I spent this morning at the Frank Church Conference on Public Affairs and will be returning to campus soon (via bus, then we'll walk home) to hear Al Gore's keynote. A few observations from this morning:
Does anyone else find it ironic that Larry Craig flew to Boise this morning to counter Gore's message for 10,000 people in front of a small group of reporters? How many tons of CO2 did that produce? Craig said Gore wants to turn out the lights and pull the plug on the economy, then he served up a litany of alternative energy projects in Idaho. Curiously, though, he omitted the newly announced expansion of solar energy company Hoku Materials, brought to Pocatello by its Democratic mayor (Roger Chase, who also recently signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement) and its Democratic-majority city council. Hmmmm ....
Both Craig and Bryan Fischer should be ashamed of playing politics with a nonpartisan public affairs conference. Aside from that, instead of pulling the plug on the economy, Gore is working to create and invest in new economic sectors that take sustainability to heart. Memo to the reactionary Republicans: We're all in this together. Stop acting as if we're not.
We need to reframe environmental law, suggests University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood, as a matter of public trust. From county commissioners on up to the federal government, public officials are using "discretion" to consistently rule in favor of development and corporate interest, when they ought to approach decisions with a sense of "obligation" to preserve the nation's trust of clean air, water, and land. Under climate change, "private property stands to suffer as it's never suffered before," she said, when asked by BSU Radio reporter Don Wimberly how the "trust" notion jibes with Larry Craig's idea that economic development is the higher value. But as an Idahoan, I question whether people who prize private property rights and profit above the public good - especially those in the "Left Behind" fringe - will accept this idea. (Read Wood's talk here. Click on speeches, then Frank Church Conference.)
Wait, not so fast. John Freemuth of BSU gave conference attendees a sneak peek at surprising new research that shows that a full 70 percent of Idahoans believe human activities contribute to global warming. Just 24 percent say no, 5 percent say they don't know, and 1 percent refused to answer. What's more, a plurality of Idahoans (54 percent) unequivocally say it's time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now; 29 percent say it's time to slow growth of greenhouse gas emissions but wait for the federal government to take action before doing more; 9 percent want to prepare for the possibility of federal action but take no action locally; and 4 percent don't want to take any action at all. They're the people you'll see protesting outside the Taco Bell Arena tonight. Look for the ostrich costumes.