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Fair and Balanced Discussion from Southern Oregon

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Tasty Bars of Gold or... The Entire Planet!" 

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore makes an effective and memorable attack on the false premise that one must weigh environment against the economy and I paraphrase him in the above title. See the film (for more than just this particular moment) and catch his tone as he delivers these (approximate) words.

Russell Sadler (who still contributes over at Blue Oregon) used to talk about things being a "shift, not a gift" - he was usually referring to tax breaks and how they impacted current and future funding and future debt. But let's move the argument to environmental concerns: What economic benefit we may realize today or tomorrow will be balanced with a deficit in the future... what good is passing on $1,000,000 inheritance tax free dollars to a descendent who will have to spend it all on breathing apparatus and thermal shielding instead of being able to philanthropically enjoy a world similar to the one we enjoy today.

Steven Colbert, speaking to the White House Correspondants made a reference to glaciers, adding, "Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is." Is Colbert right? Or do we need to be asking an even more basic question that goes beyond glaciers to trees or open fields or natural stream beds? Oregon had (and I use the past tense because, though they aren't dead yet, they are in ICU and have a DNR order signed by their legal guardian, the Oregon voters) some very forward thinking development/planning/zoning laws. In the aftermath of Measure 37, it is becoming clear that the local jurisdictions will simply waive zoning restrictions because paying claimants would require money they do not have.... even FIGHTING a claim requires money they do not have.

And now the fight moves out beyond Oregon. In Washington, where I am sitting in a legislative candidate's house and working on getting him to Olympia for a term or three, Initiative 933 (named "Property Fairness" - HA!) will trigger eventualities similar to 37. Montana has an effort underway, as well. I guess the Montana voters didn't read Jared Diamond's latest book, highlighting how a LACK of planning and regulation has done SO WELL for the Bitterroot?

"It's my land...I have the right to do whatever I want on it." So goes the argument. Screw the landowner downstream who's water supply comes now laden with sediment load and other run-off that it didn't before. Screw the future owner who's five year old child won't understand why she can't dig in the yard. Screw the allergy-suffering retiree who now faces an invasive species in the next yard because someone wiped out a marsh that was nesting for migratory birds who now don't eat an insect who was attacking the invader three states away. The doomsdayers can come up with any number of scenarios that point to some massive damage from some complex interconnection and the naysayers will babble on about how it doesn't really work like that... And here come the initiative folks promoting "simple and fair solutions" - a phrase LOVED by the voter who pays attention to election issues from about October 20th to November 6th every fourth year.

Well, policy issues aren't simple, particularly if they are going to be fair. And by fair, I mean, fair to the present and the future, weighed together. That is why we elect legislators to ponder the complicated issues. To hold hearings, to make INFORMED decisions. And it seems that we would rather, with wisdom cultivated by the aid of 30 second TV spots, full page print ads, and a pamphlet or two, take complex decisions all on our own.

Ach.. I rant. More later.

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