Tag Archives: Al Gore

On Settling

Something I tweeted recently has stuck in my mind, and it relates directly to the choice we face in the presidential election.

I’ve been following politics since 1968, when I was 14 years old and already worried about the prospect of being drafted to serve in Vietnam, and it remains the worst political year of my life. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Democratic nomination falling to Vice President Hubert Humphrey*, the uncontrolled police brutality outside the DNC, the reanimation of Richard Nixon’s corpse and his ultimate election to the presidency — the moment when”The Sixties” ended as a touchstone for social progress and became a lifestyle brand.

*Humphrey was a great liberal politician, but he tied himself firmly to LBJ’s Vietnam policy out of a sense of duty to the administration he served. His legacy was forever tainted by the association.

That was bad enough. But since then, almost every presidential election has been a choice between bad and not-quite-so-bad. There have been only three candidates I felt good about, and two of them had no chance whatsoever of winning. The three: George McGovern in 1972, Fritz Mondale in 1984, and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Otherwise, it’s been a matter of settling for something less than I wanted. Jimmy Carter, Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry. I voted for all those guys, but didn’t feel great about doing so.

But here’s the thing. Is there any doubt at all that we’d be in a better place if we’d elected Carter instead of Reagan? Dukakis instead of Bush I? Gore or Kerry instead of Bush?

No doubt. Absolutely none.

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Meet the new bird, not the same as the old bird

Oh, goodie.

[Vermont’s state bird, the] hermit thrush is just one of half of Vermont’s more than 200 nesting bird species threatened by rising temperatures that are reducing the breeding range of flyers that prefer cooler climates, according to a new National Audubon Society study.

“Every year migrating birds tell us that the seasons are changing,” says Jim Shallow, Audubon Vermont’s conservation and policy director.

… “The potential is there for about 50 percent of our birds in Vermont to see big shifts in their ranges,” Shallow says.

If we’re taking nominees for a replacement State Bird, how ’bout the flamingo?

Seriously, though. One of the arguments from the anti-renewables crowd is that we need to preserve Vermont as it is. Only problem is, that Vermont is under assault from climate change. If you think a few ridgeline wind farms will fundamentally change the character of Vermont, just wait till global warming starts kicking our ecological ass. If you don’t want to see any turbines in your viewing space, just wait till we lose all the maple trees and snow cover.

And then there’s the follow-on argument: We can’t affect the course of climate change because of China or tar sands or Al Gore’s travel schedule or NASCAR or Shumlin’s SUV, so why should we even try?

To which I say: (1) we have a moral obligation to do our best, (2) if we all think that way we’ll never get anything done, and (3) as with health care, Vermont can serve as a model for others to follow.

If we’re ever going to get a handle on carbon emissions, it’ll be through creating a fundamentally different system for energy generation and distribution — a smaller-scale, more broadly distributed system where the environmental footprint is much lighter because it’s spread evenly. That’ll require, among other things, a goodly helping of wind, solar, and hydro power — the resources Vermont can tap in abundance.

It might not be enough to save the hermit thrush, but it might help prevent its replacement by a bright pink bird that likes to stand on one foot.