The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 5: ENVIRONMENTAL)

Environmental destruction certainly isn’t anything new; it’s been going on, thanks to the human presence, for centuries millennia at least. Nonetheless, it really picked up speed during the first years following the W. Bush presidential (s)election of December, 2000, during which time he carried forth and invariably served “the dream” of Republicans everywhere, i.e. their unending pursuit of biosphere destruction and collapse — courtesy mainly of inborn stupidity, but always in consort with that eternal greed-based quest for evermore profit and power.

There seems little doubt that the policies of W. Bush greatly accelerated the rush toward the environmental ‘tipping point’, i.e. that moment when human-caused (global) environmental changes become permanent, when the biosphere modifies sufficiently to insist the extinction of species after species after species simply because the planet’s physiography has gradually deteriorated in ways unfriendly to the vast majority of existing life forms.

Following is a (March, 2005) review of various elements implicit in the Bush environmental travesty. Embedded may well be found an occasional ‘editorial’ comment, one which may be (properly) interpreted as being somewhat biased toward the views of the writer, an obviously passionate environmentalist-tree-hugger. Me.

Sadly, the issues which drive environmental destruction are not dead; they are, in fact, as alive today as ever, and will become exceedingly moreso should the Romney-Ryan ticket prevail on November 6, 2012.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

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   Environmental:

“. . . with the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls, and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers.  Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert — the desert made by the tramp of human feet — begins to show itself. Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature’s beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization . . .” (John C. Van Dyke, ca. 1900)

It’s a non-arguable fact of life, so to speak, that the earth’s environment, especially the biosphere, the earth-atmosphere interface in which life exists, is critical to … well, it’s critical to the existence of life.  That is, of course, unless one happens to be a Bush Republican, at which point the biosphere becomes little more than just another big word, one that sounds like something a tree-hugger might speak in the same breath as ‘ecology’ or ‘endangered species';  tree-huggers: you know, those weirdos that think trees and owls and undeveloped land are worth more than the money they can bring in.

I would only wish that last statement be hyperbole and not an understated fact.

There’s but one way to say it charitably:  George W. Bush is the most environmentally destructive president this nation has ever had, bar none.  To read of his actions, or even to watch him attempt to circuitously lie his way out of the environmental atrocities which he’s heaped up around himself and across the nation is to realize that here must surely stand a man devoid of character, devoid of soul.  How else, after all, to explain such solicitous contempt for one’s only home?  It’s sometimes difficult to imagine the origins of those who are so callous; it’s difficult to ponder how it is that anyone can devolve sufficiently to exist as if a completely vacant lot, a slab of such emptiness, a shallowness so deep that nothing – not even the barest weed of life can manage to wend its way to the surface.

Suffice to say that if each incidence of environmental rape should be defined as a criminal act, each occurrence an act punishable by even a single day in jail, then George Bush has already earned the equivalent of several life sentences.  In other words, it is at this point where we must cease speaking of the president’s malfeasances and move forward instead into the realm of criminality, now on a trail which only begins with crimes against nature – but still a trail which points inexorably toward even more heinous crimes against humanity.  Hyperbole?  Don’t bet on it.

Legal environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. understands full well and has seen first hand the ever-accumulating evidences of George Bush’s environmental malfeasance.  Kennedy writes [highlights added]:

“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 thathave been promoted by this administration over the last three and one-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.

“We found, in 2003, a memo from Frank Luntz, the president’s pollster, to the president saying that if you go through with the evisceration of America’s environmental law, you are going to alienate not just Democrats but the Republican rank and file. 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.”

I’ve noted that reactions to the above will typically be one of three, depending on the mindset of the person reacting:  Progressives, those who care about the planet and biosphere, those who believe preservation is a far more worthy goal than is destruction, become ANGRY! and even sickened as they read on in complete disbelief that any man could possibly be so crass and cold as to be the instigator of such policies.  Or, the reaction can be, simply, the old “You’re a Bush-hater” brush-off – the common reaction from today’s fervent “conservative” (how can a conservative justify not-conserving anything?) Republican.  And there are also – unfortunately – others who see things through the eyes of James Watt, Reagan’s erstwhile Interior Secretary and fundamentalist Christian, who reportedly once said, “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”

Perhaps there’s a fourth group as well, one that might be best defined by the word “Bloviator.”  Here’s an example of such, spoken of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by America’s own CEO-by-default right wing bloviator, the one and only Rush Limbaugh:

“If you put together a video of ANWR, you would see nothing but snow and rock. It is no place anybody’s ever going to go. The wildlife that lives there wishes it didn’t, but it’s too stupid to figure out how to move anywhere. They don’t have moving vans sent to their places like people in Philadelphia do when they want to get out of someplace. This is absolutely absurd.”

