Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. IV No. 3 July 1995


by Bill Rossiter, CSI President

Would you ignore a fire alarm? People do, so the alarms get louder. Would you do nothing in the face of a recall of most environmental legislation built up from 1970? People are, and that's why this article is also an alarm. We must warn you about the 104th Congress' overwhelming assault on laws and practices that CSI members care a great deal about, but may not have personally done anything about. CSI has tried, but all "environmental" groups have been unable to do enough to affect what's happening because our collective voices are not reaching the legislators. The access and influence allowed to environmental groups has been given to the "other side". Perhaps we all grew to think that our victories were firm. Perhaps our memberships grew to expect that we would always and effectively represent their voiced concerns or needs regarding environmental legislation. Perhaps we all became complacent. There was little mention of environmental issues during the election campaigns. Whatever has happened since we all voted these people into office has come as a numbing, cascading, overwhelming surprise. How can they get away with it? They are. The alarms have been ringing for months. There are now so many alarms ringing across the legislative spectrum that focus is imperative. Find something and act. It is up to you.

I am convinced that any environmental group's representative will simply be ignored by many legislators, whose ears are now turned to an effective assembly of lobbyists representing "users", the industries, corporations, businesses, and even nations that have endured all sorts of limits and restrictions in their search for profit from our natural resources. They plotted and prepared well, and now find a receptive and helpful Congress. They have the money, strategies, ambition and power to fuel the "Republican Revolution". Revised legislation is being written by the very people it is supposed to control. Testimony in opposition to some of the worst cases is being ignored, even eliminated from hearings. The attack is so masterful that we can't keep up, can't focus our priorities fast enough. However, we gratefully note that both Senators and most Representatives in CSI's core state of Connecticut have tried to stem the assault.

My uncle was a world famous professor of American government, and in his wisdom saw even worse aberrations in our history with a pragmatic, optimistic hope. A magnificent Constitution, the Will of the People, and sheer inertia would prevail. But he wasn't considering toxic coastal waters, collapsed fisheries, unprotected endangered species, loss of biodiversity and habitat, and a justified fear of unrestrained human impact on the fragile ocean. Recent history has let us learn that we can do almost anything to make profit and power, but we can't unmake the destruction that might follow. Have we learned? Are we instead condemning ourselves to repeat another bleak and dire history lesson?

Who is "we"? You are. The Public Will is about all that might prevail over the attack. This is all about redefining individual freedoms; "If you want it now, take it; forget about tomorrow and your legacy to your children". Your Representative might be caught up in this assault, and your favorite groups have been largely ineffective against it. You, as part of an angry collective Public, can and must make the difference. You must personally write or visit your Legislators to assess their position and assert your view. Calls are a weak third option. They need to hear directly from constituents, from you, now. Three things will help. First, some in Congress must not like what's happening to their principles, or don't like the arrogant manipulation they endure from their campaigning leadership and swaggering lobbyists. If they could stand on their constituent's demands they could stand against what's happening. Second, as the effects of the new laws start smoking the painful realities to fight against further destruction might get Congress' attention. Do they really intend to destroy? Third, as the changes accelerate and get more uncontrollable not even the people voting in the changes know what the effect will be. Chaotic results will make Legislators vulnerable to blame, and more open to reconsidering their intent as they posture for re-election. They will revert to a need to hear from the real voters, whom they are clearly not hearing now.

Specific Bills are changing so quickly that anything we might address here will be outdated when you read it. You can see the Dirty Water Act already. The Endangered Species Act might be extinct before you read this. It's that bad. Exaggeration is impossible. For simplicity, solidarity, and timely action CSI urges each U.S. reader to contact the Center for Marine Conservation, 202- 429-5609, or fax 202-872-0619, or by mail at 1725 DeSales Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. CMC has many resources, and an excellent program for you to learn what your Legislators have done, what you can do about it, and how. CSI recommends CMC because there is no time for anything but a unified, collective public voice of outrage. This is not a hyped, strident request. It is a plea. If you don't think one voice will make a difference you are wrong. Let's not forget that Constitutional gift, and historical lesson.

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© Copyright 1995, Cetacean Society International, Inc.