Katrina reminds us not to repeat mistakes of past
(Note: This is a very professional job of language deception, catering to the emotions and seeking to paralyze the intellect.)
By Carl Pope
The Sierra Club
346 Main Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851
Selma was a transformational moment in the civil rights movement. The truth and tragedy played out on our streets and televisions shook us up and challenged us to take a long look at ourselves and to change deeply and forever.
Katrina is that kind of galvanizing moment for the conservation movement, and that's precisely why the radical right is trying so hard to attack environmentalists and the laws that protect our air, water and land.
This monster storm laid waste to the Gulf Coast, forced one of the world's great cities to its knees, killed more than a thousand people and sent more than a million people in search of life's basics -- food, clothing and shelter.
Katrina is also forcing us to face and reconsider the way we live on the land. There is no doubt that while Katrina was a natural disaster, it was also a man-made disaster.
Katrina is the inescapable fact there are consequences for our actions -- that there's a heavy price to pay for destroying wetlands, subjugating rivers, ignoring global warming.
Katrina is a wake-up call, a warning not to repeat the mistakes of the past, an opportunity to reconsider our values, our relationship to nature and to rebuild better, smarter and safer.
Katrina has lit a fuse that can't be stomped out and will change us in fundamental ways.
It is then troubling, though not surprising, that the powers that be see Katrina as an opportunity -- to benefit their friends and to make their political agenda the law of the land.
Katrina has made it clear who this government works for and who it does not.
Three of the first acts out of Washington were:
to award Halliburton a major contract for cleanup and recovery;
to suspend a law that requires federal contractors to pay a decent wage;
and to suspend environmental and public health laws.
It is also revealing that in an effort to divert attention from the total failure of the Bush administration, some leaders in Washington tried to shift the blame for Katrina to environmentalists.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who asked an agency of the federal government to dig up this dirt on the environmentalists, even suggested his intent to make Katrina-related hearings that he will chair, into something of a witch hunt.
Inhofe also offered to do his part for the relief effort by trying to grant the Environmental Protection Agency authority to suspend air, water and hazardous waste requirements anywhere for up to 18 months, as long as there is some way to relate any decision to Hurricane Katrina.
It doesn't matter that EPA Administrator Steve Johnson told Congress and the news media that existing safety laws would not hamper cleanup ... that it already had the flexibility it needed to respond in an emergency situation.
Or that EPA and the Centers for Disease Control have identified serious environmental and public health problems in the wake of the hurricane.
Inhofe's moves are part of a larger attempt by the majority in Congress to pass a long-standing, controversial agenda that they haven't been able to advance under normal circumstances, from school vouchers to weaker labor standards to oil drilling near protected coastline.
We can no longer afford to perpetuate the sound and light show that has passed as political discourse.
We need a government that connects us and cares for us, that protects and promotes the common good and our commons -- the lands and waters we all share, that humble us equally.
Sam Cooke once warned us; "change gonna come." Amen to that.
Carl Pope is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation's oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services
Copyright 2005, The Hour.
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Sierra Club member calls for director's resignation over immigration debate
(Note: This is an Associated Press story and was available for the "news" wire services, but just nine picked it up. It appears that the press has its orders, no matter how important the story may be nationally.)
September 20, 2005
By Kristen Gelineau
The Associated Press
The San Jose Mercury News
San Jose, California
To submit a Letter to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richmond, Virginia - A Sierra Club member staged a small protest Monday calling for the resignation of the environmental group's executive director, accusing him of accepting money from a donor in exchange for halting the group's discussion of immigration policy.
James McDonald, a 60-year-old Springfield attorney, said Carl Pope accepted more than $100 million from California donor David Gelbaum in 2001 only after promising Gelbaum the club would stay out of the immigration debate.
A faction within the San Francisco-based Sierra Club has long urged a stronger stance against immigration, arguing that the growing U.S. population is putting an enormous strain on natural resources.
McDonald and a friend, who identified himself only as a "retired immigration officer," staged the protest outside the Science Museum of Virginia, where Pope delivered a speech to around 200 club members on an unrelated topic.
Like most of the club's members calling for immigration control, McDonald insists he has nothing against immigrants, adding that his wife is from the Philippines. But eliminating all discussion of the topic is unfair to both the group's members and the environment, he said.
"You have to talk about the subject -- you can't just say, 'We're not going to discuss it,'" he said, holding a sign that read, in part: "Carl Pope sold out the Sierra Club and America for $100 million."
Glen Besa, director of the group's Appalachian region, called McDonald's allegations that Pope modified the club's policy on immigration in exchange for Gelbaum's money "absurd."
"Our members overwhelmingly rejected a change to our policy, so any allegations of wrongdoing here with regard to that policy are just totally unjustified," Besa said.
Gelbaum, the donor, was quoted last year by The Los Angeles Times as saying: "I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me."
Pope acknowledged that Gelbaum did make clear his position on the issue, but said it had nothing to do with the club's decision to stay out of the debate.
"I personally, and subsequently the membership of the Sierra Club, voted that we would remain neutral on immigration, years before Mr. Gelbaum made those large gifts," Pope said.
"It is true that Mr. Gelbaum said that if we had taken the opposite position, he would not have given us the gifts, but we had already taken that position."
Most of those attending Pope's speech seemed puzzled by the protest, and few had strong opinions either way on the immigration debate. But a handful applauded McDonald's efforts.
"That's right," Greg Moser, 58, of Richmond, said, gesturing toward McDonald's sign. "They don't want to deal with difficult issues."
Founded by Scottish [LEGAL] immigrant John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is the country's oldest and largest environmental group and has traditionally advocated for clean air and water and protection of wildlands and wildlife.
On the 'net:
Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org
Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization: http://www.susps.org