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Tom Turner's blog

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.

I'm into the last stages of a book on the roadless rule—you remember, the rule that protects unroaded areas on the national forests, the one put in place toward the end of the Clinton administration and walked away from by the Bushniks. It's a long, tangled, and fascinating tale and I have two more weeks to get it all down on paper. Well, not on paper these days, but you know what I mean. That's a long way of saying that my columns for this week and next will be pretty thin, but there's much other good stuff to read in Unearthed; I encourage you to sample other columns.

I will, however, put in another of my periodic plugs for one of my favorite sites, Grist (www.grist.org). It's a fine source of information and commentary and it is relentlessly punny. Take a look.

We have just learned that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will appear June 26 in downtown Denver at an Earthjustice program to tell the story of how her bruising fight with coal power interests has helped create a national clean energy agenda. Seating is limited for the breakfast presentation, and reservations are recommended.

First we had the skeptics, the nay-sayers, who denied that the climate is heating up, or, if it is, it's natural and not our fault. Rush Limbaugh still spouts this line, as does Senator Jim Inhofe, but their ranks are dwindling, have in fact dwindled to insignificance.

I've never been quite sure what 'a perfect storm' means (didn't see the movie), but it seems to mean a situation where everything gangs up on you. If so, we seem to be already in perfect storm territory in the building competition between hungry people and thirsty vehicles for corn and other grains.

As everyone knows by now, the administration has moved to give Endangered Species Act protection to the polar bear—sort of. The bear goes on the list, but there a big footnote that says that energy development can proceed unhindered. Interior Secretary Kempthorne proclaimed that the Endangered Species Act must not be used to combat global warming.

Various forces, including the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, pledged to contest the listing in court. To have any hope of success, they'll need some tame scientists on their side. Read on.

We are strictly nonpartisan and apolitical here at Tom's Turn, so we will be naming no names today.

Let's put it this way. Two powerful and influential figures with overweening political ambition have suggested that the federal government should suspend federal gasoline taxes between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year to provide some relief to people suffering from soaring prices.

We don't get very many comments here at Tom's Turn—please comment!—so when we do, we pay attention. To this one, for example, from Brenda Hixenbaugh:

"Considering the track records of certain officials, isn't it time that we get people elected who are directly connected to all of this planet's and our needs? Surely there are a great number of environmentalists who are qualified for all of these jobs, up to and not excluding the presidency?"

"Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects, and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change." —George W. Bush, April 16, 2008

What's the best expression to describe the Bush administration these days? Pig-headed? Stubborn? Incorrigible? Mulish? Headstrong? Dogged? Intractable, Recalcitrant, Rigid? Willful? Indeed, all those adjectives apply to the outgoing (not soon enough) Bush administration, particularly with respect to its environmental activities. A handful of illustrations.

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