Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cheney Loves Fishing To Death

Today’s the last day of the Washington Post’s pretty interesting series on Cheney and this installment is about his hatred of the environment. I really want to be fair and not overstate or oversimplify what I’m sure are complex thoughts about the balance between environmental protectionism and short-term economic gains by corporations, farmers and recreational fishermen, but putting together the anecdotes there is no other way to see it. Cheney looks at nature as unprofitable unless it's being stripmined of its value. I don't mean that as sarcasm. I think if Cheney sees clear skies and blue water he'd think it's a reason to assume pollution controls are, in fact, too tight.

There’s a gorgeous picture of rotting fish inside the Post. It’s a nice little illustration about a trade off between the environment and farmers. (It’s not even a trade off between the environment and business, but between two kinds of businesses, fishing and farming.)
Other people can focus on the methods Cheney used to obtain his goals to water the farmers and kill the salmon in Oregon (short story, he coerced scientists to say removing water from the Klamath River wouldn’t seriously hurt the salmon and sucker fish population, see photo above). Here’s the description.

Months later, the first of an estimated 77,000 dead salmon began washing up on the banks of the warm, slow-moving river. Not only were threatened coho dying -- so were chinook salmon, the staple of commercial fishing in Oregon and Northern California. State and federal biologists soon concluded that the diversion of water to farms was at least partly responsible.

Last summer, the federal government declared a "commercial fishery failure" on the West Coast after several years of poor chinook returns virtually shut down the industry, opening the way for Congress to approve more than $60 million in disaster aid to help fishermen recover their losses. That came on top of the $15 million that the government has paid Klamath farmers since 2002 not to farm, in order to reduce demand.

But I’m less interested in looking at how Cheney did something than why he did it. He protected farmers in Oregon at the expense of other industries. Moreover protecting the fish would have provided other benefits to more than one business interest (tourism) and helped more than one species. While I imagine if I was one of those Oregon farmers I probably couldn’t see past the loss of my personal income. Who cares of fisherman and tourist-industry types get screwed if I’m not able to get by?

But the fact is Dick Cheney isn’t a farmer. He’s a so-called recreational fisherman. Which is why this anecdote and another really makes me wonder if he doubts the concept of extinction all together?

The Post’s article has another story where Cheney directly intervened to make sure that a threatened species of fish would still be on the market.

When the vice president got wind of a petition to list the cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park as a protected species, his office turned to one of his former congressional aides.

The aide, Paul Hoffman, landed his job as deputy assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife after Cheney recommended him. In an interview, Hoffman said the vice president knew that listing the cutthroat trout would harm the recreational fishing industry in his home state of Wyoming and that he "followed the issue closely." In 2001 and again in 2006, Hoffman's agency declined to list the trout as threatened.
So there’s a species of fish, the cutthroat trout, which is rapidly losing numbers (hence the term “endangered”) but Dick Cheney, rather than taking note that the are less fish to go around so maybe it makes sense to cut back on fishing it for a while, needs to make sure that it’s still available for sport fisherman like himself.

And I have to ask, “why?” Why does he take these kinds of actions?

Here’s my best armchair psychology about why Cheney seems to love sport fishing to death. I think he fundamentally distrusts any scientific, environmental evaluation that comes from a non-industry person. You could be “Mr. Button-Down Scientist From The Environmental Protection Agency” and all he sees is a PETA-wannabe with hidden tie-dyed clothing and Birkenstock sandals.

This is Cheney’s reaction (from an aide) about why he took the steps he did against the Klamath River.

Cheney recognized, even before the shut-off and long before others at the White House, that what "at first blush didn't seem like a big deal" had "a lot of political ramifications," said Dylan Glenn, a former aide to President Bush.
“At first blush [it] didn’t seem like a big deal.” I’m sure someone told him that lowering the water levels was going to kill salmon and sucker fish. I’m sure that person probably wore a suit. Cheney just didn’t believe them or didn’t think it was a “big deal.” 77,000 salmon died (estimated), the Chinook industry collapsed and as a result $60 million had to be paid out to fisherman. And that was probably only one aspect of a result of the decision to allow the salmon and sucker fish to die.

It’s not just that Cheney sides with business over the environment. It’s that Cheney won’t trust anyone, anyone, other than a business to tell him what the impact on the environment a particular policy will have. And he won’t trust anyone other than a business guy because I think he fundamentally feels all environmental life scientists are smelly, dirty, hysterical patchouli wearing hippies.

1 comment:

mental hygiene said...

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