“The reason why we won’t face up to our problems with the environment is that we are the problem. It’s not the corporations out there, it’s not the governments, it’s us.” — Yvon Chouinard
Patagonia is closing their doors Tuesday, issuing a call for its environmentally-obsessed workers and nature-loving consumers to get out of the store and vote, and specifically to vote not based on the candidates’ personality or candor or scandals but instead put in the word for the issue that arguably trumps all other considerations – the future of Earth.
Since September, Chouinard’s high-end gear depot has promoted its Vote Our Planet 2016 (http://www.patagonia.com/vote-our-planet.html) campaign based upon a basic concept — that the best use of our voting voices would be in support of nature causes. The prioritization of ecological sustainability, of wilderness preservation, or species diversity conservation; keep the wilderness wild, the rivers free, the disappearing animals alive, the oil rivers from running through what little pristine nature we have left, cut down CO2, yes, consume less, play more, shrink your footprint and expand your mind.
And with the fight over private lands happening alongside the last stand volley from extraction industries, and with the environment becoming sadly (and strangely) a partisan issue, there’s never been a more important time to participate in the political process. Because we are on the brink of irreversible environmental damage, at the edge of possible mass-extinctions and resource decimation that could threaten our civilization, especially for those of us whose lives revolve around the enjoyment and exploration of nature. And there’s hope that those of us who choose to snowboard instead of spending all day in the bar, who surf to clear our heads instead of taking Xanax, who don’t measure people by the size TV they have or how new their phone but instead by what adventures they’ve been on lately, that us treehugging “extreme sports” folks who’d rather stay in a tent in seclusion than a $10,000 a night penthouse in Tokyo, can actually have a say in the future of that which we love most.
“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario in a recent press release. “As a business, we have a unique ability to take a stand and choose to prioritize the health of the planet over profit, and I think it’s important we take that opportunity when it truly matters.”
The Sad Story Of Environmental Partisanship
I am a leftwinger, absolutely, and I understand that partisanship makes sense when it comes to economic policy, to social laws, to government expenditure and personal rights and even healthcare. But there’s no reason that the GOP should have taken up the mantel of the anti-environmentalist party. And yet there’s Trump denying global warming and Republican Senators echoing the claims that it’s pseudoscience (it’s not), that we aren’t responsible for doing anything to the environment (we are) and, hell, it was cold a few days last year so obviously this “average temperature rising” thing is bullshit and there’s nothing wrong with continuing to sucking resources like vampire ants and using the other side of the earth as a trash pile.
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Unfortunately, environmentalism has become a casualty of the GOP movement towards anti-Democrat stances seemingly solely because Al Gore was the first big voice of anti-CO2, this issue that should be embraced by all of us is a blue-vs-red deal. There are some great conservative environmental groups, like RepublicEn (http://www.republicen.org) and it’ll behoove you to do some research on your own local elections since more and more I’m seeing state and even some national lawmakers on both sides of the aisle embracing environmental causes. Perhaps you forget Teddy Roosevelt, Old Bull Moose, got his face on the side of a damn cliff, took a slug to the chest mid-speech and finished anyway, one of the toughest sonsabitches ever to sit in the white house, one of the greatest outdoorsmen of American history and, of course, a Republican.
But be wary of any candidate decrying “the war on coal” or looking to weaken EPA standards; these people are shills for the deepest-pocketed anti-environmental lobbies, the scumbags who worry more about the sexual preference of their grandchildren’s teachers than about the very air their grandchildren will be breathing and the water they’ll be drinking. Or whether they’ll even have anything to ski in 40 years (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/austria/1448390/Global-warming-could-close-half-of-Alpine-ski-resorts-by-2050.html ).
To start off, here’s a comparison of Trump and Hillary when it comes to the environment. Trump doesn’t believe in global warming, loves fracking (though he isn’t as anti-renewables as other Republican candidates), and wants to gut the EPA. Hillary believes global warming is real and deserves our attention, would support the EPA, and really wants to push hard to leave fossil fuels behind. Like with all politicians, Trump would likely not be as anti-environment as he’s claiming to assuage big oil and coal and in turn Hill likely won’t be the environmental crusader she has promised, though he will still represent fossil fuels and push for environmental deregulation and pipeline approvals and offshore drilling while she’ll continue Obama’s patronage of renewables and protections expansion.
