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The single-issue voter: A birder’s look at Mike Gravel – D

August 13, 2007

It’s that time again. As civic-minded individuals do, I’m oft interested in how the platforms of those running for president affect my life, that’s as a birder naturally. With so many candidates and elections still more than a year off I decided to do the work so you, dear reader(s), don’t have to. So here’s what I hope will be a regular look as those who would be birder-in-chief. Starting with the long-shots and working my way up so that you all will be prepared when the time comes to cast your ballot.

We begin in the trenches with former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, currently polling at 1%. Gravel has the perhaps undeserved reputation of being a crazy old man, but once one gets past the mainstream media’s portrayal and starts to read up on his policies you may be surprised at the progressive stance he takes on several issues. But this isn’t the place to discuss his views on Iraq or a revamped healthcare system. We’ll go straight to the birds.

As a former Senator from Alaska, Gravel sat on the Energy, Water Resources and Environmental Pollution subcomittees, from which he fought against the testing of nuclear weapons in the arctic. He also publically opposed the use of nuclear power as an energy source. Perhaps a noble stand now, however it is unclear whether this was as a mouthpiece for the powerful Alaskan oil industry. He was in fact, the force behind congressional approval of the Alaskan Oil Pipeline, whose environmental impact has been largely negative.

Presidential candidate Gravel believes that the most important environmental issue facing the nation is growth, to the extent that we have to destoy our natural resources so that we can continue growing. His tax plan favors movement away from the income tax and towards sales tax. On the surface this may not seem to have a significant effect on the environment, but the intended shift from a nation that primarily consumes to one that saves could change the national mindset as to unencumbered development. Development that continues to have a devestating impact on birds and their habitat.

Perhaps his most impressive bird-friendly policy is his intention to become a leader in the fight against global deforestation. Ostensibly as a way to combat global warming by preserving carbon sinks, it goes without saying the impact that the suspension of tropical forest harvesting would have on populations of neotropic migrants. He also is in favor of movement towards a hydrogen economy, however distant that future may be.

By and large, Gravel seems to take environmental stewardship seriously, certainly good news for birders.

Next up, the last place guy from the GOP side, whoever that is by the time I get around to it.


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