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Following the announcement of the right wing rogues’ gallery which would serve as Obama’s cabinet, the appointment of Ken Salazar, a well known shill for the oil and gas industry, elicited comparatively little comment.
Among the few who managed to express their outrage was Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity who described Salazar as “a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species.” (See also Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Ken Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground” and Obama’s Used Green Team and Phillip Doe’s “The Man in the Hat“.)
Those recalling the narcotized climate of the early Obama administration won’t be surprised that these other warnings were never heard underneath the waving of pom-poms and the mindless chanting of the mantra “It’s not the personnel, it’s the policy.”
That this phrase has now become a sick joke is the essential lesson of last Friday’s New York Times which reports that under Salazar’s stewardship “(t)he federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
These were issued “without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.”
In the weeks to come, as the true extent of the catastrophe emerges, more fingers will be pointed at Salazar, possibly even leading to his resignation.
But Salazar shouldn’t take the hit.
Who deserves the blame for Salazar are those who unleashed him on us.
These include Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke who “welcome(d) the news” of Salazar’s appointment, noting that “Salazar’s own connection to the land gives me hope.”
No less effusive was Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “Senator Ken Salazar as been “a champion for America’s public lands.”
The League of Conservation Voters Gene Karpinsky weighed in, praising Obama for “Filling his cabinet and administration with environmental stewards, dedicated staff, scientists and experts.”
Not to be outdone, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club described President Obama as “the Greenest President in history” specifically singling out Salazar for having “act(ed) on the scientific evidence that a disrupted climate means that federal land managers must take into account the need for connecting ecosystems to preserve their natural values.”
And so rather than turning him back, Salazar was provided with the Green stamp of approval with completely predictable consequences.
Those who deserve the blame are those whose silence mattered and who could have made a difference if they spoke. And whose complicity equalled death for the Gulf of Mexico.
If we didn’t know it by now, the lesson for us is patent:
For the environment to live, the big green groups, the enablers of Salazar, this and other environmental atrocities to come, must die.
JOHN HALLE is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org