Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama … and I hope you will too: Reason 4

Reason 4: The Environment
(This article is adapted from a piece originally published in Creation Care Magazine.)
I care about the environment. To me, it’s not just stuff. It is God’s sacred creation. I love it. I cherish it. And because of that passion for creation, I am enthusiastically voting for Senator Barack Obama.
A while back I read a book about mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Then I saw a Sierra Club video that put the problem in color and in motion. I saw the devastation unleashed by insufficiently-regulated corporations, denuding and flattening once-majestic mountains, poisoning springs and creeks, sickening people, laying off workers, and making a few executives rich. Then a few months later I went fly fishing in Yellowstone, awed by the powerful presence of bison and elk, the fresh scent of grassy meadows in summer green, the shine of snowy peaks in the distance. Those two landscapes linger in my memory – one sold short for a fast profit, one conserved for posterity.
The good news is that either candidate in this November’s presidential election is likely to make the environment a higher priority than the Bush-Cheney administration has. The bad news is that this isn’t saying much.
The better news is that Barack Obama names global climate change “one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.” The word “moral” takes on new significance when you stand in Yellowstone … or near what was once Lost Mountain in Appalachia.

While – thankfully – both candidates are firmly committed to a cap-and-trade program which requires polluters to pay for polluting, Obama closes loopholes likely to be used by coal and oil interests. And on his lips you don’t hear McCain’s popular “Drill, Baby, Drill!” chant. Beside the fact that drilling now won’t improve fuel prices for many years if ever, the Drill, Baby, Drill! attitude seems careless, cavalier, adolescent, akin to “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
Working from a very different attitude, Obama calls for a government investment of $150 billion over ten years to catalyze private innovation in clean energy, creating 5 million new clean-energy jobs. He is committed to reach 10% renewable energy by 2012 and 25% by 2025, and to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, the current scientific benchmark.
His administration will address the health of the Great Lakes in the North and water shortages in the West and hurricane-damping wetlands in the South. Energy efficiency standards for buildings will be raised – beginning with federal buildings. A new kind of “smart” energy grid will become a national priority. And Obama will convene a global forum of major greenhouse gas emitters. In contrast, even the first few sentences of McCain’s energy policy – filled with phrases like minimize costs, allows the market to decide, lowest cost, low cost – seem calculated to show economic conservatives that his energy plan won’t cost them anything, which makes environmentally-sensitive voters like me fear it will be worth exactly what it costs.
I believe, based on a reliable source, that much is expected from those to whom much has been given. That’s why I am inspired by Obama’s leadership in confronting what he calls “the brewing crisis” of the environment. In contrast, McCain’s environmental rhetoric has typically run out of gas before delivering the needed vote in the past, and his current campaign literature consistently links US action to international action, thus providing a convenient back door as long as India and China lag behind.
Perhaps of greatest importance to me, Senator Obama’s firm resolve to speak with enemies as well as friends reduces the chances that his administration will follow the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove administration’s war policy. Senator McCain, however, presents himself as the candidate who will be quicker to engage in or stay embroiled in costly military action, pushing environmental concerns to the back burner if not off the stove-top entirely, as occurred with Bush-Cheney.
I don’t buy Senator McCain’s approach of putting short-term financial savings over our long-term calling to save our planet from careless and cavalier exploitation. I think our planet is worth more than the highest bidder wants to pay. Actually, I believe the planet’s not even ours, ultimately. It’s borrowed from our descendents. And more profoundly, it belongs to the Artist who created it. That’s why I’m with Senator Obama. This planet is precious. It needs to be cherished by responsible stewards, not exploited by people chanting, “Drill, Baby, Drill!”