The Tedium Sea

The Tedium Sea

Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs (OR), September 19, 2009

National Review – Planet Gore, September 22, 2009

It seems that every time I check in to the Hyatt Embarcadero to visit my peeps at Pacific Research Institute there is some kind of environmental conference going on. Thursday this past week was no exception: there in the lobby were two young ladies dressed up as “orange roughies,” a colorful Pacific ocean species that is, as you might guess, bright orange. I’ve seen lots of them scuba diving in California waters over the years. Lo and behold, yesterday morning the two orange roughie gals turned up in the San Francisco Chronicle’s news story about the release of a new “interim” report from the Obama Administration’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force.

The news story, and the underlying report, are an excellent case study in the weary, used-up character of contemporary environmentalism, and a good indicator of why the public is increasingly bored with environmental issues according to the polls. The head of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, said, “Today is a historic day for our oceans.” Really? All because the government put out another report? That must be some kind of powerful report. Maybe it has magic spells?

No; rather it contains the usual administrative-state cliches. “The draft report,” says the Chron story, “recommended several broad strategies, including improving coordination among local, state, and federal agencies.” [Smacking forehead now] Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? Or this: “Boosting water ocean water quality through more sustainable land practices.” Genius! The Obama Task Force will now take the report on the road on a “multi-city tour” around America, after which no doubt there will be released a final report to replace this interim one.

This is typical of modern government groupies, thinking their banal cliches represent original thinking because their sentiments are so pure. Lubchenco added the usual coda of the anointed by saying, “For the first time our nation is saying loudly and clearly that healthy oceans matter.” For. The. First. Time. Really??

No one seems to recall that the Bush Administration had its own Commission on Ocean Policy (actually set in motion by Congress in legislation passed in the year 2000) that held extensive hearings around the U.S. and issued its own very detailed 522 page report (not counting the appendices) in 2004 entitled An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, containing hundreds of specific policy recommendations, including, naturally, “better coordination” between government agencies. I wonder how many of these were followed up? I’m sure there have been lots of great interagency meetings in Washington. Wouldn’t you think we might build on this first before reinventing the wheel? Why have all those “coordination” meetings all over again?

This new effort also shows what cheap dates environmentalists have become. Even though the new Obama effort is still in the “interim” stage, and none of the miracle “coordination” has happened yet, the Chron reports that “Environmental groups, many of which have long fought for a national ocean policy, were thrilled at the administration’s quick progress.” Yup, a few more reports and no doubt the planet will be transformed back into Eden. And the orange roughie gals can recycle their costumes for San Francisco’s Halloween parade.

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