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Posts Tagged ‘environmental protection’

When environmental issues collide with rival policy concerns, the environment has long been the likely loser.   Even in America, with its agency dedicated to keeping the nation’s air and water clean, the planet too often loses when environmental push meets the shove of wealthier, more entrenched political interests.

A case in point is the recent decision by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to wave the normal Federal requirement that its actions don’t cause environmental harm and go ahead with a plan to build a 700 mile fence between the USA and Mexico — straight through vast areas of huge ecological sensitivity.

As today’s New York Times editorializes, the plan “will be a disaster on the ground.”

And as the Times also points out, the fence won’t even stop that many illegal immigrants.   But its symbolism plays to a powerful national constituency.   Clearly, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff feels that throwing a symbolic bone to the anti-immigrant lobby buys him more political capital than taking a position that would prevent far-from-symbolic harm to a large chunk of one of the nation’s most sensitive ecological areas.

The outrage that Chertoff’s decision has provoked, in Congress and elsewhere, suggests that the political value of deciding against the environment when it conflicts with other policy priorities is decreasing.  But it also shows that politicians still feel they won’t be asked to pay too big a political price for trashing the planet — even when the reasons they give for allowing that destruction make no sense.

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