BOOKS: Voting Green: your complete environmental guide to making political choices in the ’90’s

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1992:

Voting Green: your complete environmental
guide to making political choices in the ’90’s.
By Jeremy Rifkin and Carol Grunewald Rifkin,
Doubleday (666 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10103),
1992, 390 pages, paperback $15.00 U.S., $19.00
Canadian.
It may be true, as Voting Green suggests, that this
decade will determine our environmental future. Certainly
grassroots support for green programs has never been stronger.
But Jeremy and Carol Rifkin also remind us that the greatest
potential for redesigning our societal infrastructure is held by
our elected representatives in Congress, and that we will
decide–with our votes–which direction they’ll take.

Voting Green alerts us to a turning tide in politics,
where decisions are based less on party affiliations and ideolo-
gies than on shared perceptions of place in the biosphere. On
one hand there are the utilitarian policians, “who view their fel-
low human beings, other species, and the environment…as
resources to exploit for short-term material gain.” On the other,
there are those few representatives who “pursue a political
agenda based on sustainable and humane stewardship of the
earth and its inhabitants.” The Rifkins review the efforts of the
latter, issue by issue, through recently proposed legislation.
They also grade individual representatives, state by
state, according to their voting records on environmental
issues.
Some of their findings contradict cherished political
beliefs. While nearly all the highest ranked “green”
Congresspersons are Democrats, they’re not necessarily the
most liberal. Several are African-American and/or women,
and many are supporters of organized labor. It should be noted,
nevertheless, that most earn their high grades by voting green
on one or two special issues while failing miserably in related
categories.
It’s important, too, to look closely at the proposed
legislation used to determine the grades in each category. In
agriculture, for instance, grades were determined primarily by
support for amendments to the 1990 Omnibus Farm Bill on sus-
tainable agriculture. The category of animal rights, however,
includes bills on leghold traps, product testing alternatives,
vegetarian school lunches, dolphin protection, greyhound rac-
ing, and biogenetic engineering. Ironically, some Republican
House members scored very high in the animal rights category
but flunked every other section.
It would be tempting to use Voting Green merely to
target individual representatives on specific issues. Instead the
Rifkins work very hard to encourage coalitions that address
earth-related problems. They demonstrate a special broadness
of vision by including animal rights as a key component of
environmental awareness. “Acknowledging the inherent value
and rights of animals, indeed, respecting all of nature, is the
essence of Green-mindedness,” they write. Their vision
includes protection for spotted owls and job training for unem-
ployed loggers, preservation of tropical forests and appropriate
U.S. foreign aid for sustainable development.
Voting Green concludes with a report card on the
George Bush administration, comparing the president’s promis-
es with his actions. Not surprisingly, Bush receives failing
grades in global warming, energy, transportation, public
lands, wetlands, and animal rights. While state governors’
records are not included here, and thus Democratic presidential
nominee Bill Clinton is not graded, it is intiguing that his run-
ning mate Al Gore is the highest-ranking Senator on the Voting
Green scale.
Given the importance of Voting Green in this elec-
tion year, it’s unfortunate and perplexing that the volume isn’t
indexed, for the convenience of those who may wish to make
frequent use of it.
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