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No, No, No, No, No, No, No!

 Do you recall the animated spiritual entitled, “Travelin’ Shoes”? Several years ago, when I resided in Roanoke, the choir of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church under the masterful direction of Mr. Kelly Wheelbarger enchanted the congregation with this song during Divine Liturgy with applause afterward that nearly brought down the roof of the old landmark building! It was a rousing moment for choir and congregation alike, reminding us that we have a divinely intended duty to perform here on Earth before moving on to the Great Mystery.

 In my case as an ecologist, that duty is the stewardship of Creation. That’s my vocation.

The spiritual opens with the words, “Well, death come knockin’ at the sinner’s do’; Hello sinner, are you ready to go? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Because I ain’t put on my travelin’ shoes, Ain’t done my duty Lord. No, no, no, no, no, no.”

Without intending to be too gloomy, I think these words sum my reaction as a scientist to Governor Mitt Romney’s ill-advised energy policy: As I read through “Mitt’s Plan,” I kept saying over and over again, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!”

We simply ain’t done our duty toward Creation. Instead we continue to emit greenhouse gases from coal-burning plants in Ohio (and there ain’t no such thing as ‘clean’ coal!), gush crude oil into the Gulf of México and the Alaskan wilderness, and fracture natural gas into the drinking water of Pennsylvania homes. Instead of a sustainable energy policy, Mr. Romney embraces fossil fuels like an ole’ dinosaur just as a nasty meteor hurled itself toward the Yucatán Peninsula 65 million years ago.

Regardless of party affiliation, I see this proposed course of action as one of the most archaic, injudicious, and dead-end offerings out of the Romney camp. It is utterly irreconcilable with the science and ethics of our day.

Furthermore, Governor Romney insults me in my duty toward Creation by stating, “In thrall to the environmental lobby and its dogmas, the President and the regulatory bodies under his control have taken measures to limit energy exploration and restrict development in ways that sap economic performance, curtail growth, and kill jobs.” Though not a lobbyist, I am an unabashed supporter of clean air, clean water, and clean soil. Does that attitude place me “in thrall to the environmental lobby and its dogmas?”

Frankly, “Mitt’s Plan” is like reading a concept paper from a petroleum or coal company to turn back protective environmental legislation, to turn up production of carbon-based energy resources, and to turn in taxpayer money to antiquated and polluting corporations that have a track record of industrial failure. Among his proposals is an amendment of the Clean Air Act (a bipartisan supported piece of legislation in effect since the 1960’s) to exclude carbon dioxide. As one of the principal greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide must be monitored and regulated to manage human-accelerated climate change; thus, such an amendment will mean a cover-up of all the “dirt” of carbon-based fuels. Another out-of-touch proposal is to “open America’s energy reserves for development,” including the much-prized and highly sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): the largest national wildlife refuge in the United States established in 1960 for all Americans “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values.” It was NOT set aside for the profitable and exclusive consumption of petroleum giants such as Shell and Exxon! So here we go again, wheeling and dealing like we did with the so-called sovereign territories of Native Americans – it’s yours until we can find some way to profit from it, then it’s ours. That seems the somber, dead-end Romney directive toward all things energy-related. Another Romney proposal is to “concentrate alternative energy funding on basic research.” Are you kidding me? What we need instead is funding for applied research, not basic research. We already know that alternative energy approaches (e.g., wind power, and solar power) will work; now let’s provide funding to companies to help them find innovative, practical, and wide-scale applications of these approaches throughout society.

One of the most disingenuous implications of “Mitt’s Plan” is the erroneous presumption that it’s either jobs or the environment. That sounds eerily like something from the early days of social security under FDR or Medicare under Lyndon Johnson when (dare I say it?) Republicans fulminated against both. In both cases, certain political prognosticators predicted that the sky would fall if either program was instituted. Yet how many Republicans respond, “No, thank you,” to the Federal Government when they receive their social security checks or Medicare coverage? Turns out that these programs are good for both Democrats and Republicans, indeed for all Americans! Supporting pro-environment legislation and policies goes hand-in-hand with the creation of new jobs and new technologies. In sum, “Mitt’s Plan” is an outmoded, unsustainable, and ultimately anti-science approach to our collective needs as the world’s top energy consumer.

“Mitt’s Plan” is not a plan for North American energy independence. It is a deathtrap to guarantee our addiction to fossil fuels for generations to come. And, from my perspective as an ecologist, that approach is assuredly not good stewardship of Creation. In fact, it even seems unethical and anti-Biblical.

H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D.

Ecologist, Educator, and Explorer

[email protected]

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  1. Oh yes, we were lucky enough to be at St Andrews Catholic Church that morning when the choir sang “Traveling Shoes”What a wonderous song.Gave us such a wonderous feeling.
    Just like some of these ideas these Politicians come up with and we thnk”Oh Boy” this is great and then as we read and study more on their proposals it’s the same old story with a different covering..As the saying goes”They will promise anything until they are in office and then look out”I agree we do need to get away from depending on Foreign Oil but certainly with all the research going on there has to be some kind of fuel we can use without damaging our planet and home…here’s to Hoping!!

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