Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Low We've Sunk

For someone like me, who's old enough to remember politicians who actually cared about the environment, the saddest thing about the current presidential and vice-presidencial debates lies in the total unconcern about environmental matters shown by the candidates of both parties.  We've gone from a time when controlling environmental impacts could be seen as a legitimate reason for not drilling the bejeebers out of public lands and lacing them with pipelines, to a time in which one candidate accuses the other of not allowing enough drilling and the other points proudly to the number of acres he's allowed to be despoiled.  A time when one candidate just can't imagine why the other didn't go along with the Keystone XL pipeline and the other rattles off the miles of pipeline he's let be built.  And the choice presented is between "drill, baby, drill" and "build, baby, build" -- build, that is, industrial windfarms and solar banks across every available inch of public land regardless of its sensitivity.

No doubt the pendulum will swing back someday -- maybe after a couple more Deepwater Horizon-style disasters, though the first in that series doesn't seem to have had any political impact.  And the reasons for the current trend are not hard to find -- the economy, the recession, the deficit, the legitimate need to be quit of foreign oil, AND the way we practitioners have allowed impact assessment to be transformed from an enterprise designed to protect the public interest into one that whitewashes projects and keeps us rolling in dough.  I don't expect to see change for the better in my lifetime, and I'm just glad that people like Lynton Caldwell and Bob Garvey didn't live to see their lifesworks torn to shreds.

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