Sunday, January 16, 2005

Just how bad is the Bush Administration on the Environment?

Pretty awful.

When I sit here and look at Robert Devine's "Bush Versus the Environment," I have to control my anger, and at the same time, sadness, to see the Administration's crimes against the Environment. I use the word "crimes" because Devine's volume of illustration in his book shows the Administration's tactic of "sue-and-settle" to adjust current environmental policy. The more and more I read this, the more I realize the Wise Use crowd, in general, has no great understanding that Nature and "the environment" are intrinsical to our well-being. In fact, as conservative radio host Dennis Prager puts it, "the world is backwards." But what Dennis unknowingly misses is urban peoples outlook is backwards considering the metropolitan geograph values are entertained with bigness and loudness, not the calm meditative appreciation of the outdoors. The abundance of pollution retards ones ability to feel and remember the overwhelming relaxing sensation of taking in a deep breath of fresh air. Many of the urban Wise Use population only knows entertainment to be an overabundance of technology. The general principle of wanting to conserve our national treasures has been ridiculed for of its extemist positions while barely being celebrated for its merits. I stated before on another blog that the bad extremist examples are only highlighted while many environmentalists are laughed at for their committed activism. After all, John Denver was called "corny" in the '70s for his childrens program, music and Muppet Show acts. Local host, Joe Soucheray (and sidekick), laughed at a woman's paper on reusing plastic bags. Actor Woody Harrelson was laughed at for the hemp clothing he wears. And "tree-huggers" is not a word I associate with respecting green activism.

These are not wise examples coming from the Wise Use crowd. These are examples of 'doing nothing is better than doing something'. I applaude these good efforts, and frown to the extemism that exists. But it should be known that the good efforts of these are paramount. And the conservative Wise Use administration sees fit to undue the positive aspects of its activism.

What I believe is not all that far-reaching an example is the respected Dennis Prager. He cannot acknowledge the positive causes being worked by environmentalists because he well knows the Republican Party is in debt to nonenvironmental special interests. This is the man who talks of "clear thinking" and "common sense" being central to his core values, yet Mr. Prager can only muster a "the environment is not all that important to me" when confronted on the Bush Administrations logging policies. A man who cites Frank Sinatra as one of the all-time great singers because of his 'spoken word' vocals that bring "clarity" to his message and music. I wonder if he could acknowledge the clarity, spaciousness, and tranquility of John Denver's environmentally-aware music? To ask this would likely (not certainly) get a passing acknowledgment from Prager as though he appreciates the sentiment.

I use John Denver's music as an example of the spiritual impact the environment has on the human senses. Despite being surrounded by classic rock's popular height of the early to mid '70s, Denver's solo career flourished. The answer why is because environmental music is as broad as the wind, and is not grounded, unlike most of rock's sound. I believe this is yet another powerful example of why the environment isn't merely here for human use, but to bring a calmness and spiritual understanding that human existence performs best under a simple way of life.

"Bush Versus the Environment" has many examples of our current administration's steam rolling process disguised as carrying out legal political policies. I will attempt to cite a few:

Author's Note:

"While reading this book you may at times comes across information or comments critical of the Bush Administration's environmental policies and wish there were a response from the Administration. I, too, wish there were more such responses. Though a few of the President's appointees either granted me an interview or answered my e-mailed questions, nearly all of them remained out of reach, surrounded by a wall of staffers. Given the importance of the book's subject, I had hoped to speak with more of the people who develop the Administration's environmental agenda, but these secretaries, assistant secretaries, and other high-level officials are poweful and busy people, and perhaps they simply couldn't spare the time. Fair enough. I would have been content to speak to members of their staffs. But for the most part they, too, remained behind a wall, an outer bulwark of media relations people. As it turned out, the media relations people often didn't provide any information, either; sometimes they didn't even return calls or answer e-mails. This was especially suprising when I simply was trying to double-check my facts. I had heard about the secretive nature of the Bush administration, but I hadn't expected it to be so extreme in shutting out the public.

Perhaps members of the Administration were uncommunicative because they realized that many of their environmental policies would be hard to defend. This makes me think of an internal Agency Administrator Christine Whitman sent to Vice President Dick Cheney on May 4, 2001. Whitman was responding to a draft of the energy plan that Cheney and a group of energy company executives and lobbyists had created in closed-door meetings. Referring to an element of the plan that would undercut enforcement of the Clean Air Act, she wrote, "It will be hard to refute the charge that we are deciding not to enforce the Clean Air Act." Indeed, it would be hard for the President of his officials to refute many such charges of mistreating the environment.

One other quick note: In the book I often refer to "industry" and "business," as in, "Industry pushed for weaker rules regulating discharges into rivers," or "Business supported the Administration's undermining of endangered species protections." Such use of "industry" and "business" is a rhetorical convenience, albeit one based on the reality that in the industrial sectors that inflict the greatest environmental harm most of the players do try to evade regulation and responsibility. Nevertheless, I realize that not all businesses are the same in their attitudes toward the environment and that some members of industry are exemplary environmental citizens."


