Monday :: Sep 1, 2003

Bush's Assault on the Environment


by Mary

Posted by Mary
During August, George W. Bush made a number of campaign stops to tout his credentials as a conservationist. (Conservationist: What Frank Luntz recommends Repubicans call themselves instead of using the label environmentalist.) Karl Rove believes that Bush can sell his policies as being reasonable (who doesn't believe in Healthy Forests?) and thus reassure the suburban mom about his environmental credentials. And, for people who don't have time to pay attention to the deceptive words, Bush's policies are wrapped in nice soft words that belie the intent of the policies. As usual, the important thing to do is to examine the policies and their consequences and ignore the blather and the photo ops.

When looking at the ways that Bush can most damage our country and our world, it seems to me that his terrible policies on the environment are the worst legacy he will leave for the future.

Why do I think this is worse than all his other policies? Well, I rate the policies on how extensive the damage would be, and how widespread the effect. For instance, the deficit is a terrible legacy, but for the most part, it will affect Americans and our children and therefore is containable in the global sense for the world. It is conceivable that many other people in the world can flourish despite the negative impact this will have on our own future.

The damage he has created to the international framework with his destructive war on Iraq and blatant "my way or the highway" attitude might make the next 50 years or even 100 years very chaotic for humans, but yet, we know from history, periods of war and conquest are followed by periods of sanity and tranquility. As Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror showed, to those caught up in the chaos of human history, the seeds of renaissance can be hidden, yet, still be ready to bloom.

But on the environment, and especially concerning global warming, Bush has the potential of dooming not just humans, but most other creatures to a much worse future. What failure of imagination makes it possible for this administration to be so obstinantly blind to the peril confronting the world? Even Frank Luntz admits that an overwhelming proponderance of evidence supports that human activity is contributing to global warming:

The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.

So his advice to Republicans is to deny that there is a problem or if there is a problem, then we need to study it to death before we can do anything to address it. The Bush White House has brought in the industries' paid-for scientists to challenge what the other 99% of the world's leading scientists in this area say about global warming.

Bill Moyers' also finds the Bush policies on the environment extremely worrying. In this month's issue of Grist, an environmental eZine, Moyers' is interviewed on what he has been observing about Bush's policies on the environment. He believes that Bush's policies are based in both religious and political dogma:

Moyers: [These dogmas] are practically the same. Their god is the market -- every human problem, every human need, will be solved by the market. Their dogma is the literal reading of the creation story in Genesis where humans are to have "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing ..." The administration has married that conservative dogma of the religious right to the corporate ethos of profits at any price. And the result is the politics of exploitation with a religious impulse.

... snip ...

Grist: And surely their public-relations strategies have become far more sophisticated.

Moyers: Absolutely. They learned a big lesson from the Watt era. Not to inflame the situation. Use stealth. If you corrupt the language and talk a good line even as you are doing the very opposite, you won't awaken the public. Gale Norton will be purring like a kitten when she's cutting down the last redwood in the forest with a buzz saw.

Grist: Doesn't it seem inevitable that this tremendous discrepancy between the Bush administration's actions and words will be exposed?

Moyers: There is always a backlash when any administration, liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican, goes too far. In this case, all the scientists that I respect and all the environmentalists that I listen to say to me, "What's different this time, Moyers, is that it could happen too late." Let's say by 2008 the consequences of all these policies become clear and the public rises up in protest. We don't have between now and 2008 to reverse the trends; it will be too late then.

Grist: What do you mean by "too late"?

Moyers: Every policy of government that is bad or goes wrong can ultimately be reversed. The environment is the one exception to the rule of politics, which is that to every action there is a reaction. By the time we all wake up, by the time the media starts doing their job and by the time the public sees what is happening, it may be too late to reverse it. That's what science is telling us. That's what the Earth is telling us.

While Bush and his minions fiddle, the situation grows worse. As with other complex natural systems, the world's climate is composed of an enormous number of interlocking pieces that we only dimly understand. One very real concern is that rather than having another 20 years to address these problems, the system can quite dramatically readjust itself in a much different form. Many scientists expressed concern when they found that the Artic tundra is no longer working as a sink for carbon dioxide (soaking up the excess), but is now operating as a source, releasing the carbon dioxide that had been built up for centuries -- and adding to our own output. The heat waves experienced this summer, the increased heat-related deaths, the melting glaciers, all were predicted under the global warmning models. As were the fires in forests stressed by drought and insects and the spread of insect-borne diseases into the higher latitudes. Scientists are worried that not only are these events occurring as predicted, but that they are happening much, much faster than they had anticipated.

The heating up of the planet has intensified so exponentially over the past decade that even scientists and experts on the cutting edge have been caught off guard. Their newest prognoses indicate a climate altered so radically that there is little time left to reverse its effects.

Many members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a U.N.-sponsored group of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries say today that the climate is changing much more quickly than they had anticipated even a few years ago. Similarly, climate scientists at the U.K.'s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research found in November that climate change is occurring 50 percent more quickly than had been projected.

Getting rid of Bush and applying our energies to addressing this problem is critical for not only our children, but the entire world. In this month's American Prospect, George Lakoff suggested that liberals should propose a program for freeing us from the carbon based economy (*):

For example, the New Apollo Program -- an investment of hundreds of billions over 10 years in alternative energy development (solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen) is also a jobs program, a foreign-policy issue (freedom from dependence on Middle East oil), a health issue (clean air and water, many fewer poisons in our bodies) and an ecology issue (cleans up pollution, addresses global warming).

Our Democratic candidates should pull out their copy of Earth in the Balance. And perhaps they can ask for Al's help. We really can't afford to waste anymore time before tackling this problem.

* [Ed: This article is not online, but here is a summary I wrote up of it and two other articles from that issue.]

Mary :: 10:45 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!