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Endangered Species: Environmental Champions Like Obama


In a final act of sabotage, the Bush Administration is working furiously to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Officials are frantic with the idea that McCain will not prevail in November. In a reaction of collective panic as the election draws near, Bush and a compliant McCain are proposing the most significant changes to regulations governing endangered species since 1986.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has gathered a quickly-assembled team in Washington to relax the most important rules that create the foundation of species protection. One goal of this parting act is to exclude from consideration the emission of greenhouse gases when evaluating if a species could be harmed by a new project. But the assault is much broader. This team will also seek to exclude advice from its own government biologists who evaluate the impact of federal projects such as dams on endangered species.

Pause for a moment and consider the implications of this latest assault on rational thought. Bush is actively and openly working to exclude science from the decision-making process. He is silencing the scientists hired specifically to do the job the Administration is now undermining. This is an astonishing, incredible admission that if facts are inconvenient to Bush/McCain faith-based objectives, then those facts will be ignored or buried. At no other time in the history of our Republic has a president sought to silence his own scientists because he did not like the answers yielded by the natural world.

While McCain buries his head in the sand next to Bush, on a beach quickly disappearing under an advancing ocean, Obama says, "I strongly support the goals of the Endangered Species Act, which has paved the way for a number of species, such as the bald eagle, to return from the brink of extinction." He goes on to say, correctly, that the law has not always been executed well, and that he will work to strengthen and improve implementation.

The approach to protecting endangered species is just one of many that spotlight the deep contrast between Obama and McCain on all major environmental issues. Barak Obama understands the urgency of global warming, and will commit to reducing our greenhouse gas emission by 50 percent by the year 2050. He has vowed to make the United States a leader once again in combating climate change. But "the jury is still out," according to Palin, who is smarter than 2,500 climate experts from 166 countries who concluded otherwise. She can, after all, see the sky from her doorstep, just as she can see Russia from the Alaskan border, making her an expert in climatology and in the psychoanalysis of Vladimir Putin. Based on this extensive experience in the atmospheric sciences, she dismisses climate change as a left-wing conspiracy. She denies that the dramatic melting of arctic ice has anything to do with global warming caused by human activity.

On renewable energy, the two candidates could not be farther apart. Obama's plan to promote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power will alone create 5 million new high-paying jobs. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, assuming any icebergs remain in our warming world. Just as the United States became globally dominant through technology and innovation in the 1800s and 1900s, the next two centuries will belong to the country that first embraces and encourages the technologies that promote both green and growth. But that will not happen under McCain-Palin. "Drill here and drill now" and "drill, baby, drill" are not the cries of a team interested in supporting a transition to renewable energy and the economy of the future.

The transition to green development will require vision and strength to overcome powerful resisting forces and a deep skepticism. We have precious little time remaining to overcome such resistance. The world every year is losing 40 million acres of tropical forests, which now cover only 6% of the globe's surface, down from 14%. More than half of all coral reefs are dead or dying. Humans have depleted 90 percent of all large fish from the world's oceans. We are losing up to 50,000 species each year to extinction, a rate 1000 times natural background levels. After eight years of hostile attack, the environment is in desperate need of a champion in Washington.

We face an environmental crisis every bit as acute as the financial debacle on Wall Street, yet we do not contemplate a similar $700 billion bailout. We ignore the facts before us, and take no decisive action, because the debate has been obscured by an Administration dedicated to obfuscation, misdirection and lies. Our entire approach to the environment must change, and this critical change would be impossible under McCain. We must take a more humble view of our place in the world. We must recognize the confluence between future economic growth and mastery of environmental technologies. We must aggressively protect the natural resources on which we depend for survival.

Individual actions collectively can have global impacts. But such acts are futile in the absence of effective coordination through leadership at the federal level. Economic incentives, tax laws, enforcement of environmental legislation, implementation of international treaties, and government support for sustainable resource use are necessary to create the milieu in which individuals can rationally act to promote the greater good. The environmental challenges before us call for strong, visionary and effective leadership, just the qualities we see in Obama. The choice between McCain and Obama is stark and clear. We need Obama sitting in the Oval Office. He cannot get there a day too soon.