But what’s most pressing is that in Nevada Trump campaigned hard on the promise to give federal lands back to the states, while Hillary has promised to be Obama 2.0. His ambitious federal land expansion has set aside more wilderness than any other president (yup, even old Bull Moose Roosevelt didn’t save as much lands)(which is why he gave a speech from Yosemite, the land Roosevelt set aside after running away from Secret Service with John Muir). Meanwhile, Trump’s likely not gonna deliver on a lot of his promises. Cutting off globalization will lead to a small uptick in jobs nobody wants but a huge increase in consumer costs and there’s already a wall between us and Mexico, they just build tunnels. However, giving federal lands to states, that’s definitely some relatively-low-hanging fruit.
This is a big issue in western states in general, with conservationists fighting corporate interests, best epitomized by the state of Wyoming. A small corner of the Equality/Cowboy State is home to two of the most famous and visited national parks in the country, Yellowstone and Teton, which is also the most-visited corner of the state; it’s the very pinnacle of American eco-tourism. But go to the east side of the same state (or hell, go just east of the Absarokas) and you’ll find disdain for the rich liberals of Jackson Hole. Wyoming leads the country in coal-extraction. Coal, which leaves ugly scars on the landscape. Coal, the burning of which has become public enemy #1 for environmentalists. Coal, which has kept the country’s least populous state in business, the death of which is hitting rural mining communities hard.
Most of the federally-owned public lands don’t allow extraction and limit general usage. States propose that they could better manage those lands. But given such issues as the above, it won’t be long before those cash-strapped western states (whose dependence on extraction “dirty” industries exemplify their lack of forward thinking) start selling off whatever they can — which would include these public lands. Which would mean that these mountains we ride and these rivers we fish and these forests we hunt would likely either go to deep-pocketed 1-percenters from Houston or industrial giants who couldn’t give a damn about environmental impact, they’re just looking for a healthy bottom line so investors stay off their backs.
On the other hand, that’s where national issues translate to…
While Hillary is the clear environmental choice for president, where it becomes more complicated and undeniably more important is on the local level. The fight to bring solar back to Nevada and the Northeast. Fix SLC’s air quality. The North Dakota pipeline protests. Hell, general pipeline fights. The proposed Washington State coal port that a democratic challenger is proposing instead to turn a sustainable timber mill.
Look at your city councilor, your state congresspeople, hell your national representatives. You’d be surprised at how in bed with big fossil fuels and other anti-environment interests a lot of these folks with smarmy campaign photos and tough guy bulletpoints about the future (but vague plans that use the words “common sense” and “effective” and “responsibility” to escape the realization that they have no concrete proposals) are, both Dems and Republicans. Hell, even your representative, who might say at local rallies how much he or she supports your public lands and loves the amazing cutthroat fishing or hunting in national forest or hiking across seemingly-endless pristine wilderness, but then goes to Capitol Hill and votes against environmental regulations or renewable energy funding or CO2 limits and fast-tracks a pipeline of poison gas through your favorite trout hole.
So get educated. There is a very real risk to the future of our outdoors and, by association, to the future of the pursuits we love most, not to mention the danger to our future generations. There are plenty of great resources for understanding environmental issues and seeing who support or oppose them. But Patagonia’s Vote For Our Planet is a damn good starting point to collect a lot of those into one site.
They call it Patagucci because of all the green it takes to buy their gear. But a large chunk of that green goes back into the green of the planet because of a topdown culture that values the environment. Like all companies that sell consumer products, they have some failings and certainly some sustainability hypocrisies but nobody’s been able to get past that. Hell, even superhero solar depends on cheaply-made PV cells from China. All that matters is if they’re trying hard to completely clean up their act.
Patagonia has been piloting the environmental steward-ship since before it was considered cool (much less profitable) and with such recent innovations as the neoprene-free wetsuit and countless initiatives, as well as their nationwide store closure (like their own bank holiday but important), and of course their well-researched, well-made Vote Our Planet website, shows it’s more than just greenwashing.
So you got until Tuesday to get your eco-learn on and then cast your ballot for something much more important than a 4-year throne. Like, you know, the future of our natural world as we know it. Yeah, politics IS a big deal. Take it seriously and make your voice one for the good of the Earth.