When I first heard about Ron Paul, I was skeptical. As a registered Democrat and a social liberal, I thought immediately, what can a conservative Republican from Texas possibly offer? I didn't realize, at that time, in May 2007, how much my eyes were about to be opened. I thought, they're all just politicians, they say whatever they have to, it's going to be the lesser of two evils, and at least the Democrats have a shot.
How wrong I was. Little did I know that a few short months later, I would be re-registering as a Republican to vote for this very candidate. Little did I know that everything I believed about the connotations of the word "conservative" was about to be shaken.
Let me start by naming my major issue: the environment. Are any Republicans associated with pro-environmental policies anymore? Furthermore, has anyone connected good environmental practice with Ron Paul? I am about to do just that.
Ron Paul has been criticized by some prominent environmental advocates, including Leonardo DiCaprio, whose environmental documentary film The Eleventh Hour comes to theaters this month. Ron Paul is quoted as saying global warming may not be manmade. Make no mistake, I have great respect for DiCaprio for making such a film, but I think he's off the mark when it comes to criticizing Ron Paul.
In relation to Ron Paul, even if he is skeptical about the causes of global warming, he has the right idea when it comes to striking at the heart of pollution: property rights and making sure polluters are held accountable for their pollution.
Global warming is by no means the *single* environmental issue facing us. It is one of them, one of many, and definitely the one with the most press coverage currently. It has many implications for natural disasters... just a slight change in ocean temperatures can be (and has already been) disastrous for storms, floods, and marine ecosystems. The ocean level rising is no small matter for island inhabitants or those of low-lying countries. And the ocean is rising bit by bit, and becoming more acidic. It's risen 3 cm in the last decade, faster than predicted. The temperature is also rising. I think it is a high priority, but not the only one.
By attacking Ron Paul for merely considering the possibility that global warming is not entirely manmade, one fails to consider how much his economic policy could help our environment.
In a truly free market, there would be no governmental protectionism to grant immunity to certain interests and powers. Ron Paul has consistently spoken out against subsidies, particularly oil and energy, understanding that the market, based on resource availability, would actually prevent businesses from being as unsustainable as they are today. Under Paul, they would no longer be able to sell their products at artificially cheap prices and will be forced into more efficient, environmentally sound practices to stay in business. In global warming terms, better practices translates into greater fuel efficiency, meaning less pollution for the same amount of energy.
It's positive that global warming and energy efficiency are getting some attention... it means people are starting to consider the long-term effects of a lot of pollution and continued carbon-based fuel. On the other, it's negative in that, for one thing, the campaign is mainly targeted at individuals, who aren't doing the bulk of the polluting/usage (that honor goes to agriculture, industry, and the military), and for another, it blindsides other environmental campaigns which are equally important and perhaps even more urgent.
I dislike that many candidates use global warming as a talking point to slam other candidates, without even addressing the majority of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.
These issues include deforestation, overpopulation, food waste, landfills running out of capacity,
water usage, unsustainable packaging, and more.
To criticize a candidate on their "weak global warming stance" seems meaningless when viewed in these terms. What about their everything-else stance?
It is worth mentioning that Ron Paul, although he does not make the environment his major point, is more environmentally-friendly due to his private-property and economic stances than any other candidate I’ve seen. In a Dennis Miller interview on June 3, 2007, Ron Paul stated, “... the environment is better protected under private property rights... We as property owners can't violate our neighbors' property. We can't pollute their air or their water. We can't dump our garbage on their property.... Too often, conservatives and libertarians fall short on defending environmental concerns, and they resort to saying, 'Well, let's turn it over to the EPA. The EPA will take care of us.... We can divvy up the permits that allow you to pollute.' So I don't particularly like that method."
Here is further interesting commentary about how private property rights encourage more sustainable usage.
And if that weren’t enough, I don't think people can even begin to address ANY environmental issue while they are worried about Terrorism and their phone lines being tapped. And none of the other candidates hint at a real departure from that.
Furthermore, let's all contemplate, for a moment, the disastrous environmental implications of the Iraq war. And let's also consider that Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate to have voted against the Iraq war, and one of the only candidates from either party who consistently proposes a full removal of American troops from the area.
So what'll it be, my fellow Americans? A vote for a candidate who vows to "stop global warming"? (How?) Or a vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated a commitment to sustainable usage of resources?
Ron Paul is a candidate who actually recognizes that, in the words of esteemed environmental/business author Paul Hawken (interestingly enough, interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio's film): "... what hurts the transition to sustainable and restorative business more than any other single factor is artificially low prices that do not fully incorporate the true costs of a product or service, especially when those low prices are the result of cost internalization, subsidies, or tax breaks." ( The Ecology of Commerce, 138)
Ron Paul stands for a truly free market, one that reflects the true costs of resources, so that we do not waste them. So that we realize when something precious beyond measure, such as clean water or oil, is running low and needs to be conserved. A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for a greener, more sustainable America.
If he wins, I know I'll be sleeping better at night.