Saturday, February 26


Here is a most eloquent, summarily informative, thought-provoking and inspiring plea from Robert Kennedy, Jr. about the Bush attack on the environment. It's quite long, but I urge you to read the whole article. It relates the conservation argument, and Bush's policies, to fascism, campaign finance, and, most beautifully, to spirituality. It's a superb piece of writing, but more importantly, it goes to the heart of the dangers Bush's approach to policy poses to our nation, and our world. I've excerpted some of my favorite graphs, but to get real information about the impact of Bush's environmental policies on our economy, on jobs, on the health of our people, please read the entire piece.

The worst thing that can happen to the environment is if it becomes the province of a single political party. Most of the environmental leaders in our country agree with me. Five years ago, if you asked the leaders of the major environmental groups in America, What's the gravest threat to the global environment?, they would have given you a range of answers: overpopulation, habitat destruction, global warming. Today, they will all tell you one thing: it's George W. Bush. This is the worst environmental president that we have ever had. You simply cannot speak honestly about the environment in any context today without speaking critically about this president. If you go to the Natural Resources Defense Council's web site you will see over 400 major environmental rollbacks that have been promoted by this administration over the last three and half years. It is a concerted, deliberate attempt to eviscerate thirty years of environmental law. It is a stealth attack, one that's been hidden from the public.
Eighty-one percent in both parties want clean air, they want stronger environmental laws and they want them strictly enforced. Luntz said that to the president, and he said, if we do this we have to do a stealth attack. He recommended using Orwellian rhetoric to mask this radical agenda: They want to destroy the forest, they call it the Healthy Forest Act, they want to destroy the air they call it the Clear Skies Act. Most insidiously, they have installed the worst, most irresponsible polluters in America, and the lobbyists from those companies, as the heads of virtually all the agencies and sub-secretariats and even Cabinet positions that regulate or oversee our environment. The head of the Forest Service is a timber industry lobbyist who is probably the most rapacious timber industry lobbyist in American history. The head of public lands is a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional. The head of the Air Division at the EPA is a utility lobbyist who has represented the worst polluters in America for twenty years. The head of Superfund is a woman whose former job was advising companies how to evade Superfund. The second in command of EPA is a Monsanto lobbyist - these are not exceptions, these are the rules across the agencies...These individuals did not enter government service for the purpose of promoting the public interest, but in each of these cases, rather to subvert the very laws that they are now charged with enforcing. We are seeing the impacts of this already.
We know that the principal source of ozone and particulates in our air is coming from 1,100 coal-burning power plants that are burning coal illegally. They were supposed to install controls over fifteen years ago. The Clinton administration was prosecuting 75 of the worst of those plants. But this industry gave $48 million to President Bush during the 2000 campaign, and they've contributed $58 million since. One of the first things that President Bush did when he came to office was to order the Justice Department to drop all 75 of those suits. The Justice Department lawyers were shocked. This has never happened in our history before, where somebody running as a presidential candidate accepts money from a criminal and then lets that criminal off the hook. Many of you remember what happened when President Clinton pardoned Mark Rich and how indignant the press and the public was at that action. But Mark Rich was one person, and he never killed anybody. According to EPA, these 75 plants, just the criminal exceedences from these plants, kill 5,500 Americans every year. After letting these criminals off the hook, the president then went and rewrote the Clean Air Act, illegally we believe. We're suing him, we'll win the suit, but it may take ten years, and in the meantime they'll discharge what they want.
We are living today in a science fiction nightmare, a world where, because somebody gave money to a politician, our children are brought into a world where the air is too poisonous for them to breathe.
If you ask the people in the White House who are promoting this legislation, Why are you doing this?, what they'll say is: We have to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection - that is a false choice. In 100 percent of the situations, good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy. We want to measure our economy based upon how it produces jobs and how it preserves the value of the assets of our community. If, on the other hand, we want to do what the Bush administration has been urging us to do, which is to treat the planet as if it were a business in liquidation, to convert our natural resources to cash as quickly as possible, to have a few years of pollution-based prosperity, we can generate an instantaneous cash flow and the illusion of a prosperous economy. But our children are going to pay for our joy ride. They are going to pay for it with denuded landscapes and poor health and huge cleanup costs that are going to amplify over time and that they are never going to be able to pay. Environmental injury is deficit spending. It's a way of loading the costs of our generation's prosperity onto the backs of our children.
...From the beginning of American history our greatest political leaders - Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams and Andrew Jackson - have warned America against allowing large corporations to dominate our political systems and our lives. Another Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, the most famous speech he made was warning America against the domination by the military-industrial complex. Franklin Roosevelt said that the domination of our nation by large corporations is the definition of fascism. I have an American Heritage Dictionary, and the definition, if you look up fascism, says, "the domination of government by large corporations driven by right-wing ideology and bellicose nationalism" - that's getting to look pretty familiar. The problem with letting large corporations dominate our government is that it erodes democracy, it erodes our capacity to participate in public life, our capacity for dignity, and it allows these entities to squander resources that belong to our children. But the thing that we've squandered worst of all is our natural heritage: the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the wildlife, the lands - all these things that make us proud to be American. This administration has taken the conserve out of conservatism. They claim to like the free market, but what they are really embracing is corporate welfare capitalism, socialism for the rich. They claim to love property rights, but only when it's the right of a polluter to use his property to destroy his neighbor's property or to destroy the public property. They claim to like law and order, but they are the first ones to let the large corporations and their corporate contributors violate the law at public expense. They claim to love local control and states' rights, but it's only in those instances when they're taking down the barriers to large corporations.

