Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Persuading Religious Voters with the Environment
In both of the last 2 Presidential elections, the environment has gotten short shrift in the message department. The shocking thing about that is how strong both Kerry and Gore are on environmental issues. But there is evidence that even conservative religious citizens are concerned about the environment and are turning to traditionally Democratic environmental positions.
"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said the statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches. "Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."

Signatories included highly visible, opinion-swaying evangelical leaders such as Haggard, James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Some of the signatories are to meet in March in Washington to develop a position on global warming, which could place them at odds with the policies of the Bush administration, according to Richard Cizik, the association's vice president for governmental affairs.

Also last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, weighed in for the first time on global warming. It said that "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment."
If nothing else, this development should be explored to put the hammer down finally on the foolish thinking that would deny the reality of global warming. And where many Democrats, apart from Greens, see environmental issues as a secondary focus, it may in fact be a gateway to appealing to reasonable conservatives on a number of issues, including poverty, war and international cooperation.
Much of arid sub-Saharan Africa, notably in the Sahel (the region just south of the Sahara desert), has experienced a pronounced drop in rainfall over the past quarter-century. This decline coincided with a rise in the surface temperature of the neighboring Indian Ocean, a hint that the decline in rainfall is in fact part of the longer-term process of man-made global warming.

Failures of rainfall contribute not only to famines and chronic hunger, but also to the onset of violence when hungry people clash over scarce food and water. When violence erupts in water-starved regions such as Darfur, Sudan, political leaders tend to view the problems in narrow political terms. If they act at all, they mobilize peacekeepers, international sanctions and humanitarian aid. But Darfur, like Tigre, needs a development strategy to fight hunger and drought even more than it needs peacekeepers. Soldiers cannot keep peace among desperately hungry people.
Even if we can't turn Christian voters into Democrats, because of their 1 or 2-issue obsession, we can force the issue smartly enough to drag Republicans into the light on the environment and affect positive change on a variety of issues.

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