Our Endangered Environment

Carter contrasts the Bush Administration’s environmental record with his own administration’s record, and even with past Republican administrations. Needless to say, the Bush Administration is shown to be lacking. He points out that Republican attempts to open up the Alaska refuge, which Carter established, would not be necessary if the federal government had not exempted “light trucks? from mileage requirements:

The tragedy of the decision to savage the Alaska refuge is that when oil from the area might reach peak production, fifteen to twenty years from now, it will equal the amount that could be saved by requiring the efficiency of "light trucks" (SUVs) to be the same as that of ordinary cars (20 miles per gallon). To reach the target we set in 1980 would result in far more savings. Perhaps not surprisingly, political pressures from the oil industry and automobile manufacturers have prevailed on this issue, and gas guzzlers have become a major product in our country. This foolish government decision against fuel economy might be a serious long term blow to the American automobile industry in its competition with more efficient vehicles manufactured in Japan and Europe as fuel prices inevitably rise in the future.

As Carter points out, this decision seems especially unwise when we see what the long-term effect has been on American automobile manufacturers. As I pointed out in a blog entry right before the last presidential election, the current administration has gutted Superfund legislation:

Almost simultaneously with the passage of ANILCA in 1980 came the completion of work on what was known as Superfund legislation. I had long been concerned about the emission of toxic materials by some irresponsible corporations, and working with a bipartisan Congress we established legal requirements that such wastes be reduced drastically and that those responsible be required to finance the cleanup of their poisonous deposits. Also, a small surcharge on polluting chemical companies established a permanent fund to cover future costs. Now, with the advent of a new administration in Washington, industry lobbyists have been able to prevail again, as the "polluters pay" principle was abandoned. American taxpayers were forced to pay about 8o percent of the cleanup costs in 2004 and will bear the total bill in fiscal year 2005. There is little financial incentive for unscrupulous corporations to restrict their dumping of toxic wastes.

And who says it doesn’t pay for businesses to make political contributions? If businesses put up money to support candidates, you can be sure that they plan on making a profit on that money, profit that’s paid for with public dollars. It was a little unnerving to recently read that businesses had started making more donations to Democratic candidates.

Of course, who can forget the Bush administrations rejection of the Kyoto Treaty:

One of the most controversial and universally condemned decisions made in recent years by top American leaders was to reject participation in the laboriously negotiated international agreement to control greenhouse gases, which are causing an increase in the planet's temperature. It has become widely known that manmade gases, mostly oxides, rise into the stratosphere and create a blanket similar to the plastic or glass bubble that surrounds a greenhouse. The sun's rays enter, and an increasing amount of heat is retained instead of being dissipated from the earth's atmosphere.

While the Bush administration argued that Greenhouse dangers were being blown out of proportion by radicals who were relying on junk science, i.e., anyone who didn’t agree with Exxon’s view, the rest of the world certainly seemed convinced by the science.

It was reassuring when a number of religious groups broke rank with the current administration, apparently convinced by recent findings that man was, indeed, in danger of destroying God’s greatest creation:

In April 2005, a definitive report was published in the journal Science by a group of scientists led by James E. Hansen, a NASA climatologist, that should dispel all doubts about forecasts of climate change. After a five year study using more than two thousand monitoring stations around the globe, they determined that temperatures would continue a slow rise even if greenhouse gases are capped immediately, and will "spin out of control" if strong corrective action is not taken. An increase of ten degrees Fahrenheit this century could occur. Based on additional scientific proof of the long range problem, Holland has committed to cut emissions by 80 percent, the United Kingdom by 60 percent, and Germany by 50 percent in the next forty years.

I’d like to think that increasing public opinion would force this administration to reconsider their environmental policies, but somehow I doubt that it will. Those who consider it vital to “stay the course? in face of a war started under false pretenses and that has turned out dramatically differently than they predicted will surely not be deterred by a few scientific studies, no matter how definitive.

America likes to think of itself as a world leader, but I really wonder how many Americans are proud knowing that:

America is by far the world's leading polluter, and our government's abandonment of its responsibilities is just an other tragic step in a series of actions that have departed from the historic bipartisan protection of the global environment. Our proper stewardship of God's world is a personal and political moral commitment.

If God actually left us in charge of his masterpiece, it’s hard to believe that He would be satisfied with how we have ruled it if He were to return today.

What do you think?