Cleburne Times-Review Article for 27 August, 2006
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Environmentalism as a political movement owes its existence to the Republican Party. It was the last good Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote, “Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.” Roosevelt also said, “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.” The Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, were all signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970. It is, therefore, surprising and disappointing to see the extent to which the GOP has become the party of “greed and selfishness.” I would pay good money to see the Bush Administration merely ignore the environment; instead, from the moment he took office, George W. Bush has declared war on America’s natural resources, wildlife and wilderness areas. From his insistence on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the last sliver of Alaska’s North Shore not already open to exploration), to expanded drilling, mining and logging on public lands (all heavily subsidized by the taxpayer), to his plan to privatize the National Park Service, Bush has consistently worked to rob the “unborn generations” Roosevelt spoke of ninety years ago of their birthright.
Texas has never exactly been on the cutting edge of either conservation or environmentalism. Our laws are antiquated and obsolete, our enforcement agencies weak, our politicians blatantly for sale. Rick Perry, however, is virtually in a class by himself, a failing class. While our under-funded state parks are literally crumbling, he and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson are working to sell off protected lands. Patterson in particular has been hard at work trying to spin this auctioning of public resources through double-talk, obfuscation and political hot air. Cleburne State Park was recently “featured” in another newspaper with the dubious honor of being the poster child for the embarrassing reality of the second largest state in the Union unwilling to spend even money already appropriated to keep its parks from falling apart. Rick Perry’s response? The Governor has actually called for MORE budget cuts for the Department of Parks & Wildlife. Perry’s crowning glory, however, is his pet boondoggle, the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), a multi-billion dollar concrete abomination that will pave over 580,000 acres of wilderness and farmland right through the heart of the state, increasing pollution (due to increased traffic), and fragmenting wildlife habitats. This monstrous toll-road will be operated by a foreign (Spanish) corporation, Cintra, which has been granted unprecedented powers to condemn property, including denying citizens the right to a court hearing to determine the fair market value of their land BEFORE its seized. Like the new subsidized Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the TTC was specifically exempted from new state laws that bar the taking of private property for the benefit of corporations. Even worse, the contract with Cintra contains secret provisions that both the company and the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) have refused to disclose, in spite of an Attorney General’s opinion that they must. When US Senate Candidate Barbara Radnofsky pointed out the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars Cintra’s partner Zachry Construction has pocketed over the years, and the donations they have made to both Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the company was downright miffed. How dare the peasants presume to question their betters? Shut up and eat your concrete! Perry and TXDOT have gone out of their way to limit public input and belittle the thousands of Texans who have turned out at public hearings to voice their overwhelming opposition to this bloated, unwieldy cement trough for funneling special-interest money. How can Republicans support this? Where are the rabid, paranoid anti-government loonies when you really need them? Actually, it’s only Rick Perry and his cronies, not even all or most Republicans; both the Democratic and Republic Party State Conventions adopted platforms opposing the TTC. So, folks, whether you are a tree-hugger, a hunter, or just someone who’s developed a fondness for breathable air and drinkable water, it’s time to stand up and make your voice heard. Decades from now, when our grandchildren have never seen a tree that wasn’t planted in someone’s front yard or a deer outside of the zoo, are they really going to thank us because Mexican trucks can roar from the Rio Grande to the Red River, hauling cheap products north and their jobs south?