tampabay.com

Going green masks issues

By JAN GLIDEWELL Off/Beat
Published May 14, 2007


It may well be that you are, indeed, losing it when you start looking to the Muppets for wisdom, but nobody ever said it better than Kermit, the frog.

It's not easy being green.

This election, it would seem, is as much about what states and candidates are green as it is about which ones are red or blue. Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and the subsequent publicity about both his Oscar and his $30, 000 utility bills (or, as we liberals say, "Whoops!") seem to have made The Environment (always pronounced as though it were capitalized) a big deal, again, although all of the sturm und drang sometimes makes me wonder if it hasn't joined illegal immigration on a long list of pseudo issues about problems we have always had and aren't going to do much about .

The thing about pseudo issues is that they are easy to paint in broad strokes, easy to caricature and easy to find enough real and made-up statistics about for people on both sides to make authoritative-sounding arguments about them. And, more importantly, to distract people from some of the things they should really be worrying about.

A war started and continued on totally made-up premises by people who had not the slightest idea that the philosophical, religious and historical makeup of the country we invaded was going to lead to a quagmire that could wind up making Vietnam look like a mud puddle, is probably more important, at least in the instant moment, than whether you get paper or plastic bags at the grocery store.

How many people cross our borders to take jobs that nobody else would have for less money than any high school kid would demand doesn't seem to me to be as important as the tens of millions of Americans, including children, without adequate health care insurance.

Lately, immigration, with frequent references to 9/11, the magic touchstone of political rhetoric for the past few years, has been raised as a security issue; bad people might sneak in among those thousands of undocumented farm workers who enter the country every week.

Nonsense.

Ask anyone with any experience in reconnaissance or covert operations how hard it would be to infiltrate a team of bad guys into a country with as many miles of border and coastlines this one has and where Haitians floating in boats made out of old pickup trucks penetrate our "defenses" every day.

It's almost as much fun as when the feds had their underwear in a bunch over anthrax and started searching kids, old women and anyone with a non-Anglican last name for tiny vials (it looked like about a gram in the bottle Colin Powell was waving around when he was still getting paid to buy into the game) of white powder that would kill us. This when they can find only a tiny portion of the hundreds of tons of cocaine, also a white powder, that come into the country every year - none of it in grandma's bloomers.

But back to this year's non-cause du jour: The Environment.

I'm told I can lessen my "carbon footprint" (the latest measure of how abusive we all are of planet Earth) by not flying commercially. I guess I should walk to Europe later this year rather than share a sweaty airplane with 300 other travelers, while rock musicians rent an entire Gulfstream jet for three or four people and a whole armada of equally damaging aircraft carry politicians all over the world to accomplish very little at great expense.

I should recycle, I am told. That is an idea I gave up years ago after I saw the garbage-man throw the blue bags I had so industriously filled with plastic and aluminum into the same truck (with a big compactor on the back) where my old newspapers, coffee grounds and potato peelings went.

I am supposed to chase rolling cans of orange juice and fizzing soda cans all over the grocery store parking lot because I chose environmentally sound plastic (I guess the planet never quite gets enough plastic) instead of paper bags.

I know those of us connected to the newspaper business should be sensitive about the subject of killing trees for commerce, but it seems to me like I get an awful lot of mail, paper not plastic, every year from organizations and candidates who are killing trees to print requests (delivered by people driving gas-guzzling mail trucks) for money to help them get people to stop killing trees.

I should always take mass transit rather than drive my car, except, of course, I live where there isn't any, and where voter initiatives demanding it (remember the high-speed train) wind up in the same garbage bin as plans for smaller class sizes.

I'm not saying these concerns aren't important, but importance, these days, is more about what a poll (of opinions from people who have received their information based on the results of earlier polls) indicates will provide the most votes for people whose views are only influenced more by lobbying dollars than poll results.

I am not completely cynical. A few good candidates probably will slip through, regardless of how insincere they sound as a group, and we will, as a nation, survive if not prevail.

I'm just saying that when any issue seems to be getting more attention than it is really worth, it probably is.