The Elections and the Changing Environmental Landscape

The outcome of the national mid-term elections yesterday is going to blow an ill-wind towards those working to protect our environmental resources. While I did not get any sense of environmental issues being at the heart of the sea change to Republican wins, like Canada, the outcome is likely to be a weakening across the board to anything that might help us stave off the problems that are mounting on land, sea and air.

The failure of the national Democratic party and it’s head, President Obama, to capitalize on their positive work over the last six years, to me, appears to be more marketing and campaign consulting issue than actual anger by the voters at negative things they have done. The New York Times had statistics two weeks ago that showed that Obamacare was helping the very people voting against the Democrats the most, the poor and lower middle class across the South and Southwest. The influence of big money by CItizens’ United is now showing as well. Many elections were close. So it was only a landslide when you view the overall picture. Certainly no blame can be assigned to the environmental political orgs, who blanketed my inbox with pleas for money on an almost daily basis. Friends told me they had stopped emails from MoveOn for example because of daily ‘begging’ mail. It shows there is only so far you can push email pleas before the voters tune you out.

With the Congress firmly in their control, look for the Republicans to use the budget as it’s whip. Defunding environmentally oriented agencies, like EPA, will be high on their list. Judges will be put forward who support business over the environment, as seen by the makeup of the Federal Supreme Court. Legislatively, they will be working to reverse any laws standing in the way of oil and gas development, as if there were any left standing after 6 years of Bush and his Congress from 2001 to 2007. Also look for repeal of the law banning the export of oil and gas to foreign countries. It’s been bad enough that we have plundered our land by fracking for our own needs, but now it will be for the benefit of world markets rather than our own. If you aren’t active, now is the time to do more than just read blogs. Don’t count on Obama to help us, he has shown himself to be very capable of appeasing foes, rather than using FDR like tactics to demonize them to the public, the way the Republicans have very effectively done of him.

Is there any positive light at the end of this dark tunnel we are entering, it’s that local elections, both here and elsewhere in our state, have supported positive actions. 58% of eligible voters voted in Jefferson County, while a dismal 38% voted in Clallam. Our local legislators were returned to office, both nationally and state wide. In Jefferson County we elected a new County Commissioner who is very willing to support environmental progress.  Judges at the State Supreme Court level who have supported McCleary to boost education funding (like science funding) are back.  And voters continue to allow the the legislators to do their job, rather than show their distaste with the use of  advisory votes.

Also, recently, data has surfaced that shows that solar energy costs for panels and the like have now plummeted below the cost of oil, gas, coal and other electrical generation costs, for the first time. This means that across the US, (and world) the decision to install solar will not need to be funded by government action (or hampered by inaction). While we don’t benefit greatly from solar here in the Pacific NW (due to low hydro electricity costs and lack of high intensity sun), those locations that do, all over the US, will see the economic decision to choose local solar made much easier.

So don’t despair, political change has never been easy. But don’t take this election as a gift to sit in front of computer and tune out the bad news that’s sure to show up in the next two years. Get out and do something positive locally to show you care. See you in the trenches.

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