What Bush as US president means for environmentalism

Written by Tom Gritzka

What Bush as U.S. president means for environmentalism

The judicial designation of George W. Bush as president has short and long term implications for environmentalism.In the short term, Bush as president causes despair among environmentalists. As a candidate Bush could not bring himself to use the word "environment"--apparently because he has no concept of what the term means. Bush's abysmal environmental record in Texas is well known. In the presidential debates Bush disparaged the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as "a small part of Alaska". Notably absent in Bush's acceptance speech was the mention of any plan to protect or enhance the environment.
Bush has admitted that he is not an original thinker, rather, he functions as a selective filter-feeder, depending on his advisors to research the facts and then deciding on the basis of what he is told. However, garbage in, garbage out: Bush's advisors represent resource extractive industries and corporate interests. Bush has an MBA from Harvard, certainly a prestigious degree but, as David Brower said, "business is killing the world."  Business ignores the economic negative externalities of resource extraction when calculating net profit. Those costs, in the form of pollution, global warming, etc.. are passed on to a suffering humanity.

Some may think that it is best to support Bush and his programs "because he is president" but I think damage control will have to be the order of the day. Environmental non-governmental organizations must be vigilant and pro-active. Bush must be made to understand the scientifically-based facts concerning the dire environmental situation on planet Earth and consider them vis- a- vis the economic projects of his cohorts.

The short term consequences of Bush as president are, therefore, that his biases put the Earth at risk, that destructive projects based on only the profit margin ("resource extraction for a brief America") must be prevented and that the citizenry, through NGOs and individually, must direct Bush's attention to the importance of the environment. In other words, Bush must be made to realize, as Al Gore stated, that "concern for the environment must become the central organizing principle of civilization".
In the long term, Bush as president represents the failure of average persons to understand the paramount importance of the environment to their lives. The term "environment" must be clarified in people's minds. "Environment" is not some vacation spot where one goes to photograph the scenery and feed some chipmunks. In local terms, the environment is the Willamette River Superfund site, the dioxin-toxic Willamette pool between Newberg and Salem, clearcuts and urban sprawl; in global terms it is Love Canal, Chernobyl, global warming, the ozone layer, deforestation, sewage from confined animal feeding operations, collapse of oceanic fisheries, biodiversity, in short, the environment is the planet on which we live and which supports all life as we know it, including our own. By damaging the environment and the life it supports we damage a creation of God that is, insofar as we know, unique in the entire universe.

Mikhail Gorbachev said that, "since human society functions through various forms of political structure, change must be effected through the political process". 

The long-term task, therefore, is to make people mindful of the environment, to teach them to understand the central necessity of a healthy environment and to help them interact with the environment politically. The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy stated, "In all our deliberations, we must consider the effects of our actions unto the seventh generation." As the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn said, "We must be very aware. When we are aware, we can do something".  

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