Observations from the edge

"N" is for Newt

Supposedly, the Speaker of the House was once an environmentalist. You'd never know it.

by Robert Nanninga
ccording to the Chinese zodiac, 1995 was the year of the boar. I am, however, inclined to agree with Time magazine that this past year was unmistakably the year of the Newt. I guess they're both right.
Mr. Gingrich set out to change the face of American politics by curbing big government, a noble effort for sure, if only it were true. The leaner and meaner system that the man from Georgia is currently trying to force on a disenchanted public merely transfers power away from the people and into the hands of industry and other resource grabbing, unaccountable interests.
The Speaker of the House, and his freshmen attack dogs, are seeking to overturn years of beneficial policy, under a justification of balancing the budget. Strategically ignored, however, are the corporate subsidies that are funneled to special interests, who also finance candidates for election and re-election.
Federal subsidies not on the table to help balance the budget include support for the tobacco industry, big sugar and other farm products, ranching, mining interests and other corporate players who can't or won't pay their own way without their hands in our pockets. No wonder we can't balance the budget. American politicians tax the middle class and give it to the rich, the whole time screaming "welfare mom" to divert our attention from their sleight of hand.
Deregulation is another new weapon of choice in the war against the environment. Farming and chemical interests, such as ADM and Monsanto, favor deregulation as a way to be able to produce questionable pesticides and biotechnological wonders that could harm the environment and local communities even as they improve someone else's bottom line.
Newt is only one of the misguided opportunists who actually believe that industry will regulate itself in regards to environmental standards. How they came to the conclusion that polluters will police themselves with any measure of integrity is beyond me. Had not environmental regulations been put in place in the early 70s, America would have choked to death on the industrial pollutants that were being pumped into the air and water at an alarming rate. Regulations equal restraint. Without them, environmental responsibility was considered expensive and "not cost effective." Why let unhealthy water and air stand in the way of a healthy profit margin?
The Endangered Species Act is also under the gun. So-called "Wise Use" (and I use this term loosely) proponents feel that individual property rights have precedent over all else. That would be great if everybody treated the planet as more than just a resource laden "free for all."
Other suggestions placed on the table have included doing away with a number of National Parks and the privatization of others. Newt has also proposed dismantling the Native American Reservation system, because he feels large tracts of protected land are not being properly exploited for the utmost profit. In Newt's brave new world, everything goes to the highest bidder - or the biggest campaign contributor - depending on the political spin at the time.
Environmental ordinances were put in place to protect America and its resources from the self-serving and greedy interests of big businesses and property owners.
If industry-supported monocultures are allowed to dominate, no amount of pesticide will be able to protect the narrow food base. If chemicals are allowed to go unchecked, Americans could be held hostage by "mad" scientists who poison us only to see if they can cure us. If industry's "right" to pollute outweighs our right to clean air and water, shouldn't we just appoint Dr. Jack Kervorkian as the Surgeon General and get it over with? If we allow the gutting of the Endangered Species Act, we become no different than the folks at Jonestown. Deregulation will be the Kool-Aid we gladly accept, and Newt will be the Jim Jones who destroys the world trying to create one more to his liking.
It is time we rolled up our sleeves and did a little house cleaning of our own. If enough Americans refuse to let our biological heritage and our hope for the future be entrusted to the greedy money boys who wish to rule the world with ledgers and puppet politicians, we could put a stop to this once and for all.
I agree with the speaker when he says that the budget can and must be cut. But not when it comes at the expense of future generations and the average tax-paying American.
Two weeks ago I was in Hawaii just in time for the government shut down. With no access to Volcanoes National Park, we were left staring at a column of steam 8 miles away. It is absurd that a government that cannot afford to keep its parks open, or tend to the needs of its veterans, has enough money to send American men and women into a war zone halfway around the world. The only change that Newt and the Republican Congress represent is a changing of the puppets. The old guard is still firmly entrenched.
We have a Speaker of the House who refuses to compromise, a President who goes out of his way to make accommodations, and a nation of people so fed up with the whole thing that they're ready to take up arms to protect themselves from the federal government. If you ask me, chaos is just around the corner.
So, where does that leave us? The first step to a clean and healthy future is to actively shift the ethical fiber of our nation away from short-term gain to a place of wise sustainability, that promotes and protects a quality of life for all who share the planet Earth.
As we greet the new year, I invite everyone to get involved with their elected officials and the election processes in your cities and county. If you're fed up with status quo political parties, and you should be, register with the Green Party. By voting as if the future mattered, and talking with your elected representatives about these issues, you help to ensure that your children will inherit a nation with compassion, with lily pads and junipers for all.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental community.