Victoria Times-Colonist writer Iain Hunter’s recent column on John McCain’s vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin (“Our election needs Palin’s feistiness,” September 8, 2008) exemplifies the type of feckless punditry plaguing so much of the United States election coverage, both above and below the 49th parallel. As for Hunter’s wish that the “feisty” Palin was “running for high political office in Canada,” let’s just say that one man’s feistiness is another man’s fanaticism.
It is exactly the cynical circus sideshow surrounding the manufactured Palin phenomenon that we should do everything in our power to avoid with regard to Canada’s electoral process. Hunter pines for Canadian candidates cut out of the same extremist cloth as Palin because it will make for more entertaining elections, but what he fails to acknowledge is that we already have plenty of Sarah Palins in this province and country at all levels of government; the only thing that separates the two is that ours tend not to frame their assault on the environment by invoking God or leading convention halls full of rabid followers in chants of “drill baby drill.”
Here is what British Columbians need to know about Governor Palin that Hunter’s column unfortunately sidestepped:
Palin is an anti-science creationist and oil industry sycophant who believes God wants all manner of fossil-fuel development to carry forth in her state. She supports oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska’s offshore region. In an interview with CNBC, Palin also enthused how “there’s trillions of cubic feet of natural gas . . . that need to be tapped . . . known reserves of natural gas up on our North Slope.”
Palin does not believe climate change is due to anthropogenic causes, as she revealed to CBS news anchor Katie Couric: “I’m not going to solely blame all of man’s activities on changes in climate because the world’s weather patterns are cyclical, and over history we have seen changes there. But it kinda doesn’t matter at this point in the debate what caused it.” But as U.S. News & World Report blogger Maura Judkis points out: “Well, kinda, it does matter. Because knowing and caring about the cause of a problem help us determine the solution—whether it’s climate change or anything else that affects our country.”
And while Palin is now admitting that climate change is “real,” her deliberate inertia on the issue positions her amongst the denier fringe. University of Alaska professor Rick Steiner recently pointed out in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that while “Alaska is ground zero in the crisis of global warming, Palin has done virtually nothing to address the problem . . . Lots of talk, no action. Although in the past two years the Arctic summer sea ice shrunk to the lowest levels ever recorded, Palin apparently does not believe it is human-induced or cause for alarm.”
When it comes to wildlife policy, Palin ranks with the most notorious political neanderthals that any North American jurisdiction has ever seen hold elected office. An enthusiastic proponent of aerial gunning of wolves and bears, Palin has instituted a bounty that rewards airborne shooters with $150 in cash for each left foreleg they turn in from freshly killed wolves.
Palin’s persecution of wolves is being carried out for the ill-conceived purpose of “managing for ungulates,” which is ostensibly designed to increase trophy-hunting opportunities of elk and moose. Lethal predator control is unsound as a long-term management tool and has a dubious record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Gordon Haber, a wildlife scientist who has studied canis lupus in Alaska for 43 years, commenting on Palin’s war on wolves in a salon.com article this month, stated that “I cannot find credible scientific data to support their arguments.”
As far as endangered species are concerned, Palin is equally disdainful of scientific evidence. Ignoring her own state scientists, Palin adamantly opposes putting the polar bear on the endangered-species list. In fact, her opposition to the listing is so vehement that under her direction Alaska is suing the United States federal government to stop it from occurring.
The London Telegraph is reporting that Palin has “used the work of scientists known to be skeptical about global warming in an effort to stop polar bears being protected as an endangered species” and that “a number of the scientists who wrote a paper cited by Palin also allegedly have links to the oil industry.” The Telegraph also reports that the lawsuit opposes the endangered listing in part “because it would deter activities such as . . . oil and gas exploration and development while it would also impede the building of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline,” a $40 billion mega-project Palin has claimed as being the “will of God.” Palin also continues to fight the listing of beluga whales in Cook Inlet which, like her polar-bear battle, is being carried out at the behest of Big Oil.
But it isn’t just large carnivores and marine mammals that Palin holds in contempt—she apparently doesn’t think wild salmon need much protection either. The pristine Bristol Bay watershed contains one of the most productive Sockeye salmon rivers in the world and Palin supports establishing the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine at its headwaters.
From the Alaskan conservation group Save Bristol Bay: “The Pebble Partnership wants to create one of North America’s largest open-pit gold-copper mega mines. The Pebble Mine complex, covering some 15 square miles, would include the largest dam in the world, larger than Three Gorges Dam in China, made of earth not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process. Over its lifetime, Pebble will produce 2.5 billion tons of waste.”
In short, when it comes to the environment Palin is what can only be termed a “paleo-conservative.” A McCain-Palin administration would potentially be even worse for the planet than the Bush-Cheney debacle of the last eight long years, which has arguably been the ultimate anti-environmental presidency in the history of the United States.
CHRIS GENOVALI is the executive director of Raincoast Conservation Society. He can be reached at: email@example.com