Posts filed under ‘politics’
Last night the Associated Press released a breaking story about the shooting and capture of Larkin Baggett, a Utah-based chemical company owner who was wanted by the EPA for illegally disposing of hazardous waste. The EPA was tipped off about Baggett’s whereabouts after listing him as a wanted fugitive on the Criminal Enforcement section of their website, and found him in the Florida Keys yesteday where the manhunt ended in a hail of bullets. Baggett reportedly pulled out a gun when confronted by officials, who in turn shot him twice, arrested him, and brought him to a Miami hospital where he remains in critical condition.
It’s not easy enforcing environmental protection law, so back in December of last year Bush Administration EPA officials set up a webpage on the that features a saloon-style bulletin board of EPA Fugitive wanted posters. The fugitives include hazardous waste dumpers and importers of emissions-spewing vehicles and ozone-depleting chemicles, and grainy photographs of their two dozen sad faces are posted on the page along with short descriptions of their wrongdoings and last known whereabouts.
Baggett was the first EPA fugitive to be identified and captured using the Agency’s online list. When the list was first published back in December, environmentalists doubted that the digital wanted posters would help bring eco-violators to justice. Under the current administration, however, the EPA has been newly empowered and seems genuinely interested in enforcing environmental law. The story of Larkin Baggett may only be the first of its kind as the EPA enters into a new era of environmental protection by all means necessary (including the use of deadly force).
It’s only been a few weeks, and President Obama and his staff have already done more good for the environment than the Bush Administration did in 8 years.
In a piece published in the Huffington Post yesterday, NRDC president Frances Beinecke listed 13 major steps that the Obama Administration has taken to promote green energy, reduce the emission of harmful toxins like mercury, and give the EPA and the state of California jurisdiction over greenhouse gases, as well as reversing some of GW Bush’s eleventh-hour environmental injustices like granting leases to oil companies to drill on public lands in Utah.
Although the current president hasn’t done much by way of regulating agriculture and water use, focusing mainly on the energy crisis, Beinecke notes that working for environmental change under the current administration “is a tremendous relief.” This gives me (and I’m sure thousands of others) faith that Obama is setting the stage for a government that is responsive to the concerns of environmentalists and that will ultimately adopt policies and legislation that put human and environmental health ahead of corporate interests.
Today’s a big day for you, President Bush. Tomorrow you’re moving out of the White House, which means today is packing day. I can imagine you’ve accumulated a lot over the past eight years – I hope you’ve got a big suitcase.
Don’t forget your golf clubs – I hear the new guy plays a different sport so he won’t be needing them. And be sure to take your golf buddies, too, and all the other miserly schemers that you surround yourself with. Make room in the trunk for all those new coal plants that have gone up under your watch, and the inefficient cars and trucks that have been built. Take your framed, unsigned copy of the Kyoto agreement, and those two scientists that still don’t believe in global warming. Pack up those drilling rights that you’ve issued, and please return the ice and polar bears that have gone missing. Hold on to all your other paperwork, too – you never know what you’ll need when you get indicted.
Bring your bad speech, your ignorant world outlook, your apathy toward those of us who don’t happen to be older, white, wealthy and male. Try and make room for all the regression and missed opportunities that you’ve created – I know it’s a lot, but you really deserve them more than anyone else. And take your corporate bedfellows, your disregard for environmental and human consequences, and your wars. I don’t care what you do with Cheney, but make sure he’s emptied all the dirt from his desk and leaves his keys.
Pack it all up, and get it out of here. It’s really not fair to leave your mess for the next tennant, and we, the people, have no need for your crappy legacy.
President Elect Barack Obama – who seems to have already done more work to improve our country in 6 weeks than Bush has in 8 years – has announced the names of the folks who will comprise his administration’s environmental team. And they rock. Here’s a brief overview:
Running the energy department will be Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist with real knowledge about climate and energy. Now, I know it’s hard to imagine a real scientist at work in the White House – just be brave and we’ll all get through this together. (more…)
There’s a nice petition online, put forth by Food Democracy Now, a “grassroots movement initiated by farmers, writers, chefs, eaters and policy advocates,” and it’s all about encouraging the Obama transition team to nominate a good, green secretary of agriculture. Sign it!
The NY Times reported this morning that the recycling industry throughout the US is being negatively affected by the economic meltdown. It seems that the prices for recyclable materials have dropped, thereby making it unaffordable for many recycling companies to keep collecting materials. In big cities like New York, it’s not causing to much of a problem, because the cost of sending trash to the landfill is still higher than the cost of getting it recycled, but small-town Americans are seeing their recycling programs suspended or cut back, as the companies who collect their reycling are running out of space, an the companies who turn the recyclables into new stuff will only buy the materials at exceptionally low prices.
Contrary to my post the other day, this scenario is an example of how the economic crisis is, in fact, bad for the environment. Even if the crisis is causing Americans to cut back on their consumption of consumer goods, more of their garbage is now going to the landfill instead of the recycling plant, which balances out any possible positive results of our new found stinginess.
If the current government an the incoming administration support a bailout for the Auto Industry in the name of saving jobs and promoting greener cars for Americans, I think it’s only fair that they also institute some sort of recycling sector bailout that would give incentives to companies to buy USA-made recycled products. Many of our recyclable materials have traditionally been sent to China to get processed and sold back to us as paper, car parts and other small consumer goods, so promoting local processors and giving American companies a reason (tax breaks) to buy our own trash and make it into new things here would have the dual effect of keeping money and jobs here at home, and keeping trash out of our landfills. The new administration may also want to consider simply outlawing the use of newly mined or logged materials in times when recyclables are in surplus (like now).
Aside from just reducing landfill tonnage, recycling saves massive amounts of energy and other resources – there’s a great Economist article that outlined all of this a couple years ago – give it a read for more info.
The radio and internet have been abuzz this week with talk about food and ag writer Michael Pollan and his popularly-supported candidacy for the position of Agriculture Secretary under the next administration. Although I can’t really see him moving to Washington and wearing a suit, Pollan is certainly a big step up from current secretary Ed Schafer, or either of G.W. Bush’s previous two Ag Secretaries, all three of whom have sat idly by as America’s food system crumbles in the hands of large corporations. Pollan is a journalist, not a politician (which is probably a good thing), and he is one of America’s most vocal and most read food and agriculture activists. His books and articles have shone a new, bright light on our food system, educating Americans about the economic, health and environmental problems we face and the healthy, local and delicious alternatives available to us.
I, personally, don’t expect Pollan will actually be offered the Secretary of Ag position – Pollan himself finds the prospect unlikely and there are others with better resumes and similar politics waiting in line ahead of him (Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is just one who comes to mind) – but that’s really not the point. The point is that Michael Pollan’s contribution to America’s food future is already huge. He has educated the American public about their food, and brought food system discourse into the mainstream. The sheer fact that Americans even care who their Agriculture Secretary will be is an enormous step forward. Because of Pollan and other writers like him, food and agriculture policy is in the public eye, and Americans are working democratically to take back their food system and to make it work sustainably and fairly and for the people.
So thank you, Michael Pollan. You are the Ag Secretary of our hearts, even if you can’t be the Secretary of the USDA.