I was driving home last night after leading a program on environmental justice in Camden, New Jersey. The program’s heart is a film, Poet of Poverty, which portrays the 40-year crusade of Father Michael Doyle to bring dignity and a better life to the people of the nation’s poorest and most violent city. In a tour of his neighborhood, Father Doyle points to the regional sewage treatment plant, trash-to-steam garbage furnace, state prison, and huge mountains of scrap metal awaiting shipment to China. We are, he says, the recipients of all the waste and junk our throwaway society doesn’t want anymore. Sometimes I think patriotism means, “I love my lifestyle, not I love my country and my fellow man.” On the radio I listened to President Obama and Mitt Romney spar over energy policy, and I was stunned by their almost-schoolyard efforts to tout their devotion to extraction.
“I love oil more than you do.”
“I love oil, gas AND coal.”
At least, at the end of his litany of federal lands drilled, coal mines opened and natural gas produced, Obama did stress the importance of alternative energy sources. Whereas Romney talked giddily about how he would drill every inch of Alaska, line our coastlines with oil rigs, frack for gas, strip for coal . . . and build that toxic pipeline down from Canada.
The environment has become the “third rail” of this campaign. Touch it and you’re dead. Of course, if we don’t address it someday soon, we’ll all be dead.