Where are the environmentalists? 

EVEN IF THE BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is plugged soon -- an almost impossible likelihood -- the damage it has already caused will be a devastating, possibly lethal, blow to a key national fishery and recreation area.

Even in the best–case scenario, most of the Gulf of Mexico will essentially be a dead zone for a generation or more — not so much Obama’s Katrina as it is his Chernobyl. The worst-case scenario is almost unimaginable, the stuff of apocalyptic visions.

There are a lot of questions regarding both the administration’s response to the disaster as well as BP’s ongoing mendacity. We’ll eventually get some of the answers, while others will remain in limbo for historians to sort out.

Here’s one question I want answered:

Where are the environmentalists?

For the eight long years of the Bush administration, my email inbox was besieged with urgent solicitations and press releases from national, state and local environmental groups, warning of imminent catastrophe if Bush was permitted to continue with Policy X.

Yet it was not Bush, it was Obama who broke decades-long precedent by lifting the ban on new offshore drilling.

It is not Bush, it is Obama who is bungling the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history (yet another botched relief effort in the New Orleans area, has no one learned anything?).

But so far there’s been little or no public reaction from environmental groups. Crickets.

If it were Bush who gave as eerily detached a press conference as Obama did last week — wherein he admitted he didn’t know about the firing of the head of the regulatory agency that oversees oil drilling (!) — my inbox would be full once again with noble clarion calls to mobilize against the administration, and of course to donate money.

If it were Bush who entertained sports teams at the White House and sat down with Marv Albert to talk about LeBron James’ future while the oil spewed unabated like an undersea volcano of doom, as Obama did recently, there would be calls for his impeachment (and again, calls to donate).

But now, nothing. Why?

This is especially bizarre considering Obama was elected specifically because he promised to undo the eight years of damage Bush caused. The “fierce urgency of now,” I believe was the phrase used in the campaign ads.

Are his supporters getting what they voted for? When is “now” if not, well, now?

Certainly the BP spill is a direct legacy of three decades of Republican deregulation, aided and abetted by a mostly compliant and ineffectual Democratic party. Yet Obama has not only left this Reaganesque legacy largely unaddressed, but apparently — given the huge volume of offshore oil leases his administration granted after the BP spill began — he actively supports large portions of it.

It’s a Judas kiss if there ever was one. But not a peep from the betrayed party, the environmentalist community.

Only poor Robert Redford, God bless him, is making the TV rounds urging the president to fulfill his mandate for broad change. Redford isn’t a young man, but the tired look on his face is more than age. He certainly must feel the futility of his effort in the face of this administration’s continued we’ll-get-to-it-when-we-get-to it attitude.

I keep hearing from environmentalists, “At least Obama’s better than Sarah Palin.”

Of that there is little doubt. But here’s the thing: If Obama doesn’t clean up the Gulf — and clean up his act — Palin is exactly who we could get in 2012. Is it “now” yet?

We focus on the environment this week with a timely piece from Patrick Rodgers on the growing move toward wind power in Georgia and South Carolina. While it doesn’t answer all our questions, and will no doubt fall victim at some point to the usual machinations of the energy cartel, wind power doesn’t destroy whole oceans and doesn’t annihilate whole species.



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About The Author

Jim Morekis

Jim Morekis

A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series... more

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