As I sit here on election night--the results long since in--skimming the myriad Facebook and Twitter feeds from friends, both liberal and conservative, I'm relieved at the results but troubled by the reactions from both parties. We are, indeed, a nation divided. The popular vote proves it--and, frankly, it has for a dozen years or so.
So, yeah, my guy won, and I'm happy about that. But I'm also of the mind that now, while we're at our most divided, we ought to make a conscious effort to reach out to our elected officials and ask them to reach across the aisle and get something productive done, if for no other reason than to show our children that, while we often disagree, being disagreeable doesn't have to be a biproduct of our politics.
And there's no better place to start than with issues facing our country's natural resources. Seeing as how neither side bothered to touch on the environment during the campaign, it would seem that this is an area where the two sides might be able to find some middle ground and move forward.
Let's start with a no-brainer. Whether you agree or not that mankind is the culprit, climate change is real. Sea ice is melting at a record pace; storms are more frequent and more violent; droughts are more severe and more costly, both economically culturally.
Let's address it, starting with actually following through on the notion of actually achieving that elusive energy independence. It's time we do more than just talk about it. It's time we talk about producing energy at home, but it's also time we recognize that the continued use of fossil fuels doesn't do much to alleviate what might be reversible when it comes to a changing global climate that--if allowed to spiral out of control--will be far more damaging economically than failing to sink one more oil well when we don't possess enough oil on American soil to make a dent in the amount we use. It means that, while natural gas is plentiful and relatively cheap, we can't continue to drill through our water tables and then act surprised when that water turns up polluted thanks to some proprietary cocktail that industry is allowed to inject into the ground to encourage the gas to come to the top. And lest we forget, it's still a fossil fuel that, when burned, emits greenhouse gases that very likely exacerbate climatic events.
That means we must take a long, hard look at renewable energy, and find ways to make it happen in a way that doesn't devalue the land it occupies. Thankfully, the framework for this is in place--a bill has been introduced in Congress to ensure wind and solar development come with a thorough review process and a conservation mitigation fund. And it would require the industry to pay royalties to the states and counties where these projects take place. More importantly, the bill allows for public involvement in the siting and permitting of renewable energy projects on lands that belong to every single American.
This is a bipartisan bill--it was introduced by Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana. Anglers and hunters who understand that habitat and opportunity are not mutually exclusive--and that good fishing and good hunting don't happen by accident--support this bill.
Is it an earth-shattering bill that will immediately change the political climate in our country? No. But it's a start. And after a divisive election, I'll settle for a start.
Join me and ask Congress to work together and pass a bill that's good for all Americans, not just the party by which they label themselves, or by the funders to which they are unfortunately beholden. Ask your state's federal delegation to join together and support the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act. We have the chance to do this right.
Who knows? Maybe it could be the catalyst for further cooperation... further compromise.
Or, you know, progress.