I had a good visit on Wednesday of this week with Pete Maysmith of the Colorado Conservation Voters and Tony Massaro who is on the staff of the League of Conservation Voters. Later the same day I attended an event for the Colorado Conservation Voters hosted by Ruthie Brown. Meetings like these are an important part of my education on current environmental matters, always a moving target. The election this fall is a crucial one.
In Colorado, if you happen to like blue sky, clean water, and wild places there is a lot going on. We can be very proud of the work of the Colorado legislature, which has adopted the strongest renewable energy standard in the nation, with a target of getting 30 percent of our energy from renewable sources, especially wind and solar power. Getting that done required enormous commitment and focus, and our own state Sen. Gail Schwartz took the leadership role, while Gov. Bill Ritter signed it into law. Our state is blessed with wonderful natural resources, including abundant sun and wind. We also have coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium, but these come with very serious side effects associated with their production and use. Air and water pollution, scarring of the landscape, destruction of habitat, injury to health, and climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels are all making themselves felt, and the resources themselves are finite and getting harder to extract.
Just this year, some steps have been announced by the Bureau of Land Management that will provide a bit more environmental protection to air, water, land, and human health. These values must now be considered when oil and gas leases are issued. That won’t put anyone out of business, but it should reduce some of the most outrageous abuses that have occurred in the past.
We humans have our work cut out to bring our burgeoning population and reckless consumption into balance with what the natural world can support over the long term. We confuse money with the real wealth for which it stands. That enables us to overlook the harm we are doing, and to dwell complacently among illusions of our own making.
Here in the U.S. the first requirement for any successful politician is to raise money and win votes. It’s gotten ugly out there: Polarization is now a given at the national level, and money is a corrupting influence to both parties and so pervasive that it’s simply taken for granted.
To bring all this back to Colorado, the governor’s race is enormously important, and the national Republican party together with the extractive industries are going all out to target our state. Former Congressman Scott McInnis is the Republican candidate for governor, and in a recent speech at the Denver Petroleum Club he announced that he wants to rescind the hard-won renewable standards that are already starting to provide clean energy and thousands of jobs for our state. He also wants to reopen three of the filthiest coal-burning power plants that were just recently closed to help clear the air, and in short eliminate all restraints on industrial pollution.
It’s perplexing to me that people like McInnis and even his corporate sponsors can’t consider the tremendous harm such policies are creating, and join in a long-term effort to reform them. Pretending that business as usual is the way to go is guaranteed to backfire. Voters of any party smart enough to take a long-range view will not support such people, and the best outcome will be to keep them out of office. If they are voted in, they will continue to do incalculable damage to this fragile planet. All life forms will be affected, as is already happening, and no one can be immune to the consequences. Isn’t it high time to mitigate the harm?
Connie Harvey’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.