One of my favorite scenes in the 1993 film Groundhog Day is when a melancholy Bill Murray is sitting at the bar with a couple of charming Punxsutawney locals and asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?“
So, last week when I heard about yet another attempt by Representative Bill Flores (R-TX) and his fellow House Natural Resources Committee members to undermine smart ocean planning through a rider attached to an appropriations bill, I couldn’t help but think about that scene from Groundhog Day and laugh. In the movie, Bill Murray’s character is stuck living out the same day in agonizing perpetuity. In real life, Representative Flores continuously attaches anti-ocean planning riders to any bill he can. Ten times these riders have been introduced in the House – but so far each one has either been stripped out of the bill by ocean champions or the bill has died altogether.
At least in Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character takes the opportunity of being stuck living the same day over and over to learn jazz piano, French, and all of the answers to that day’s episode of Jeopardy. I’m not sure what is to be learned by introducing the same – ultimately unsuccessful – anti-ocean rider ten times.
Fortunately for the rest of us who live and work in coastal communities, Representative Flores’ attempts to slow down smart ocean planning efforts aren’t working; Planning efforts are actually ramping up. As John Podesta confirmed last month, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be finishing their ocean plans by 2016. In fact, Flores’ opposition has served to throw a spotlight on the tremendous public support that exists for planning. Hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals representing a broad array of interests including commercial fishing, engineering and consulting, recreation and tourism, renewable energy, academics, tribes, faith-based groups, NGOs, and everyday citizens have written to Congress in support of smart ocean planning. Thanks to this support from the public and all levels of government, planning is moving forward.
The movie Groundhog Day doesn’t resolve until Bill Murray’s character changes his ways. Perhaps Representative Flores will change his ways, too, once he realizes that smart ocean planning is a bottom-up solution that benefits communities, businesses, and the environment.