By Denise Magditch
Earth is a very sacred place. Besides being our only home, it provides us with the necessities of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat all come from the Earth. Until recently, we in the United States have had a government that kept a watchful eye on the environment. A government that would attempt to equally balance economic, social, and planetary concerns while proposing amendments and treatises. Unfortunately, the current administration does not seem to have the expertise necessary to handle such multi-tasking. They do not seem to be capable of protecting our planet; rather, they seem to be bent upon its destruction.
The Bush Administration has assaulted the earth on all fronts: our forests, our water, and even our basic right to request information about the environment has been violated. In 1997, the United Nations put together what is known as the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol designates an agreement between all the countries of the world to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, water vapor and halocarbons. The United States, per President Bush's decision, is one of the four countries, along with Russia, Australia and Canada, that refused to sign it. The reasons for not signing, Bush says, are that "it could significantly damage the country financially" and that "he [is] concerned about the pressure on the 'industrialized' countries to cut back on carbon dioxide, while developing countries weren't expected to cut theirs back too."1 Bush's reasoning is defective. Not only is he putting our planet in jeopardy, but he is angering leaders abroad who "grow tired of his lack of enthusiasm about tackling global environmental problems."2
While Bush is infuriating foreign leaders, he is also causing massive problems at home. There are staggering amounts of erosion, damage to the fish and wildlife habitat, destruction of scenery, and taxpayers lose billions of dollars of as a result of logging. This extensive damage has been considered so significant that in November of 2000, a team of scientists created a set of guidelines that put logging behind the health and stability of our nation's forests. Unfortunately, in May of 2001, the Bush administration suspended the guidelines, claiming that they had "serious problems". New guidelines were issued in November of 2002 that "water down existing requirements for maintaining viable populations of native wildlife species and would reduce public input."3
On October 12, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft advised all federal agencies to "carefully consider business concerns, law enforcement, personal privacy and national security before releasing any information sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)."4 In a blatant disregard for public opinion, the Bush Administration is seeking to limit the amount of information we have on how agency and presidential decisions are made.
It is a fact that all waterways somehow connect. A lake may open to a river, that river may open to an ocean. Yet the Bush Administration feels that if it subjects 20-60% of our nation's waterways to pollution, oil spills and physical destruction, the rest of the waters will remain clean and uncontaminated. Interestingly enough, this attempt to undermine the Clean Water Act effectively puts an end to the "no-net-loss of wetlands" put in place by the first Bush Administration.5
The administration is also looking to drill for oil in the Arctic. Interior Secretary Gale Norton described the area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a "flat white nothingness" that can be used for "producing more energy here at home."6 These statements made in an attempt to downplay a March 2003 report from the National Academy of Sciences that documents "widespread environmental damage from oil and gas development...on Alaska's North Slope."7
The current administration hopes to outsource even more of United States employees' jobs. The Interior Department is looking to replace upwards of 1,700 National Park Service employees with contract workers. Not only would this plan steal money from the budget for hiring seasonal rangers, but it would also attempt to halt efforts to diversify the work force.8
President Bush has hatched a plan to make our vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas. He and his administration are calling it the "FreedomCAR program" and are funneling over a billion dollars to an automobile plant in Detroit to create hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Fuel cells are similar to battery-electric vehicles in that they run on electric motors, plus they can use current fuels that are converted to a hydrogen gas. They are a major component of the clean energy future, but the administration is not actually requiring the plant to produce a single vehicle for the public to purchase.9
One of the serious problems with the Bush administration is that they confiscate our resources for information and then make decisions without our opinion or assistance, decisions that will inevitably destroy us. They ignore scientific reports, create new guidelines that cater to their financial desires, and leave us, the citizens of the United States, with the bill. We need a government that will fairly consider every concern, not give precedence to their wallets and the wallets of their wealthy associates. When it comes to environmental concerns, it is vital that the United States remain on the same side as the rest of the planet's inhabitants, and that we work together to create a safer future for us all. The people of planet Earth need to band together before there is no planet left to save.
1 BBC Weather Centre, USA Policy: Total CO2 Emissions - 5,410 million metric tons per year - almost a quarter of the World's total CO2 emissions, August, 2004
2 BBC Weather Centre, USA Policy: Total CO2 Emissions - 5,410 million metric tons per year - almost a quarter of the World's total CO2 emissions, August, 2004
3 The Wilderness Society, Mike Anderson and Michael Francis, Putting Logging Ahead of Clean Water and Wildlife, compiled 8 August 2003
4 The Wilderness Society, Leslie Jones, Creating Hurdles for Use of Freedom of Information Act, compiled 8 August 2004
5 The Wilderness Society, Julie Sibbing, Retreated on Protection for Wetlands and Streams, compiled 8 August 2004
6 The Wilderness Society, Eleanor Huffines and Jim Waltman, Top Bush Priority: Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, compiled 8 August 2004
7 The Wilderness Society, Eleanor Huffines and Jim Waltman, Top Bush Priority: Oil Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, compiled 8 August 2004
8 The Wilderness Society, Sue Gunn and Jay Watson, Outsourced Public Lands Jobs, compiled 8 August 2004
9 The Wilderness Society, Dan Becker, Automobile Fuel Economy, compiled 8 August 2004
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