With election day around the corner, we asked our writers to delve into issues that we believe warrant attention. Their outlook is best summed up by the title of Ted Williams’s Incite column: “Turning the Tide.” The political landscape is changing.
Reporting from Louisiana three years after Hurricane Katrina, Williams comes away heartened that “at least in state and federal government, most everyone had abandoned the notion that levees by themselves can protect people” from storm surges. Despite a proposal backed by some locals to build a 72-mile wall, “using wetlands and barrier islands as the first lines of defense is central to the [strategy] being pushed by the state and the environmental community.”
Dan Glick documents the pell-mell drilling, accelerated by the Bush administration in its final days, that is ravaging the Rocky Mountain West and imperiling wildlife (“Running on Empty”). The governors of Colorado and Wyoming are fuming. Conservationists, who in May were joined by ranchers and old-time conservatives—Republicans and Democrats alike—in a “sit-in” at a drilling site, are gaining traction in their efforts, as a professor explains to Glick, to “restore balance to the system.” Writes Glick, “The next president will inherit an over-drilled, pockmarked western landscape. If wildlife, including sage-grouse and mule deer, is to have any chance of rebounding, this country’s energy policy will need a major overhaul.”
Fortunately, many states are confronting global warming head-on, even while Washington dawdles. “Climate-change bills are now sprouting up across the country like toadstools on a wet log,” reports Bradford Plumer (“A New Leaf”). Thirty-nine states, for example, have signed on to a registry enabling “them to take the crucial first step of simply measuring CO2 emissions.” Ultimately, though, global warming demands the federal government replace the current patchwork quilt of laws with a cohesive national policy. “The biggest game changer is having the president on your side,” a climate expert tells Plumer. “Don’t underestimate the power of that bully pulpit.”
There’s plenty of evidence, as Plumer notes, that either of the presidential hopefuls would use that bully pulpit to better effect. For further proof, read John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s responses to a series of questions Audubon asked them about issues crucial to our readers (“On the Record”). For expert analysis of their responses and their overall environmental records, read Andrew Lawler’s “Face-Off.” As our Election 2008 package stresses, informed voters makes the best conservationists.—David Seideman
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