Words reveal where change will remain the same

Like most Americans, I gathered with others to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama. As a strong supporter of his candidacy, and a big fan of his highly educated sense of language and the power of words, there was no way I was going to miss his first address to the world as president. Was I impressed? Yes. Was it all I expected it to be? Yes. Was I disappointed? Absolutely.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Obama represents change on many levels, I wouldn’t have voted for him if I thought otherwise. Of all those seeking to replace George W. Bush, he best represented 21st century sensibility, and I celebrated the day he was elected.
Over the past 20 years, I have chronicled and commented on the environmental rhetoric and record of the last three presidents. I have no intention to stop now. As with 41,42 and 43, “Observations from the Edge” begins the commentary clock with an assessment of 44’s inaugural speech.
As inaugural speeches go, Obama’s was a good one. Hitting all the right notes, he recycled a great deal from his campaign stump speeches, speaking to the sobering reality of the times. That said, Obama made it quite clear he should not, at this time, be considered an environmentalist.
Some of you would say his statement “ … each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthens our adversaries and threaten our planet” is enough to assuage the concerns of environmental activists. Allow me to enlighten you.
First of all, whether he is referring to Americans or humans, it is not “our planet.” Humans are just one species inhabiting the biosphere. Second, it is rather arrogant to think humans threaten the planet — we don’t. The planet existed long before humans evolved. Humans only threaten the environment that sustains the species currently inhabiting global ecosystems, including our own.
Regarding Obama’s promise, “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.” How does that represent change? There is not a time in the past three decades that roads and bridges were not being built. And as for electrical lines, isn’t that what the Sunrise Power Link is?
I also wonder if President Obama understands the ecological implications of running cars and factories by “harnessing the sun, winds, and the soil,” all of which will result in severe environmental impacts just as fossil fuels and nuclear energy do.
When he said “we will not apologize for our way of life,” my heart sank. The United States represents 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume more than 25 percent of the planet’s natural resources. American consumptive patterns cannot be sustained at current levels. Giving credit where credit is due, I was glad to hear him say “ … nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.”
Perhaps there is hope after all.
Only time will tell.


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