Hardly an Earth Mother

Everybody wants to debate Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's motherhood skills because she has an unmarried, pregnant teen daughter.

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Enough already. If you've got kids, you know that before you throw stones at another parent because their child is clueless, you better knock on wood at your own house first.

The key question that mothers should ask is this: What sort of world does Palin intend to leave for her new granddaughter? Or to yours?

Palin's public environmental policies offer plenty of clues: It'll be a wounded, polluted planet with a fresh round of extinct animals.

She's photographed in the latest Newsweek sitting on her office couch, which has a dead bear draped over it, complete with its sad, shaggy head. George Bush and Dick Cheney's polluter-friendly environmental policies have been cynical and devastating, and Palin is even worse.

Where to begin? Let's start with greedy, reckless thrill killing. Palin supports a disgusting and unfair blood "sport" where hunters in low-flying airplanes chase Alaska's magnificent wolves and bears through the snow until the animals are exhausted, and then they shoot them. Sometimes the animals don't die right away; it is hard to make a clean kill when you're shooting from a moving airplane.

Her bubble-headed logic is that if hunters kill off more wolves efficiently from airplanes, then fewer wolves will kill moose and caribou, and then people will have more moose and caribou to kill. What wonderful values to model for our children!

Palin wants fewer protections for rare creatures than even the anti-environment Bush administration does, and that's saying something. In a rare moment of compassion, Bush's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the polar bear as "threatened" on the endangered species list because Alaska's arctic sea ice shrank to record lows last summer. The polar bears' summer home is melting away under their fat white paws.

Instead of recognizing the high stakes at hand, Palin filed a ridiculous taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to block responsible protection for the only polar bears in America.

And the Anchorage Daily News caught Palin making up a bogus excuse to bolster her case. Palin told federal officials that her state scientists did a "comprehensive review" that found no reason to support a threatened species listing. The Anchorage Daily News got hold of e-mails that contradicted the governor completely. The e-mails showed that Alaskan state scientists — including the head of the Department of Fish and Games' Marine Mammals Program — agreed with federal researchers' conclusion that polar bears are threatened by shrinking ice. Whoops.

"The governor's decision was clearly based on politics, not on science, and was primarily designed to protect the oil and gas industry's stampede into the Arctic Ocean," University of Alaska marine biologist Rick Steiner told the Los Angeles Times.

Sounds like Palin will fit into Bush and Cheney's cozy Washington special-interest boots just fine. We'll be the ones on the outside, wishing someone would responsibly step up to preserve some clean air and water for our kids.

I used to sing my daughter a song called Baby Beluga, about beluga whales. She loved those mysterious, pudgy white creatures in the picture book. Palin apparently doesn't. She fought against protecting a rare population of genetically distinct belugas located only one place on Earth: Alaska's Cook Inlet. Scientists say the whales are one of the most endangered mammals in America. They numbered 1,300 in the 1980s. Sadly, there are about 375 now.

Still, Palin told federal regulators that putting the 375 remaining whales on the endangered species list would be "unwarranted." Why would Palin sell out Baby Beluga? Money. An endangered species listing, she wrote, "would do serious long-term damage to the vibrant economy of the Cook Inlet area."

Like Bush and Cheney, Palin favors drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The GOP's top dog, John McCain, does not.

"When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a 'refuge' for a reason," McCain said sensibly.

Does anyone really believe that if we throw out protections for wild things that the world will be better off and we'll all be richer? That our grandchildren will thank us later because we killed off species, made corporations fatter, and extracted every morsel of oil and mineral out of the planet, then used it recklessly until it ran out?

I would like my daughter, and her children, to one day see the Beaufort Sea, off the coast of the arctic refuge. I'd like her to see the endangered bowhead whale, the beluga whales, the bearded, ringed, and spotted seals. I'd like her to see polar bears. I'd like these animals to live without the threat of getting slimed by a giant oil spill.

Palin has only been Alaska's governor for two years, and she's already laid an impressive path of environmental destruction. I don't get it. A true conservative would want to, um, conserve Alaska's famous wilderness treasures. If Palin is so quick to sell off Alaska's prodigious bounty, what will she do when she gets her hands on the rest of America's natural legacy?

Bush, Cheney, Palin and their Big Oil friends are out of step. Their greedy natural resource policies constitute shameless theft — from their grandchildren, and from ours.

Former Times reporter Julie Hauserman is a writer and environmental activist in Tallahassee.

Hardly an Earth Mother 09/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 11, 2008 10:26am]

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