Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin's "Polar Express"

To McCain’s rootin’ tootin’ VP pick, wildlife is for shootin’ and the planet is for pollutin’

Clearly, there’s something about Sarah Palin that places her a cut below even most other far-right-wing politicians when it comes to animals and the environment. An avid moose hunter and lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) who, as Governor of Alaska, actively promotes the aerial hunting of wolves because they prey on the big game that hunters like to shoot, Palin also filed a federal lawsuit last month to keep polar bears off the Endangered Species List because it would allegedly harm the state’s "oil and gas...development" prospects.

Even though a 2007 US Geological Survey report warned that two-thirds of all polar bears could be wiped out by 2050 if Arctic ice continues melting at the rate predicted by scientists, Palin sued the federal government for daring to protect this increasingly vulnerable species and their delicate habitat. The Bush Administration has been trying to neutralize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for years, so it was probably no coincidence that, just one week after Palin filed her lawsuit, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne ran a new rule up the flagpole that would essentially allow the very federal agencies proposing and carrying out government-funded projects, rather than Fish and Wildlife Service scientists, to decide for themselves whether their development plans threaten the survival of endangered species. Such a change would essentially disable the ESA as the guiding force in US environmental policy that it has been for the last three and a half decades.

With approximately 30,000 species going extinct every year, never to exist again, the Earth cannot afford such narrow-minded, short-sighted policies, yet Kempthorne's proposal is expected to pass. The public comment period for the rule change expires on Monday, September 15, so if you care about polar bears and other threatened and endangered species, now is the time to let the US Fish & Wildlife Service know how you feel about this plan.

If the new rule is enacted, the next administration to take the White House could choose to reverse it and return things to the way they have been since the ESA became the law of the land in 1973. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama swiftly condemned the proposal when it was made public, so there is a good chance he will rescind it if elected. Republican nominee John McCain did not comment on the plan, but based on his choice of Palin as a running mate, it seems fairly certain that the rule would remain firmly in place under their watch.

Put some of the puzzle pieces together, and it isn’t too hard to see a disturbing pattern of violence, ignorance, intemperance, and just plain meanness emerging from the details of Palin’s life and politics. Blatantly disregarding overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus, she still doesn’t believe there’s a direct correlation between human activity and global warming (confirmed once again by her evasive answers to Charlie Gibson's questioning in yesterday's interview on ABC News), and consequently opposes protecting an irreplaceable apex species whose icy habitat is steadily melting. She kills free-living moose for fun and makes stew from their carcasses, and spent $400,000 in tax funds on a campaign to promote the unsportsmanlike practice of gunning down wolves from low-flying airplanes simply so she and her NRA buddies can have more living targets to shoot at on their lethal recreational outings. She wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) (which happens to be in Alaska) to oil company drilling, exploitation and profits, despite the real and present danger this would pose to the fragile ecosystem and its native and migratory inhabitants, from polar bears to bowhead whales. She is also a religious fundamentalist who doesn't believe in evolution and wants public schools to teach creationism.

What we see from these examples (as well as many others comprising Governor Palin’s record) is that she is out of step with the great majority of Americans, who:

- Generally don’t hunt animals, and see the aerial hunting of wolves as viciously cruel;

- Overwhelmingly accept that human activity is the cause of global warming;

- Oppose oil drilling in the ANWR because it's ecologically reckless and won’t relieve our dependence on foreign suppliers;

- Recognize the scientific validity of evolutionary theory and that creationism is nothing more than a religiously-driven doctrine extrapolated from Biblical mythology; and

- Want strong protections for threatened species like polar bears under the ESA.

If Sarah Palin becomes the next Vice President (or, heaven forbid, President of the United States, should 72-year-old cancer patient McCain die in office), expect to see a radical shift in government policies towards anti-animal and anti-environmental extremism over the next four (or more) years—both Man and Woman against Nature—that will surpass even the Bush era's mighty excesses. I dearly hope, for the sake of our country and the world, that American voters who understand what is at stake—from animals and the environment to the economy, the Iraq war, foreign relations, and civil liberties—will not let that come to pass.

p.s. If (like me) you are somewhat flummoxed by Sarah Palin's appeal to voters, read this insightful essay by cognitive linguist and political analyst George Lakoff for an enlightening perspective on the importance of "emotional symbolism" in political campaigns.

p.p.s. Animal advocates may be greatly disappointed to learn that Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech for the Republican Vice Presidential nomination was penned by none other than key Bush speech writer Matthew Scully, author of the bestseller Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. I find it hard to understand how Scully can reconcile the contradiction between the trigger-happy Palin and his righteous contempt for those who shoot innocent animals (as quoted from page nine of his book regarding hunters):

“And to me it has always seemed not only ungenerous and shabby but a kind of supreme snobbery to deal cavalierly with them (animals), as if their little share of the earth’s happiness and grief were inconsequential, meaningless, beneath a man’s attention, trumped by any and all designs he might have on them, however base, irrational or wicked.”


  1. Great job Mat! Lots of stuff I didn't know. Keep it coming!

  2. Anonymous10:23 AM

    Yes, I also find it hard to understand how Scully could write a speech for such an appalling VP candidate and someone who so clearly is against animal rights. I wonder if anyone has contacted him or interviewed him about this huge contradiction?