When did the Environment become a Partisan Issue?

Recently I read an obituary of a “Tax Court Judge turned Environmental Activist” in the Washington Post which offered a striking commentary on the current state of affairs on environmental policy.  This tax court judge turned environmentalist was Russell Train, Republican.  As the director of the Environmental Protection Agency from 1970 through 1977, he led the agency through some of its toughest early years (the EPA was launched in 1970 – its first director left after a short stint).  As noted in the article above, “Mr. Train embodied an earlier era in which conservatives embraced the label ‘environmentalist'”.

So the question I posit is, When did the Environment become a partisan issue?

Political Parties

We all want clean air, clean water, safe products, and a world that is sustainable (whether WE know it or not – ecosystem collapse would be devastating, even for the richest among us).  The real questions are, have the environmentalists on the left pushed for standards that are unreasonable and unjustified on economic or other grounds?  Or have those on the right ignored an earlier era of bi-partisan environmentalism and abandoned environmental values for profit or other values?  Possibly encouraged by incentives created by campaign contributions from the companies that are the largest polluters and cause the most environmental damage?

As a good friend of mine likes to say, “we need to get down to causes and conditions”, and I would like to get to the causes and conditions of the current partisan divide on environmental policy.  I have some thoughts on answers to these questions, but will save them for future posts.  For now, I ask you, When did the Environment become a partisan issue? and should it be???



Graphic Source: http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/Political%20Parties.jpg