"Even my Republican eyes can see that President Bush has a long way to go before conservation record can hold a candle to TR's. Consider the following: Roosevelt established national forests, parks, monuments and wildlife refuges to prevent special interests from squandering the nation's natural bounty. Bush has appointed a stable of industry lobbyists to open up more of those lands to the same kind of special interests Roosevelt fought throughout his presidency. Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge to stop poachers from destroying a public resource for private gain. Bush wants to open America's largest national wildlife refuge so oil companies can compromise a public resource for private gain. Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club, which successfully compaigned to protect Yellowstone from exploitation by railroad and mining interests. Bush wants to roll back protections against snowmobile pollution [in Yellowstone], catering to off-road vehicle interests. I am a lifelong Republican and have served as an elected Republican officeholder in Illinois for 10 years. The GOP's conservation tradition was one reason I became Republican. Over the past 20 years, however, the Republican Party seems to have lost its way on conservation."

Martha Marks, Republicans for Environmental Protection


"Perhaps more than any other issue, the designation of wilderness is being profoundly altered by the Administration's sue-and-settle machinations. This comes as no suprise when you consider the pro-development resumes of Bush himself, Vice President Cheney, and many of the President's appointees. Timber companies, real estate developers, and the other business interests may chafe under regulations that restrict their activities, but they particularly abhor wilderness. These industries need land, and a wilderness designation goes beyond restricting them to shut them out almost entirely. Energy companies, ever popular with this Administration, have an especially big stake in preventing the establishment of additional wilderness. Oil and gas outfits covet BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands, and of the BLM's 264 million acres only about 6.5 million acres--about 2.5 percent--currently are protected as wilderness. But millions of additional acres have been identified as potential wilderness, and some of the White House's most problematic sue-and-settle actions have been aimed at not realizing that potential."


"Many advocates of unfettered development insist that we already have enough wilderness in America. After all, Congress already has designated 662 wilderness areas encompassing 106 million acres. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story. A bit more than half of those protected wild acres sprawl across Alaska; only about 2 percent of the lower 48 has been designated wilderness. According to the Wilderness Society, 75 percent of the lower 48's 2 percent is scenic but often harsh and relatively unproductive desert and mountain country. And that 75 percent is not diverse, representing only a small portion of the nation's regions. In terms of both quantity and quality, then, America doesn't have much land left, especially biologically diverse land, that hasn't felt the touch of industrial society. The Wilderness Society calculates that only 200 million or fewer acres remain that may be suitable for wilderness, and that number is constantly dwindling. And the untamed amount of land will shrink rapidly if the Bush Administration succeeds in its anti-wilderness sue-and-settle campaign."


"William G. Myers III personifies the anti-federal-regulation nominees that Bush is shepherding towards lifetime positions as federal judges, though he's more rabid than most. Nominated in 2002 to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which decides many important environmental cases, Myers's confirmation seemed far from assured as this book went to press. But his record indicates that the Ninth Circuit will be getting an extreme ideologue if the Senate does confirm him. For most of his career he has been an attorney and lobbyist for the livestock and mining industries. He is renowned for his inflammatory remarks, such as equating the federal government's management of public lands with "the tyrannical actions of King George in levying taxes [against the colonies]" and "the biggest disaster now facing ranchers is not nature, but a flood of regulations designed to rurn the West into little more than a theme park." Appointed by Bush to his vurrent position as the senior solicitor for the Interior Department, Myers has used his time there to try to implement his antiregulatory rhetoric, working to ease grazing restrictions on public lands, facilitate mountaintop mining, keep snowmobiles in Yellowstone, and lift the ban on importing endangered wild animals--dead or alive--as hunting trophies or commercial products. At the time of this writing, Myers had just emerged from one ethics investigation by the Interior Department's Inspector General and was still entangled in another. The Inspector General's office cleared Myers on charges that he'd violated his recusal agreement, though the investigation revealed that he had indeed met repeatedly with his former industry clients. The pending investigation involves charges that Myers gave special treatment to a high-profile rancher who allegedly is a chronic violator of federal grazing regulations.

Speaking of the pending nominees who have made dubious remarks, William Haynes II deserves special mention. Picked by Bush to sit on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Haynes currently serves as the Defense Department's top lawyer. In a 2002 case in which conservationists sued the Defense Department over the bombing of an island important to nesting migratory birds, Haynes and his defense team argued that nature lovers actually benefit when bombs kill birds because it makes the surviving birds less common and "bird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one." Does it suprise you Haynes lost this case?"

Interview with Robert Devine.

Scatheing indictment of the Bush administration, by Paul Tognetti:

"I tend to go along with Republicans on quite a few issues but I definitely part company with them on the environment. If you listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Just go ahead and live your life and do whatever you want and to hell with everyone else. Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, has written a very convincing and well documented book that portrays George W. Bush as perhaps the most anti-environmental President in our history. He points out that the Bush administration will use every means available to short circuit environmental programs and regulations. Are you aware that the Superfund that was created by Congress two decades ago to clean up toxic waste sites has all but been eliminated? Perhaps you do not know that various officials in this administration are trying to privatize the National Parks! And would it upset you that the Bush administration supports policies that encourage the building of gas guzzing vehicles while at the same time cutting R&D on hybrid vehicles that if mass produced would significantly cut our dependence on foreign oil? Carl Pope introduces us to the key players in the administration and sheds light on how they go about their business. Most of them come from the very industries they are supposed to be regulating! Given his position at the Sierra Club, Pope clearly has an agenda and ordinarily I might dismiss much of what he has to say. But I found his arguments to be for the most part quite sound and as such I would recommend this book to anyone interested in environmental issues."

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