And Limbaugh et al. dare use the word “absurd” in reference to any others but themselves?  In any case, the environment is under attack by this administration.  Whether one speaks of global warming, or destroying wilderness, polluting the air and water, strip mining, logging, the further endangerment of endangered species, “junk” science (altered) in order to justify/sanctify misdeeds, drastic reductions in Super-Fund appropriations and hence in cleanups, or just plain selling out to business, to corporate campaign contributors – the verdict is guilty, guilty as charged, guilty before all the gods that be or don’t be.

Sadly, the current destruction is only the half of it; it’s very likely that the other hammer will drop one day in the not too distant future.  The ultimate atrocity remains: the conversion of public lands into Spider food, into money.  All arrows are slowly beginning to point in that general direction.  Could it really happen?  Could the Grand Canyon be sold and opened for development?  Sadly, the answer is very likely ‘yes.’  Consider:

There are upwards of 100,000,000 acres of wilderness set aside in the United States, along with hundreds of National Parks and monuments which protect and preserve tens of thousands of square miles – the nation’s most awe-inspiring lands: From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone and Glacier, from Yosemite to Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park, places unlike anywhere else in the world are protected for perpetuity – or so we’re told.  Denali, Big Bend, Petrified Forest, Haleakala – each and all are jewels in the American crown.  And we must not forget, too, the National Forests, National Grasslands, wetlands, wild rivers – the list goes on and on and on – multiple-use lands which themselves enjoy at least a modicum of protection from private business interests.  Altogether, the dollar value of America’s public lands must be nearly inestimable, and to think said lands are not coveted by speculators and developers, both foreign and domestic, perhaps even by other nations as the most solid possible investment, would be naive to say the least.  As Will Rogers said, “Invest in land, they’re not making it anymore.”

In March, 2005, the US Senate voted 51-49 in favor of a bill, an attachment to the 2005-06 Federal budget which allows oil explorations and drilling in the ANWR – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – on Alaska’s northern Arctic Ocean coast, itself one of the last truly untrammeled places remaining on the face of the earth.  Experts agree there is not enough oil beneath the coastal plain to accomplish much of anything; best estimates are that there may be enough to meet US demand (2001 figures) for about six months, but that it will take ten years, at least, before deliveries can commence.  And even then, the likelihood that the oil will be shipped to Japan or China rather than refined in the US is almost a guarantee.  Meanwhile, once drilling starts, the wilderness of the ANWR will be destroyed forever, and caribou calving grounds as well as prime polar bear habitat will be compromised, perhaps irretrievably so.  For what purpose?

In October 2003, the Defenders of Wildlife newsletter reported that in a closed door session of the House Republican leadership, “Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) argued that drilling in the Arctic would set an example for energy exploration in other sensitive areas. According to the newspaper Roll Call, DeLay said drilling in the Arctic was about ‘precedent.’  He then made several references to the ‘symbolism of ANWR.'”   It doesn’t take much to spot, therein, the knife-edge of a plan to slowly begin to open up America’s remaining protected lands to commercial exploitation.  First the ANWR, then offshore drilling in California, natural gas explorations in Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico (at least) – and then what?

The Spider awaits.  What if current “starve the beast” fiscal problems continue to run out of control?  What if budget deficits get ever larger, what if current accounts deficits reach a trillion a year (they’re already two-thirds of the way there)?  What if foreign central banks stop supporting the US dollar, what if they stop investing in US debt?  What if?

At one time, the American currency was the world’s standard, backed by the word, the resources, and the robust economy of the United States.  For foreign investors, the dollar was as safe a haven as a mother’s arms.  But no longer; today it is not.  Today the dollar is a risky investment at best, and apparently is destined to become riskier and riskier with every passing month.  What if?

America has one last asset, and it’s a big one.  Imagine the boom if:

✓ Wilderness areas were offered for purchase by private (foreign or            domestic) investors;
✓    National Parks were sold to the highest bidder;
✓    Forests were to become the property of timber companies and/or land developers.

Those are just three aspects of what may well become a reality, a way to bail out an otherwise bankrupt America, plus a way to spur development (read: create jobs) on prime and pristine lands especially across the west and in each Alaska and Hawaii.  The travesty is unimaginable – perhaps that’s why it just may happen, why it may even be part and parcel to an already-existing plan.  “Starve the beast” – turn America over to the private sector.  Could this be what George Bush means when he speaks glowingly of his “ownership society”?  A nation where even that which we today call Public Land is destined for private ownership?  Remember, today’s current head of public lands is a mining industry lobbyist who believes that public lands are unconstitutional.

We can hope for sanity to reappear, but dare we hold our breath in anticipation?  Perhaps not. The Spider is hungry.

To be continued . . .

Read Part 6 here.

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