Sarah Palin’s America
Palin is no nature lover – she just plays one on TV.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
If the first episode was any indication, Sarah Palin’s Alaska will be as cloying as expected, with family conflict rendered in its most anodyne form, giving Palin ample opportunity to burnish her image as a tough but nurturing Mama Grizzly. Even less credible – and more insidious – than the G-rated family drama, though, is the way this “reality” show portrays its heroine’s relationship to nature.
But as she styles herself a rugged outdoorswoman with a healthy (if clichéd) respect for Mother Nature, it’s as if we are being asked to forget everything she’s done to destroy the environment that provides such a stunning backdrop for her adventures.
This gambit is not new. Back in 2008, on the Republican Convention stage, it was her frontierswoman shtick that, perversely, allowed her to chant “Drill, baby, drill” as if it were really her land.
IT’S AS IF WE ARE BEING ASKED TO FORGET EVERYTHING SHE’S DONE TO DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT.
Now, though, as she rolls out the I-am-nature routine again – and in light of her role cultivating the climate deniers in the incoming GOP Congress – it’s worth a quick review of her environmental record as Alaska’s governor:
• Palin was an early and enthusiastic proponent of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and essentially anywhere else the oil industry wanted to go.
• She was an aggressive advocate of building a massive $40 billion gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to Canada, and eventually to the Lower 48.
• In 2007, she green-lighted a toxic dumping plan by oil companies in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.
• She opposed a statewide ballot initiative to restrict new mining operations that would threaten salmon in the state’s streams and rivers.
• She pushed back against California’s efforts to combat air pollution.
• As governor of a state with a rate of birth defects twice the national average, she did nothing to protect Alaskans from the toxic byproducts of mining and energy development.
• She sued the Interior Department over its decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species, giving the Bush administration the opportunity to declare that the Endangered Species Act couldn’t be used as a “back door” to make climate change policy.
Palin, who dismisses global warming studies as “a bunch of snake oil science,” deserves a large share of credit for popularizing this view. But she got lucky with last year’s so-called “climategate” which was perfectly suited to her brand of paranoid, pseudo-populist, pro-free market anti-intellectualism.
In the 2010 midterms, she backed eight GOP candidates who will soon install themselves in the House’s climate-denial caucus, which includes fully 50 percent of incoming GOP freshmen. Not only is any prospect of legislation regulating carbon emissions completely gone; the Republicans now threaten to turn Congressional committees into vehicles for investigating climate scientists.
Of course, it’s not as if all was rosy before the midterms. Thanks to the fossil fuel industry’s iron grip on Washington, even the inadequate Waxman-Markey bill couldn’t marshal the needed votes in the Senate. But with the window for averting catastrophic climate change fast closing, the midterm elections were, in the blunt assessment of Greenpeace U.K.’s Joss Garman, “a complete disaster.”
We will read articles about the melting ice pack in Greenland – which, according to the New York Times, could cause a rise in sea levels of 3-6 feet, potentially inundating the entire East Coast and displacing millions worldwide – but from our leaders, we will hear about how evil scientists concocted the “hoax” of global warming.
Welcome to Sarah Palin’s America.