Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush's Holy War on Nature

First off, I apologize for the sporadic nature of my updates lately, but I’ve been swamped at the office. I’m hoping to get on some more even footing now that the crisis has passed.

Mother Jones today has a great piece on how Bush’s environmental policies are endangering all of us. The truth is that, as bad as you thought his environmental record might be, the truth is likely much, much worse than you think, and now those policies are beginning to come home to roost. But don’t listen to me, check it out. If the first paragraph doesn’t grab you, nothing will:

When Katrina hit, it blew away yet another administration-managed scrim of irreality. First for scores of reporters and then for millions of Americans, it connected so many things (including what was happening in Iraq and here) that might otherwise have remained unlinked for months or years more. It suddenly revealed, at an extreme, the world Bush has made for us. New Orleans is now a vast toxic dump (and, as at Ground Zero in New York after 9/11, a toxic cover-up is sure to follow, endangering relief workers today and returning residents tomorrow); the city's embattled wetlands are in dismal shape; a superfund toxic waste site remains underwater; the whole area may prove an "underwater Love Canal"; parts of the Gulf of Mexico are now covered with huge, if unacknowledged, oil slicks; and much of the damage, long and short-term, had a human hand associated with it.

And that’s just the intro, the commentary to the actual piece. The highlights of this article include:

Hurricane Katrina showed us how difficult it has become to distinguish between natural disasters and man-made ones. First, the Army Corp of Engineers decides it can build a better river than Mother Nature and in the process deprives the delta of storm-absorbing wetlands and barrier islands while allowing the ground under New Orleans to subside into a suicidal bowl. Then a storm hits and... well, you know the rest of the story. The lesson is simple: we are embedded in natural systems and whether we acknowledge that or not can be a matter of life and death.
Philosophically, Republicans believe in the power of the marketplace to shape behavior. Their animosity toward government regulation is long-standing. They emphasize the rights of private-property owners over any notion of the commons, and so are comfortable letting corporations pursue profit at the expense of air or water quality. Obviously, a Texas oilman like George W. Bush and a former Halliburton CEO like Dick Cheney aren't about to object to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Caribou, they certainly believe, are expendable if they get in the way of our urge for faster-bigger-more.

The Bush administration's assault on environmental quality has, however, been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations -- while not wrong -- are hardly adequate. During their time in power, Bush's officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on.

Just consider the Bush record. Take toxins, for instance. Most of us already carry "body burdens" of mercury, dioxins, and lead that are close to or above what sound science considers safe. Today, one in six American women has so much mercury in her womb that a child she carries is at risk for a grim inventory of afflictions, including blindness, mental retardation, kidney disease, and possibly even autism…All fish in 19 states are now unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination and at least some fish in 48 states are unsafe. We know where most of the mercury comes from -- coal-fired power plants -- and we know how to clean it up. The technology is available and affordable. But the first thing Bush did when he entered office was to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury-emissions rules.

As with mercury, so it goes with a long list of other environmental toxins. Bush-appointed bureaucrats now allow into our drinking water: higher levels of arsenic; 20 times the levels of perchlorates that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using the best science available; and 12 times the levels of contamination allowed by law for the herbicide atrazine. The chemical captan, which is typically found in household pesticides and fungicides, has been downgraded from a "probable" human carcinogen to "not likely" -- without any new evidence being produced. Standards have been relaxed for the release of selenium, which we know causes massive deformities and deaths in waterfowl. Fertilizers that grow our food can now contain much higher levels of toxic residues. Likewise, the EPA has used a 3-fold safety standard rather than the typical 10-fold test to determine that organophosphorous pesticides pose no danger for children. By rewriting the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act, the Bush administration has permitted industrial polluters to pump additional ozone and particulates into the air that aggravate millions of cases of asthma and cause thousands of deaths each year.

Seriously, just read the thing.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:24 AM

Read or Post a Comment

I don't know if you've read Crimes Against Nature by Robert Kennedy Jr. but it is brilliant. He came to Mizzou last spring.

Posted by Blogger Jessica @ 10:55 AM #

That was a great piece as well, I remember it. I really like him.

Posted by Blogger crimnos @ 12:29 PM #

It's hard not to like him...It must be a family trait

Posted by Blogger Jessica @ 1:11 PM #
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