I ran across a quote today that struck me as really strange. It was in an article about a group of atheists who are putting ads on public buses. They were unable to do so in Indianapolis, due to a “policy barring ads ‘involving or referring to political, religious, moral or environmental issues subject to public debate.'”

Which one of these is not like the others? It seems something of a well-known adage that the topics of politics and religion are to be avoided in polite conversation. And somehow I can pretty easily fit morals into that same general bucket. But environmental issues? Isn’t that on a different level of specificity than the others? I’m mean, sure, it can be a controversial topic just like religion and politics. But so can health care, education, immigration, and many other things. So what about the environment makes it something to be named alongside the old adage stand-bys in municipal policy?

Perhaps it’s because the environment and its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods has become enough of a concern for there to be public debate about it. Perhaps there’s something about Indianapolis’ environment that makes it an especially touchy subject there. But regardless of the exact reason, to have reached this level of taboo, it is clearly a problem. And that being the case, there must be a better policy than avoidance for addressing it.

-Nancy Michaelis