They claim to embrace Christianity while violating the manifold mandates of Christianity: that we are stewards of the land, and that we are meant to care for nature. They have embraced this Christian heresy of dominion theology, which James Watt was the first to enunciate when he told the Senate, I don't think that there is any point in protecting the public lands because we don't how long the world is going to last before the Lord returns. The woman he mentored for twenty years, Gale Norton, is running the Department of the Interior.

The reason that we protect nature is because it enriches us. It enriches us economically, yes, the base of our economy, and we ignore that at our peril. But it also enriches us aesthetically and recreationally, culturally and historically, and spiritually. Human beings have other appetites besides money, and if we don't feed them we're not going to become the kind of beings that our Creator intended. When we destroy nature we impoverish ourselves, we diminish ourselves and we impoverish our children. We're not protecting those ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest, as Rush Limbaugh loves to say, for the sake of a spotted owl. We are protecting those forests because we believe that the trees have more value to humanity standing than they would have if we cut them down.
We know our Creator best by studying Creation, which all of the religious texts mandate us to do. If you look at all of the great, central epiphany in every religious tradition in mankind's history, the revelation always occurs in the wilderness. Buddha had to go into the wilderness to experience self-realization. Mohamed had to go to the wilderness of Mount Hira in 629 and wrestle an angel in the middle of the night to have the Koran squeezed out of him. Moses had to go onto the wilderness of Mount Sinai to get the Commandments. The Jews had to spend 40 years in the wilderness to purge themselves of the 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Christ had to spend 40 days in the wilderness to discover his divinity. His mentor was John the Baptist, a man of the wilderness who lived in a cave in the Jordan Valley and dressed in the skins of wild animals. All of Christ's parables are taken from nature: I am the vine; you are the branch; The Mustard Seed; the little swallows the scattering, the seeds on fallow ground. He called himself a fisherman, a farmer, a vineyard keeper, a shepherd. That's how he stayed in touch with the people. He was saying things to them that contradicted everything that they had heard from the literate, sophisticated people of their time. They would have dismissed him as a quack but they were able to confirm the wisdom of his parables about the fishes and the birds through their own observations of the natural world. They were able to say: He's not telling us something new, he's simply illuminating something that's very, very old.

When we destroy these things, we're cutting ourselves off from the very things that make us human, that give us a spiritual life. And for these people on Capitol Hill to be saying that they are following the mandate of Christ by liquidating our public assets, what they are really doing is a moral affront to the next generation. That's why we preserve nature. Not for our sake, but for the sake of the future. That obligation is expressed by the term sustainability. All that word means is that God wants us to use the things we've been given, to enrich ourselves, to improve our quality of life, to serve others - but we can't use them up. We can't sell the farm piece by piece in order to pay for the groceries; we can't drain the pond to catch the fish. We can't cut down the mountain to get at the coal. We can live off the interest; we can't go into the capital that belongs to our children.


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