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To the surprise of absolutely no one, Judge Clarence Brimmer of the federal district court in Wyoming last week declared illegal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, adopted in the waning hours of the Clinton administration. The judge had blocked the rule five years ago, but a ruling from a federal judge in California two years ago had blocked a substitute rule put forward by the Bush administration and reinstated the Clinton rule.

Brimmer's 100-page ruling heaped scorn on both President Clinton and Judge Elizabeth Laporte, the San Francisco judge who reinstated the Clinton rule.

Many of us, self included, have long lamented that environmental issues never play much of a role in presidential elections. I firmly believed that if Al Gore had stressed some of those issues in 2000 he'd be the one now winding up his second term. John Kerry likewise, maybe.

Well, now we've got a campaign where the environment and energy are front and center and we’re getting hammered.

Jamie Saul is a young lawyer, a graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland and one-time law clerk in the Seattle office of Earthjustice. As he entered his third year of law school, he applied for a position in the Department of Justice in order, as his application said, to "serve as part of the team charged with enforcing the world's most comprehensive environmental laws, and with defending the crucial work of our environmental and resource management agencies," a thoroughly noble sentiment for a lawyer at the beginning of his career.

He didn't get the job.

There was a piece in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle that said that people are abandoning their cars in favor of buses and trains in unprecedented numbers and that the experts say the shift may be permanent.

The reason is high gas prices, of course, and that corroborates what some of us have been saying for years—that gas prices should be high, for this very reason. This is painful for some people, no doubt about that, and someone should figure out ways to help them, but overall this is definitely the proverbial silver lining.

At the very end of the current term of the Supreme Court, the justices announced that they will review a Ninth Circuit decision that forbids Coeur Alaska, a mining company, from dumping mine tailings into Lower Slate Lake north of Juneau, Alaska.

This is not the best news of the week.

The company admits that the tailings will essentially kill all life in the lake but that restoration can be undertaken later. The Army Corps of Engineers, which issued permits for the mine, agreed with Coeur.

One of the first things I ever had published in a book was a chapter in The Environmental Handbook, a Friends of the Earth/Ballantine Books number, published for the first Earth Day, in 1970. It was called, "Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony."

It's time to dust it off and send it around again.

Ecoporn, as defined by us, is image advertising run by large enterprises, often engaged in enriching themselves and their shareholders via the exploitation of public resources. Oil companies, in other words, and mining companies, and so forth.

This is for people who are just in too good a mood and need to be brought down a little.

Or a lot.

We speak of a new report from the Heinz center, available here. John Heinz, for those who don't remember, was a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, who died rich and young, heir to a ketchup fortune and a thoroughly admirable fellow.

His widow, Theresa Heinz Kerry, nearly became first lady in 2004. The foundation does good works in the senator's memory.

I got a call the other day from a fellow in Alabama who is a keen student of The Washington Times and its influence on right-wing politics in the U.S., the paper being owned and operated by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, otherwise known as the Moonies.

My caller was incensed by something I had written that dismissed the Times as a silly embarassment that was costing the Reverend Moon and his minions millions of dollars and having no influence to speak of on anything.

One recurring theme among environmentalists, regularly confirmed by pollsters, is that concern over environmental issues seldom guides the way people vote, especially for president. People care, no doubt about that, but generally something else—crime, war, the economy, party loyalty—tips the balance one way or another.

This time will be interesting to watch. There's little question whether global warming will be under discussion—it will be, with the two candidates arguing whose approach will work better, faster. I'm hoping it won't stop there—we need a robust debate about a wide range of environmental issues, from the loss of species to the collapse of the oceans to energy policy. Such matters generally get lost in the clangor of sound bites and spin mongering, but maybe this time will be different.

The fix the planet finds itself in, a predicament that worsens daily, is largely the result of human mismanagement and hubris: too much consumption of all the resources you can think of—fossil fuels, metals, topsoil, fish—by too many people.

I could show you reports and articles from 35 years ago that predicted all this (not yet on-line, for better or for worse), but few listened. It's about time someone did, and an election, for all its excesses and hype, is a time when the media pay some attention to actual issues. Let's hope this time the candidates will talk about what really matters.

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