From the Publishers

Welcome Republicans

by Carolyn Chase
ost environmental activists at this point think it is pure folly to consider that Republicans are worth talking to about the environment. Even considering it causes one's environmental credentials to be questioned. The 104th Congress has gone so far out on a limb for logging, mining, ranching and property interests that there seems little or no chance for any return on investment for working conservation issues with the GOP.
But I continue to remember that conservation is a conservative issue. Polls consistently show that a clean and healthy environment is overwhelmingly important to all Americans - and ultimately to our economy, even if related legislation doesn't bring in the big lobbying bucks for the politicians. An average person can understand the basic problem of fouling one's nest so badly it kills the kids - even though big business has a problem with this concept.
Dissing government is all the rage, especially for Republicans who seem to believe that if we just turned things back over to the church and family most of our problems would be solved.
A recent trip to France caused me to reflect on the evolution and purpose for government. I mean, it was invented along the way for some good reasons I would guess - even if it's gotten out of hand in the implementation. My tour (along with 75 singers from the La Jolla Symphony and friends) included visits to medieval castles, churches and towns in varying states of repair where we heard modern stories of Western Euro-history.
I was struck by the organizing values of the times. Those were the glory days of complete individual freedom - well, for men at least. Little or no government, local control. The church was the most powerful organized group followed only by the family. Sounds a lot like the values many of our political leaders want us to "return" to. The main problem is that these values were insufficient to provide many of the things needed for the large population of today: basic sanitation, health and opportunities for advancement, just to name a few.
The seeds for the purpose of government can be found in the struggles for advancement of the past. What you saw back then was no heat, no plumbing, perpetual wars, seasonal hunger, a major low-quality of life for the vast majority and extreme wealth for the very few. Sound familiar?
There are things that individuals never seem to undertake on their own, without the prodding of government and presence of a civil society. To me, it seems that this is what government should be for - to do the things that are needed, that won't or can't be done by individuals acting alone or together for their own interests... things that everyone is dependent on for health and well-being.
According to Johm Humbach, a property rights expert at Pace University, "The reason the government exists in the first place is to define what is for the common good and what's not."
But the common good is lost today because there's nobody to lobby for it and politicians seem to lose sight of it - or are thrown out by combinations of powerful forces who insist that the common good always includes specific benefits just for them. Government today seems to act "Of the Organized, by the Organized, For the Organized," combined with "Of the Poll, By the Poll, For the Poll."
We better get organized. Whether you like them or not, or agree with them or not, or are - like myself - in agreement with some things and disgusted with others, these groups wield power. The Christian Coalition, the Republicans, Democrats, and all the lobbyists and hangers-on are nothing if not organized.
My office has been inundated by faxes from the RNC trumpeting the news and views of the convention process. The most inane was the photo op to see the network anchor booths arrive from Dallas (yee-haw), followed by the newsflash "Podium Unveiled." This preview of their idea of newsworthy stories keeps one yawning for more. And while I am hoping to see my personal favorite idea for a protest sign downtown ("Keep America Off the Dole"), I just hope our guests for the week turn out to be the big tippers we need to justify city expenses on this private schmooze-fest for power.