Here’s the smartest headline we’ve seen in a long time: “It’s Climate Change, Stupid,” declares the cover of Bloomberg Business Week.
After a prolonged absence from the political debate, climate change and conservation are back on the national radar screen thanks to Superstorm Sandy’s appearance the week before the election.
Let’s just hope the lessons of Superstorm Sandy don’t fade along with the headlines of destruction and despair in New York City and New Jersey.
We all know that a single storm isn’t “climate change.” But Sandy wasn’t just a single storm. She was part of a growing and disturbing pattern, whether it’s called Sandy or Katrina or Snowmageddon or a nationwide heat wave that broke 3,215 high temperature daily records this past June.
In our grassroots campaign calling for an end to the partisanship that has paralyzed political action on conservation and the environment, the National Audubon Society and our Republican partner, ConservAmerica, asked you a critical question that was never posed in any of the presidential debates:
What should be the top conservation and environmental priorities for the next administration?
Whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, you responded from across the country. Your answers offer a valuable roadmap for President Obama, the Congress and other elected officials.
No. 1. Promote the development of clean, renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources.
This was by far the most frequently listed priority. Debrah Roemisch echoed the concerns of many when she wrote, “Developing clean energy sources will help the environment, provide jobs and help us be independent—win-win for everyone except the oil companies.”
No. 2: Protect air, water and land from pollution.
“Clean air and water…Take the politics out,” demanded Corrine Carter of Prattville, Ala. In comment after comment, folks across the country expressed dismay that conservation—once one of the great unifying issues in America—has become a victim of drive-by partisan politics.
No. 3. Be cautious with the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling and hydrofracking in environmentally sensitive areas.
“Drop forever the Keystone pipeline project and replace it with a national smart grid (a heck of a lot more jobs,)” wrote Mark Ford.
“Put a moratorium on fracking in the U.S.” said Rosann Strum of Bloomington, Indiana. “Stop deep water drilling.”
Many of you were very passionate on these issues. We believe our elected officials can find common sense solutions for well-managed energy development that both protects sensitive areas and helps meet America’s energy and employment needs.
Elected officials are going to be faced with difficult decisions on whether to allow drilling in the Alaskan arctic and on our coastlines, as well as how to regulate hydraulic fracking so that it does not endanger our communities’ water sources and wildlife areas.
No. 4: Protect national and state parks and open spaces.
“We need to restore and keep full protections for our wilderness, wildlife, national parks,” said Barbara Eaton of Allenstown, N. H., expressing the concerns of many respondents.
Just as Hurricane Katrina before her, Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the short-sightedness of draining, paving and building atop our natural storm barriers—marshes, seashores and other wetlands. Without the protections nature provided, the storms slam into populated shorelines full force with no buffers to slow winds or water surges.
No. 5: More environmental and conservation education.
Educating our youth to care for the communities and the planet they will inherit leave to their children was a recommendation repeated multiple times.
A strong common thread linked the environmental priorities Americans offered the next administration and Congress. In message after message, Americans of every political stripe said they were fed up with the do-nothing partisan politics that has infected virtually every environmental issue.
Ms. Eaton from New Hampshire summed up the real challenge for America’s elected leaders: “Both parties must realize that our Earth and wildlife are not battlegrounds.”
We also received many great comments from our Q and A with Felicity Barringer of the New York Times.
Linda from Idaho called it “a refreshing discussion on how caring for our environment should not be a partisan issue.”
She described the situation in her own state: “There are many Republicans in my red state of Idaho who deeply care about the health of the environment which they depend on for their livelihood, however, they are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution like children bullied in a playground.
“No matter what your political stance, you should be able to freely speak your mind about environmental issues you care about without being bullied and condemned.’’
Maybe now that the electioneering is over, the common sense conservation of our environment begin.