By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Environmental groups come up with a lot of inspired campaigns. Some, like Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, are masters of eco-guerilla warfare, turning up at national icons or even in grocery stores with campaigns that make us think about deforestation, oil dependence and climate change.

Defenders of Wildlife is not such a showy group, but it works in its own way to connect the dots, trying to find solutions to wildlife issues. It has been instrumental in working toward peaceful solutions between ranchers and wolf advocates in the Rocky Mountains.

Now Defenders has launched a nifty closed-loop plan to help wildlife affected by the BP oil disaster. The group(via Change.org) is asking federal lawmakers to donate their oil and gas company contributions to fund wildlife restoration in the coastal regions ravaged by spilled oil.

OK, so chances of that are slim. But the appeal is logical, even eloquent. It reads like this:

Big Oil’s influence in Congress is toxic to the legislative process – like the oil now choking large swaths of the Gulf coast.

Money-fueled political favors for the oil industry mean lax oversight, pollution and inaction on climate change that’s threatening the very survival of some of our most beloved species.

During the 2010 election cycle, the oil and gas industry has already contributed nearly $14 million to federal political candidates and parties – money that could and should be spent to clean up Big Oil’s mess in the Gulf.

Say “No!” to oil money in politics and “Yes!” to Gulf restoration efforts. Urge your U.S. representative and senators to donate any and all campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry to support local Gulf charities working to save wildlife.

More than 21,000 people have signed the petition.

Of course, longer term solutions are needed. Everyone (well, most everyone) agrees that Washington lawmakers have been thoroughly corrupted by special influence money. Political finance laws need changing, though it remains a mystery which fox at the door of the hen house will be stepping forward on this issue.  The mavericks who might have are fighting for survival amid political wind shear over immigration, deficits and the weak economy.

In addition to finance laws that put the public back in charge, we need energy and climate change legislation, unless we want to rescue wildlife — and people — month after month, year after year from various calamities caused by coal effluent, oil spills, water degradation, climate-induced flooding and deforestation. We can respond in serial fashion until there are few animals left to save, but it wouldn’t be the wisest path.

For now, with politicians at the behest of the polluters, the public is left to vent and fume outside the cozy circles of influence. But we can still vote, and we can petition.

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