Unsustainable – What We’re Bringing Back

Posted: April 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

  1. Chance Miller says:

    Why are environmental issues so divisive, left/right, currently but seemed to be more nuanced and not as “political” in the 70’s? Or am I romanticizing the past? If is is true, why now? Is it because of a change in education or media? Is money or power at stake more now than previously? With the rise of PACs, are industry priorities being bought or heard more? Do people take the environmental gains that have been accomplished so far for granted?

    • There’s been a lot of political drift in the political parties since the time I was a kid. Those many people might imagine that Republicans and Democrats have existed in their present from since the formation of the two parties, such has hardly been the case. Regional tendencies have changed as well. For instance, I can still recall when most of the rural South was still Democrat, as that party had, at the time, a strong commitment to agriculture. Meanwhile, Republicans, such as Nixon, showed a strong commitment to federal agencies such as the EPA and the NEA. I can’t say there is one cause responsible for the shift to our present situation, or one specific time when it happened. For instance, the Republican party took a major step toward its current shape through the relentless efforts of Barry Goldwater. You can read about him influence in the excellent scholarship of U of U History professor Robert Goldberg.

      While there were considerable difference between the two men, Goldwater clearly paved the way the success of Ronald Reagan, under whom the Republican party ceased to be a haven for Ivy League elites. It was under Reagan that Christian values began to play an increasingly powerful role in national policy. For example, it was during the Reagan years that prominent senators began calling for an end to the federal funding of the humanities. The argument was that the art the the government funded was both offensive an unpopular. Instead of government-funded pornography, they reasoned, we should let the market ‘naturally’ decide when should are shouldn’t be allowed to flourish, or at least survive. As I said elsewhere, this is basically a formula for mediocrity and the preservation of the status quo. Who needs classical music and jazz on the radio anyway, or any other kind of alternative broadcasting. Shouldn’t we be content with commercial broadcasters such as KBER and X96?

      On my way to school today I found myself listening to a Fresh Air interview with a writer whose father was left unemployed when Reagan fired, en mass, the entire air-traffic controllers union. The overall deregulation of FAA was supposed to force airlines into competition, motivating them to offer customers better service fewer dollars. I don’t how old one has to be to recognized it, but let me assure you that didn’t work out so well. Free of federal restrictions, airlines in general raises their rates and lowered the quality of the services, and passed the savings on to their chief executives. Most other industries, including and especially, the car manufacturers and oil companies did the same.

      If you think back to recent readings, you’ll notice the tremendous rage Douglas Crimp feels toward Reagan and his fellow neo-liberal Republicans. Why the ire? Because the defunding of the arts has forced museums to seek funding from other sources, and these were primarily major corporations, primarily massive oil and telecommunications corporations, such as AT&T and Exxon. While it could look like a blessing that these companies stepping in to pick up the government’s slack, Crimp points out how these companies immediately began to use the museums and similar institutions as outlets for their corporate propaganda: The Art of Africa, brought to you by Exxon Mobile, one of the biggest polluters of that continent; or, Great [i.e., apolitical] Painters of Today, brought to you by AT&T, a massive conglomerate profiting handsomely from trade deregulation.


      If you combine the license given to these corporate interests, with the revival of “Christian” values and apocalyptic thinking, within newly Republican rural America, you soon enough get an political climate which is perfectly suited to the likes of Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, Ryan Zinke, and even Betsy Devos. The Earth is here not to tend, but ruthlessly to exploit. And anything the suggests otherwise should be removed from our public schools.

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