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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

A Vote for Nader

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Brain Tokar lays out reasons why a vote for Green party candidate Ralph Nader is not a wasted vote.


CURWOOD: As the presidential debates unfold and the campaigns draw to a close - - - more and more of those so-called undecided voters are deciding which candidate will get their nod. Now, for folks who care about the environment, this is not an easy choice.

Some will vote for George W. Bush, but many are split between Al Gore and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Commentator Brian Tokar says he'll vote his conscience.

TOKAR: It's election time and, once again, environmentalists are being courted by the Democrats and largely shunned by Republicans. That's not so unusual. Neither is the near certainty that once the voting is over our ecosystems and communities will take a back seat to politics as usual in Washington, D.C. This year, we're told, is different: Al Gore, they say, is a real environmentalist. But, a look at the record suggests several steps backward for every step forward in the name of the environment. The Clinton-Gore administration cast itself as defender of the Northwest's ancient forests, but allowed a "salvage logging rider" in 1995 that led to the sharpest increase in National Forest logging since the Reagan administration. It repealed the Delaney Clause, which banned cancer-causing substances in food, and opened severe loopholes in endangered species enforcement. Vice President Gore is a proponent of "free trade," a long-time supporter of genetic engineering, and on the crucial issue of global climate change, a leading advocate of tradable carbon dioxide credits. That's the mechanism that would encourage companies to invest in forest plantations rather than reduce fossil fuel emissions, while developing a global "free market" in tradable "rights" to pollute. Into this fray has stepped Ralph Nader, a time-tested crusader against corporate abuses and an internationally known environmentalist. His credentials and experience speak for themselves. But, this election is about more than Ralph Nader's electibility. It's about the decline of our democratic institutions. As long as we remain limited to two parties, equally beholden to Wall Street and global corporations, we remain unable to shape the REAL decisions that affect our lives. Inequality grows, the loopholes expand, and our forests, air, water and health continue to suffer. Clearly, no president can solve all our problems, but this year there's a chance to vote for someone who speaks for popular power and citizen initiative. A vote for Nader is not, as some claim, a wasted vote. It is a small step toward the renewal of a genuine, community-based direct democracy. One that could, some day, offer real solutions to our pressing environmental and social problems.

CURWOOD: Commentator Brian Tokar teaches at the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont, and is the author of The Green Alternative . He comes to us via the web magazine TomPaine dot com.



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