Election Update: Last Days are an Environmental Issue

  • Published on November 3rd, 2008

American FlagWe’re told that McCain is spending these last crunch hours vacuuming up support in Republican states. Apart from Sunday’s stop in Pennsylvania, his itinerary has pit-stop trips to Florida, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee, followed by a lightning tour of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, before returning to his home-state of Arizona on Monday night. On the other hand, vote-early Obama hit rallies in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri on Saturday, spent Sunday campaigning in Ohio and will be visiting Virginia and Florida on the very evening of the election.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Could it be the carbon footprint of the two candidates, spreading to Sasquatch-like proportions as they criss-cross the United States exhorting voters, already reeling from the economic kidney-punches of the past few months, to get out there and vote?  Is it possible that this kind of environmental irresponsibility is ringing warning bells with the average voter, wondering when gas prices will fall and whether they can heat their homes this winter?

Well no – apparently not. There’s a sense that the right candidate has to get into power, and then things will change. Learn from us, dear Americans: things will not! When Tony Blair become Prime Minister there was a strong sense that politics was going to be done differently. His priorities: “education, education, education”; his electric guitar; his tendency to take off his tie and roll up his sleeves … all these surely suggested a more modest, down-to-earth, approach to the world and to making policy.  And then he started jetting around the world, invaded Iraq while acting as a broker for world peace, and set up Private Finance Initiatives that allowed businesses to build schools and make a profit from them.

For environmental issues to really influence the way policies are created and politics is done, they have to feature before change, not be seen as the outcome of change: the environment has to be key to the campaign, not a promise that can only be fulfilled after election. And it’s not just the USA, in the Glenrothes by-election, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has twice been north of the border to campaign. Of course he might have gone anyway, given that his constituency borders Glenrothes, but even so, his travel has cost the environment dearly.

What’s the answer?

Well one suggestion would be the power of the media – if somebody recorded the environmental impact of election campaigns, it might force change in the political parties. Alternatively we, the various electorates, could demand a cap on election expenses. But that’s silly, isn’t it? Because we won’t vote unless we see the candidates out there, in our state or county or city, showing us that we matter.  So perhaps the simplest suggestion is to educate ourselves to understand that sometimes it’s better to be ignored than courted. Is that possible? Yes, after November 4th in the USA, and 6th November in the UK … until whichever is the next election.

American flag courtesy of woodleywonderworks at Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence

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  • Nice idea erin! And yes, Global Patriot, the environemtnal ROI for each candidate would be a fascinating measure and a real way to judge the relationship between words and deeds on the environment.

  • Assessing the environmental impact of a political campaign is an interesting idea. With the notion that electing the right leader will lead to significant benefits, we should, in theory, be able to calculate the ROI (return on investment) that resulted from the campaign's pollution and CO2.

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