Think Teddy

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

We know you’re probably getting tired of reading “open letters” to you filled with moralizing suggestions about how best to handle all the problems and opportunities laid out before you these next years. Well, we apologize, but we have one final modest proposal to put to you in this open-forum fashion:

Think Teddy.

We’re talking Teddy Roosevelt, of course—the infamous American conservationist president responsible for five new national parks, 18 national monuments and the preservation of untold millions of acres of national forest, the man who proved you can be a Republican and a great environmentalist.

Governor Schwarzenegger, you’ve already taken a baby step in this direction. We were encouraged when, the week after you took the state’s top job, you joined Senator Dianne Feinstein in defeating a dangerous rider in a California appropriations bill that would have worsened the state’s already poor air quality. Because of what the pair of you did, the California Environmental Protection Agency will be able to continue regulating the substantial air pollution that comes from small engines such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

We take that as a good sign. You vowed during your campaign to reduce air pollution in the state by 50 percent by 2010, and your recent action shows you might just mean to keep that promise.

Still, it’s not going to be easy, given your professed attitude that businesses should run into zero roadblocks if they want to locate in California. Energy companies now plan to build 30 more dirty power plants in the state, mostly in Southern California, where the air pollution is already terrible. Your environmental appointments have been mixed so far. How do you and your new team intend to reduce air pollution and keep businesses happy at the same time?

We were encouraged when you voiced serious concerns about global warming. Indeed, it was heartening to hear you endorse California’s efforts to do something about it by becoming the first state in the nation to regulate greenhouse-gas emission from automobiles.

But we see trouble on the horizon.

Governor, you seem to have great esteem for President George W. Bush, a man whose policies (there’s no polite way to say this) have wreaked havoc on the country’s environment since he took office. Bush and his administration have worked almost systematically to dismantle clean-air and clean-water laws. His assaults on California’s environment in particular—our coastline and forests—are shameful. For those of us who live in Sacramento and its environs, his proposal to devastate huge portions of the Sierra Nevada especially hits home. Bush’s plan, released in early summer, would double logging and weaken protections for old, large trees. That’s simply not OK.

Governor, you’ll have to fight him.

Like consummate California environmentalist Al Meyerhoff has advised: “Republican environmentalist need not be an oxymoron.” We agree. So, please, Governor, think Teddy.