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Conservatives, Please Help Conserve Louisiana’s Coast

[1]What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live?” 

Ronald Reagan [2], 1984

“Louisiana’s voters must find, nominate and elect conservatives (aka, Republicans) who understand there’s no contradiction in being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-fiscal responsibility and pro-environment. Unless that happens soon, I’m afraid we’ll be moving coastal communities within the next decade.” 

Bob Marshall [3], Times-Picayune

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Put the ‘Conserve’ in Conservative

Our friends at LaCoastPost [4] call our attention to a strong, well-reasoned piece [3] by Bob Marshall (below), Pulitzer Prize–winning environmental and outdoors reporter for the Times-Picayune, imploring the Republicans who control Louisiana’s state capital and congressional delegation in Washington to do some conserving of the lower one-third of the Pelican State before it’s too damn late.

[5]We have noted [6] before that “self-proclaimed ‘conservatives’ are far from the root meaning of conserve, as in conservation, preservation” referred to by President Reagan above. Now Bob Marshall, also a winner of the prestigious John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, eloquently elaborates on a point he emphasized at Rising Tide 6 in New Orleans in August (see his remarks at the 11:45 environmental panel “Re-Capping the Well [7]”). We take the liberty of reprinting Mr. Marshall’s column in full because we could not find a sentence that did not bear repeating and acting upon.

Listen up, Baton Rouge and Washington: Stop playing games. Time is running out.

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The Conservative Case for Saving the Coast

By Bob Marshall  |  The Times-Picayune  |  Sunday, October 2, 2011

The water keeps rising, the coast keeps sinking and the nation still ignores us. So, not surprisingly, I keep getting this question: What needs to happen for the country to finally realize Southeast Louisiana is running out of time? There’s no getting around one of the answers:

Louisiana’s voters must find, nominate and elect conservatives (aka, Republicans) who understand there’s no contradiction in being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-fiscal responsibility and pro-environment.

Unless that happens soon, I’m afraid we’ll be moving coastal communities within the next decade.

This is not a partisan attack on the Republican Party. It’s a matter of the record.

Louisiana is a Republican state. Six of our seven House members—including two of the three that represent Southeast Louisiana—are from the GOP, as is one of our two senators. It’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

Yet that party has blocked initiatives that could help this coast while pushing others that will only speed its death. And Louisiana’s GOP delegation has been loyal foot soldiers in most of those efforts.

[8]For example, earlier this year the House GOP took President Obama’s already meager request for $35.5 million to fund vital coastal restoration projects and whittled it down to $1 million. Only 20 Republicans voted for the whole package—and one of the “no” votes was from a Louisiana GOP member, Rep. John Fleming of Minden.

When that $1 million chump change was tossed our way you might have seen headlines calling the action “A win for the coast” because any future requests can no longer be put in the category of “new starts” by budget cutters.

Please. That’s like calling Waterloo a win for France because Napoleon escaped. That’s because the House was making a clear statement with its vote: In times of tight budgets, saving what’s left of the most productive estuary in the United States, the ecosystem that protects millions of people and billions in economic infrastructure, is not a priority. The fiscal ideologues running the party insist on making deep cuts in anything considered “discretionary” spending, which is obviously where they place the future of Southeast Louisiana.

And if they didn’t think we were a big enough priority for a measly $35 million—the tax bill of a few billionaires—imagine what they’ll say when we ask for the $100 billion a real fix is estimated to cost. It’s certainly not as important to them as the oil industry. While they were putting Louisiana’s coast in jeopardy to save $35 million, they didn’t touch the $45 billion in tax subsidies for oil and gas companies over the next 10 years.

It would be bad enough if the GOP just left us alone, but they’re actually taking steps to make our situation worse.

Louisiana’s southeast coast is one of the most imperiled landscapes in North America because we are sinking at the same time global warming is causing the oceans to rise at record levels. According to NOAA measurements, relative sea level rise south of New Orleans is 9.24 millimeters a year—nearly four times faster than the rest of the nation. If we don’t act soon, researchers say, most of this coast outside hurricane protection levees will be under water by the end of the century.

It’s proven science that carbon emissions are one of the main engines driving warming—yet the GOP is determined to prevent regulations of that pollution. House appropriation bills have been laced with policy riders forbidding federal agencies from enforcing carbon restrictions, and some the GOP’s leading presidential candidates even advocate shutting the Environmental Protection Agency.

Incredibly, Louisiana’s GOP delegation has supported those measures and those candidates.

[9]I’m not saying Louisiana Republicans should switch parties, or become liberals to save our coast. But the record tells us the only way this deadly dynamic will change is when Louisiana’s GOP voters find candidates who believe conservative means conserving more than money, that it’s smart business—not to mention morally correct—to be pro-environment as well as pro-gun, pro-life and pro-school prayer.

That’s not impossible. There’s actually a group called Republicans for Environmental Protection [9] (www.rep.org).

It may be our only hope, because returning the same types of conservatives to Washington amounts to a suicide pact for coastal residents.

© The Times-Picayune 2011

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Conservatives on Conservation

A few quotations gathered by Republicans for Environmental Protection [2] and its sister organization ConservAmerica [10].

“I do not intend that our natural resources should be exploited by the few against the interests of the many.” —Theodore Roosevelt, 1912

“As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I, and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.” —Barry Goldwater, 1970

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of this country. It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later.” —Richard M. Nixon, 1970

“As we work to expand our supplies of energy, we should also recognize that we must balance those efforts with our concern to preserve our environment.” —Richard M. Nixon, 1973

“If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.” —Ronald Reagan, 1980

“What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live. . . . And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live—our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.” —Ronald Reagan, 1984

“We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavors have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.” —Margaret Thatcher, 1990

 “You can be totally committed to conservative principles—to individual liberty, a market economy, entrepreneurship and lower taxes—and still be a Green Conservative. You can believe that with the sound use of science and technology and the right incentives to encourage entrepreneurs, conservatism can provide a better solution for the health of our planet than can liberalism.” —Newt Gingrich, 2007

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Green Uncle Sam image by VeteransGreenJobs.org [1]. “Veterans Green Jobs helps military veterans transition into their communities and find career opportunities across all environmental sustainability sectors of our economy. We offer training and hands-on experience, directly employ veterans, offer entrepreneurial opportunities, and are developing a national job placement model.

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