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The Environment Burns While Bush Fiddles
I n the 1960s and 1970s the electorate became concerned about the deteriorating environment and urged Congress to pass laws to protect the air, water, forest, animals, and our own health. By the time Kerry ran against Bush, the environment had become a footnote in presidential campaigns.
The 2004 Republican Party platform revealed absolutely no concern for the environment while stressing the protection of private property and the current economy. Using presidential authority, Bush weakened environmental protections by applying many tactics such as appointing industry lobbyists to head agencies, changing or ignoring rules and enforcement, and passing new laws to negate protections, such as the Healthy Forest Act, the Clean Skies bill, and a massive new energy bill.
Bush undid policies to enforce environmental laws by rolling back over 300 regulations. Reversed policies included clean air and clean water regulations, mining regulations, the roadless forest initiative, the Northwest Forest Plan, Sierra Nevada logging policies, the ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park, fisheries management, hazardous waste regulations and coastal zone planning. The Administration encouraged loggers, developers, snowmobilers, and property rights advocates to sue the government to overturn environmental regulations. The Department of Justice, formerly entrusted with enforcing laws, defended environmental laws in language clearly intended to weaken them.
There are dozens of additional examples. Under Bush, civil penalties imposed by the EPA against polluters set a record 15-year low and cases against refineries and coal-fired power plants declined 90 percent. In August 2003 Bush’s EPA allowed thousands of power plants, oil refineries, and industrial plants to upgrade their operations without reducing pollution. In April 2006 Bush suspended environmental rules for gasoline manufacturing and his Administration continues to push for drilling offshore in the protected Alaskan wilderness and other environmentally fragile areas.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted oil and gas drilling on public lands from following the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts and other environmental laws. It allowed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to issue a record 7,000 drilling permits on public lands. Bush oversaw the largest timber sale in modern history—30 square miles—in southwest Oregon, despite over 20,000 citizens’ objections. Bush’s 2007 budget proposes to sell off $1 billion worth of public land—300,000 acres of national forest and 500,000 acres of BLM land.
Besides the backdoor approach to non-enforcement of laws, farright Congresspeople consider environmental protection bad for profits and constantly seek to repeal or weaken the Wilderness Preservation Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act, and all regulations that restrict private property and commercial development.
In February 2006 Karl Rove bragged that President Bush has transformed conservatism from “reactionary” to “forward looking” by incorporating “liberal” ideas into foreign policy. Rove claimed Bush was “spreading human liberty and preserving human dignity” with his current environmental policies. The GOP highlighed Bush’s environmental efforts, such as increasing mileage requirements for SUVs by .03 miles per gallon and cutting taxes so people could buy new cars.
In March 2006 the largest oil spill on Alaska’s North Slope dumped 267,000 gallons of crude oil over 2 acres at the Prudhoe Bay oil production facilities run by BP, Exxon Mobil, and ConocoPhillips. The spill was among the worst in the pipeline’s history. Meanwhile, a May 2006 study by the National Marine Fisheries Service found that the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March 1989 continued to cause long-term damage to wildlife.
In April 2006 studies revealed that in 2004 the U.S. was the world’s biggest polluter, releasing a record 7.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are now higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere now than at any time in the last 10 million years.
European flooding is also setting records. In April 2006 the Danube rose to its highest level in 111 years, pushing people from their homes and flooding more than 12,000 acres of farmland. These floods come on the heels of devastating floods last year when heavy rains also caused flooding in Yemen, Colombia, Eastern Europe, northeastern Australia, Indonesia, and northern Argentina.
In 2005 a dramatic rise in the ocean temperature led to the deaths of birds and fish from Central California to British Columbia. In the Pacific Northwest, fisheries declined for the first time in 50 years and from San Diego to Mendocino fisherpeople reported the lowest fish catch in 23 years. In 2002 Bush caused the largest salmon die-off ever recorded in California when he diverted irrigation water to potato farmers. Similar die-offs of birds and fish occurred in the North Sea, caused by warming water and the disappearance of plankton, forewarning an ecological collapse in the oceans as the world heats up.
In Newfoundland researchers found populations of five species—roundnose grendadier, onion-eye grenadier, blue hake, spiny eel, and spinytail skate—have declined 89 to 98 percent in the past 17 years.
Coral death also set a record in May 2006 when the first coral reefs were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Elkhorn and staghorn coral, the main reef-building species in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, declined 80 to 98 percent in the region, due to higher water temperatures. Coral death was virtually unknown 25 years ago, but today dead coral is showing up around the world.
Last year, parts of the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers filled with sandbars as the drainages experienced the worst drought since 1988. Along with drought come forest fires, which are also setting records. In March 2006, 1.8 million acres burned in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas, the most since record keeping began.
Climate researchers at Purdue and MIT have found evidence that global warming causes increased hurricane activity, doubling intensity and frequency of storms with each one-quarter-degree increase in average global temperature. In keeping with these findings, last year’s hurricane season broke many records. Other records set include more tropical storms (28), the most hurricanes (15), the largest number of hurricanes hitting the U.S. (4), the most powerful storm ever recorded, and the most Category 5 hurricanes (4). Of the 20 most expensive hurricanes in history, 5 occurred in 2005 and 11 have occurred since 2000.
Over the past 50 years, temperatures rose more in the high-latitudes of Alaska, Siberia, and the Antarctic Peninsula, which is why Arctic sea ice shrank to its smallest extent ever in 2005. Mount Kilimanjaro will lose its famous snow mantel and the glaciers in Glacier National Park will melt over the next 35 years. Satellite photos show the ice shelf in Antarctica, once thought to be stable for the next 100 years, breaking in only 35 days.
In June 2001 the National Academy of Sciences reported, “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.” Bush responded to the report, “We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it,” and devoted $25 million to research the subject. Since then, the White House has proposed to reduce enforcement of pollution rules for U.S. industry and energy companies in favor of a voluntary curb on carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite attacks on the environment by the current rulers and their neo-conservative industry supporters, Americans want to preserve the environment. In March 2006 a Time magazine/ABC News/Stanford University poll revealed that 88 percent believe global warming threatens future generations and 38 percent view global warming as a serious problem. Two-thirds say Bush’s policies did little or nothing to help the environment last year and 68 percent believe that the government should do more to address global warming; 60 percent want the government to lower power plant emissions and 87 percent support tax breaks to develop alternative energy sources.
Evidence from numerous sources reveals that Bush and the Republicans have actively encourage industry, land developers, and polluters to wantonly extract the nation’s natural resources and degrade the air, soil, and water while refusing to rein in oil usage and air pollution or enforce energy conservation.
Global warming is irreversible, but the longer we wait to reverse policies and begin protecting the environment, the larger the climatic shifts and human dislocations will be and the more arbitrary and restrictive the changes necessary to curb the damage.
Don Monkerud is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.