Scientific American asked our Presidential candidates twenty questions about science and technology issues. The responses on biodiversity demonstrate the difference between the informed and practical Democrat and the clueless and sloganeering Republican.
Scientific American posed this question about biodiversity:
Biological diversity provides food, fiber, medicines, clean water and many other products and services on which we depend every day. Scientists are finding that the variety and variability of life is diminishing at an alarming rate as a result of human activity. What steps will you take to protect biological diversity? [Christine Gorman, “What Do the Presidential Candidates Know about Science?” Scientific American, 2016.09.13].
Hillary Clinton, typifying what Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir characterizes as the Democratic candidate’s “largely reasonable and way too detailed and frankly kind of boring” responses, shows she understands what biodiversity is, what good it does, and what policies protect it:
Conserving biodiversity is essential to maintaining our quality of life. Healthy soils provide the foundation for agricultural productivity and help absorb carbon; wetlands soak up floodwaters and pollutants and protect our communities; forests filter our water and keep it clean; bees and other pollinators are essential to our food supply; and coral reefs and coastal marshes are nurseries for our fisheries. Although we have made considerable progress protecting our environment and conserving our natural resources, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, unsustainable management practices, introduction of invasive species and other forces pose serious threats to biodiversity and our way of life.
We need to collaborate across all sectors and at all levels to conserve our natural resources and maintain the viability of our ecosystems. I believe, for example, that we should be doing more to slow and reverse the decline of at-risk wildlife species before they reach the brink of extinction. That is why I will work to double the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program to help states, tribal nations, and local communities act earlier to conserve wildlife before they become threatened or endangered.
The 100th anniversary of our national park system is also an opportunity to re-energize America’s proud land and wildlife conservation traditions. I will establish an American Parks Trust Fund to scale up and modernize how we protect and enhance our natural treasures, and to better protect wildlife habitat across the country.
Internationally, we need greater cooperation to address declining biodiversity. My Administration will work collaboratively with other nations to advance biodiversity science, further our understanding of the causes of biodiversity loss, and take action to diminish them. We will share information about our conservation successes, including our national parks, fish and wildlife refuge systems, and marine reserves to aid other nations working to protect their natural resources and conserve biodiversity. And we will work collaboratively to end trafficking in wildlife and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing that threatens our oceans [Hillary Clinton, in Gorman, 2016.09.13].
Reasonable? Long? Detailed? Wonky? Yes—welcome to the unglitzy world of practical governance.
By contrast, Donald Trump doesn’t say the word biodiversity in his response. His first three sentences aren’t even specific to the question:
For too long, Presidents and the executive branch of our federal government have continued to expand their reach and impact. Today, we have agencies filled with unelected officials who have been writing rules and regulations that cater to special interests and that undermine the foundational notion of our government that should be responsive to the people. Our elected representatives have done little to uphold their oaths of office and have abrogated their responsibilities. When these circumstances occur, there is an imbalance that rewards special interests and punishes the people who should benefit the most from the protection of species and habitat in the United States. In a Trump administration, there will be shared governance of our public lands and we will empower state and local governments to protect our wildlife and fisheries. Laws that tilt the scales toward special interests must be modified to balance the needs of society with the preservation of our valuable living resources. My administration will strike that balance by bringing all stakeholders to the table to determine the best approach to seeking and setting that balance [Donald Trump, in Gorman, 2016.09.13].
Apparently in Trumpworld, “biodiversity” is just a hobbyhorse of special interests who are keeping us from burning and eating “living resources.” The only faintly specific policy Trump offers—”shared governance” to “empower state and local governments” is faux-Republican code for deregulation and devolution of power to state legislatures bought up by ALEC. Clinton trumps Trump even on that point: among her multiple specifics, she speaks of genuinely empowering states, tribes, and local governments by doubling wildlife conservation grants.
Clinton talks about specific policy problems and solutions, the way a real President must; Trump grunts slogans and reveals the shallowness of his leadership.