One of the most frightening lines in literature is Thoreau’s quip in “Civil Disobedience” that people will have the government they deserve. It’s a humbling thought. Similarly, Edmund Burke declared that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
I can’t help but consider such lines with the sad news that our Congress just passed H.R. 2578 — the House Appropriations Bill for Commerce, Justice and Related Agencies — with a rider proposed by S.C. Rep. Jeff Duncan on behalf of power companies that would gut the nation’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a 103-year-old law that also has been supported persistently by the people and governments of five other nations.
The amendment prohibits spending any tax money to prosecute people who violate the bird treaty. In other words, it would remove all threat of prosecution for killing birds. It will become law for at least a year unless it is stopped by the Senate or withdrawn in conference committee.
Duncan also is sponsoring H.R. 493, which would re-write the bird treaty law so that it only applies to intentional harm inflicted on individual birds. Thus it would no longer cover the biggest threats to hundreds of species of birds currently covered by the law, including the bald and golden eagles.
His intention is to free power companies from penalties accrued from the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds each year, especially on solar and wind turbine farms.
The result is this: Companies and individuals would no longer be held accountable for any indiscriminate slaughter of birds.
Thus an Exxon could not be prosecuted for a Valdez or a B.P. for a Deepwater Horizon and so forth. There would be no recourse, no restitution, no justice for any creature harmed.
Renewable energy sources can and should be made more environmentally friendly. But these measures favor power companies over the environment, strain international relations and put little faith in American ingenuity to find less destructive ways for renewable energy plants to gratify our insatiable desire for power.
At stake is more than just millions more birds killed; at stake is the wisdom and integrity of a nation.
Robert A. Bryant