There may be many benefits to having a robot arm, and it may allow you to do all sorts of amazing things which make you much more productive, but it’s a disgusting tradeoff! I couldn’t agree more that rivers are the soul of a landscape.
As a philosopher, uncovering and scrutinizing hidden assumptions is my stock in trade. As an environmentalist, seeing the particularly egregious assumptions of economics exposed and debunked is a delight. Thus, I loved your piece entitled “The Skeptical Economist” about ecological economist Joshua Farley. My only addendum would be to note that while I hope that Farley, Herman Daly, Mark Sagoff, and other cutting-edge thinkers do manage to provoke a [Thomas] Kuhn-esque paradigm shift within economics, we should all beware the continuation of “conventionalist stratagems” warned about by that other great philosopher of science, Karl Popper. Assumptions on which careers and institutions are built die hard, and one should not expect classical economists to go along willingly with attempts to expose the field as a pseudo-science.