“New Normal” Politics

Jim Brewster at the Chickens of Mass Destruction blog makes some offers some insights about our government and politics.

He makes several observations: left and right can agree about some important issues, big government and big industry work together to block local solutions to big problems, and elected officials need to hear reasoned thinking from constiuents, not angry rants.

Link: Chickens of Mass Destruction: Möbius Politics

…if you wander far enough from the political center, either to the right or to the left, the ends of the spectrum meet in interesting and unexpected ways. It's not a new idea to me, and I wouldn't expect it to be original, but manifestations of this dark side of the political moon have been popping up recently like mushrooms in a cow pasture after a 2-day rainstorm.

Case in point: the Local Food movement. What ties together this motley assortment of foodies and farmers, vegans and beef-eaters, libertarians and progressives, devoutly religious and steadfastly secular? A desire for good food. A sustainable food system. And good old American distrust.

There is a common belief that the dominant food system has failed us. That centralized commodified food processing and distribution is bad for consumers, bad for farmers, bad for the earth, bad for crop diversity, bad for the animals. That the agencies that are supposed to protect our health and support the future of agriculture instead set up roadblocks to anything that doesn't feed into that system.

Some methods toward a solution can be agreed upon. If you buy local farm products, you support local agriculture. If you grow organic heirloom vegetables instead of grass in your yard, you feed yourself and enhance the soil. If you save and exchange seeds you preserve crop diversity. But none of these things are likely to be enough to keep the FDA from cracking down on raw milk, or keep conventional farms from depleting topsoil and releasing toxins, nutrients, and patented genes into the environment.

On the right, it is common to speak in terms of overarching global conspiracies. On the left, we're more likely to ascribe the problems to simple greed, corruption, and layers of historical development. There may well be conspiracies afoot, but I suspect they exist within the boardrooms of Monsanto, ADM, and other corporate players rather than the halls of the UN. But hey, I could be wrong.

In either case, I think it is vital to be informed. And it is vital to speak up and give representative democracy a whirl. Knowing what I know about the diverse politics in the movement, I make no assumptions about my elected officials, what they know about the issue or where they stand. If they don't hear from me, who will they hear from? They'll certainly hear from Monsanto and friends. And if all they hear from the local food movement is inflammatory rhetoric like this, how can they take us seriously?

Do Real Estate Developers Dictate Environmental Policy?

Below is a letter to the editor from the 5/12/2007 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Link: Saturday Talk | ajc.com

Balanced board crucial to our river

I would like to express my grave concern that the Georgia Board of Natural Resources is becoming a rubber stamp for development and destruction of our state’s rivers and streams.

I am a member of the Georgia Women Fly Fishers, a group dedicated to advancing the sport of fly fishing and promoting conservation. We fish regularly in the Chattahoochee and have first-hand knowledge that development runoff causes degradation of the river with every rain. This problem is only getting worse.

It is alarming that Gov. Sonny Perdue, despite his claimed goal of wanting to make Georgia a fishing paradise, has removed all voices from the board that oversees the Department of Natural Resources that advocate for clean water and public green space.

We must have balanced representation. Having a board dominated by big developer interests at a time when water is our most precious and declining natural resource is not only bad for tourism, it is contrary to the greater public welfare and common sense.

JOY …, Smyrna

The explosive growth of the Atlanta metropolitan area has created huge wealth for many real estate developers. Environmental regulations increase the cost and complexity of real estate development. Many elected officials from the governor down to the small town boards have been influenced by the developers and their representatives to ignore the impact of unfettered development on streams and natural areas.

Governor Perdue provides another disappointing example of a politician committing to a position to get elected and then making appointments that contradict that position. Perhaps when enough attention is focused on these elected officials, they will not sell out defenseless streams and natural areas so thoughtlessly.

When do we stop sacrificing natural resources, like clean water, that are essential to the health of future generations?