Sarah Palin's America
By Betsy Reed
November 15, 2010
If the first episode was any indication, Sarah Palin's Alaska
will be as cloying as might be expected, with family conflict
rendered in its most anodyne form, giving Palin ample
opportunity to burnish her image as a tough but nurturing
Mama Grizzly. Even less credible - and more insidious - than the
G-rated family drama, though, is the way this "reality" show
portrays its heroine's relationship to nature.
When we watch Palin scale a glacier, it's hard not to admire
her fortitude (though I admit to having unkind thoughts as
she struggled past those deep, dark crevasses). But as she
styles herself a rugged outdoorswoman with a healthy (if
clichéd) respect for Mother Nature, it's as if we are being
asked to forget everything she has done to destroy the
environment that serves as the stunning backdrop for her
This gambit is not new. Back in 2008, on the Republican
Convention stage, it was her frontierswoman shtick that,
perversely, allowed her to chant "Drill, baby, drill" as if
it were really her land and she could tell you what it
Now, though, as she rolls out the I-am-nature routine
again- and in light of her role in cultivating the appalling
crew of climate deniers in the incoming GOP Congress - it's
worth a quick review of her environmental record as Alaska's
* Palin was an early and enthusiastic proponent of drilling
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and essentially
anywhere else the oil industry wanted to go; as Michael Klare
wrote here  in 2008, "Her only real nitty gritty
legislative experience is in measures aimed at expanding oil
and gas production, to the virtual exclusion of other
factors, including the environment."
* She was an aggressive advocate of building a massive $40
billion gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to Canada and
eventually to the Lower 48.
* In 2007, she green-lighted a toxic dumping plan by oil
companies in Alaska's Cook Inlet.
* She opposed a statewide ballot initiative to restrict new
mining operations that would threaten salmon in the state's
streams and rivers.
* She opposed a clean water initiative that would have
protected Bristol Bay, for which her daughter is named, from
contamination by a huge mining operation.
* She pushed back against California's efforts to combat air
* As governor of a state with a rate of birth defects twice
the national average, she did nothing to protect Alaskans
from the toxic byproducts of mining and energy development.
* She sued the Interior Department over its decision to list
the polar bear as a threatened species. The reason they're
threatened is that global warming is melting glaciers, which
polar bears need in order to hunt seals, their main food
source. Conservatives always hated the Endangered Species
Act, viewing it as an encroachment on private property
rights, and the move to protect polar bears under the Act was
especially disturbing to them because it acknowledged global
warming as a troublesome phenomenon. Palin's lawsuit provided
the Bush administration the opportunity to declare that the
Act could not be used as a "back door" to make climate change
policy. (For more, see Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American
Palin has never been a big believer in climate change. Under
the media glare of the 2008 election, she waffled from "I'm
not one who would attribute it to being man-made," to "Show
me where I have ever said that there's absolute proof that
nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any
effect or no effect on climate change." Now, though, she has
no need to mangle the point, and dismisses global warming
studies wholesale as "a bunch of snake oil science."
Palin deserves a large share of credit for popularizing this
view, though she got lucky with last year's so-called
"climategate," which was perfectly suited to her brand of
paranoid, pseudo-populist, pro-free market anti-
intellectualism. In her role as endorser in the 2010
midterms, she backed eight GOP candidates who will soon
install themselves in the climate-denial caucus in the House.
Fully 50 percent of incoming GOP freshmen are climate deniers
(the preferred term is "deniers," not "skeptics," as they
like to call themselves). But it's not just the Tea Party
rank and file who are sounding these themes. Incoming House
speaker John Boehner recently said "the idea that carbon
dioxide is harmful to our environment is almost comical." Not
only is any prospect of legislation regulating carbon
emissions completely gone, the Republicans now threaten to
turn committees, like the House Oversight and Governmental
Reform committee and the Committee on Energy Independence and
Global Warming, into vehicles for investigating climate
Of course, it's not as if all was rosy before the midterms.
Thanks to the fossil fuel industry's iron grip on Washington,
even supporters of the inadequate Waxman-Markey bill couldn't
marshal the needed votes in the Senate. But with the window
for averting catastrophic climate change fast closing - the
consensus is that emissions must peak by 2015 - these midterm
elections were, in the blunt assessment of Greenpeace UK's
Joss Garman, "a complete disaster." As Garman is quick to
point out, there are still fights to be waged around EPA
regulation of greenhouse gases and the like. But the big
picture is bleak. We will read articles about the melting ice
pack in Greenland - which, according to the New York Times,
could cause a rise in sea levels of three to six feet,
potentially inundating the entire East Coast and displacing
millions worldwide -but from our leaders, we will hear about
how evil scientists concocted the "hoax" of global warming.
Welcome to Sarah Palin's America.
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