There's good news about the environmental movement. Gustav is a golden opportunity to reclaim the debate over climate change, and at least one fairly conservative green group is taking advantage of it.
Now you might think that when a major hurricane strikes a city like New Orleans, environmental advocacy organizations would swing into action. But that isn't how things tend to work. In October, 2007, environmental groups did not respond to the wildfires and relate it to climate change. In June, 2008, these same groups did not respond to the Iowa floods and relate them to climate change. These groups - the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, NRDC, National Wildlife Federation - might have said that they are committed to carbon reduction, but their strategies were at the time organized around ensuring that they stay out of the fray when it gets heated.
After a wide-spread debate among the green groups, this is changing, and we are beginning to see the change this week.
Symbols are important, and fighting for them matters. It is why the right fights to own 9/11 and the flag, to associate their ideas with sacred concepts about the meaning of America. Democrats don't fight for symbols because our leaders think it's inappropriate to do so. My guess is that Democrats do not even fully own the Katrina symbol, and that the Republicans are going to try and turn that narrative away from Republican incompetence and offer a comparison between the looting that occurred under Democratic Governor Blanco and the Republican Governor Jindal. Republicans do know how to prey on racial fears and praise the shooting terrified victims during a climate disaster, after all.
The Gustav narrative can be about climate change and the need for a progressive sustainable economy, and the first step is to make the case for why our politics can handle problems as big as these hurricanes. So I'm quite heartened by this statement from Adam Kolton of the National Wildlife Federation. Kolton actually says that these more intense storms are being fueled by man-made carbon emissions. It is a significant departure from the traditional environmental response in the face of disaster, and a welcome one.
Pallin's home state of Alaska is, like Louisiana, seeing the dramatic effects of climate change, something she does not believe in. I hope moving forward that we see more leaders step up in the face of a full-on propaganda campaign by conservatives to make this storm a comparison between Governor Jindal's and Governor Blanco's handling of looters. This is a time when, as Obama puts it, we must make the conservatives own their failures.
We don't know their path and we don't know their timing, but we know these storms are coming. Progressives though believe we should prepare for them and mitigate the consequences by trying to return to a more healthy relationship with the world around us. Conservatives are just looking for more rubble to stand on with bullhorns.