Bush Versus The Environment by Robert S. Devine (Anchor), 270 pages, $18 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The American public continually reaffirms that environmental protection is a high priority. But during last year's election campaign the Bush administration's poor record of environmental stewardship was barely covered by the media. Judging by the stuff National Geographic writer Robert Devine has dug up, this is a supreme shame.
Before the Republicans gained control of the White House in 2000, the U.S. was slowly legislating environmental protection through laws like the Clean Air Act (not to be confused with Bush's newspeak-laden Clear Skies Act) and organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Devine shows that Bush and his big-business buddies have been weakening and subverting these laws at every opportunity.
The administration has installed lobbyists for the energy and forestry industries in powerful posts like the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Secretary of the Interior, ensuring that environmental protection laws won't be enforced, protecting the tycoons who pay Bush's campaign bills.
One of the admin's favourite tactics is to encourage industry to sue the government and then to throw the case, making enforcement toothless.
An excellent chapter on logging shows how the government is using the forest fires of the summer of 2003 to strike fear in the hearts of taxpayers. In the context of talk of killer fires and widespread fire damage to property, Bush has called for massive logging projects to "thin" forests in danger of becoming tinderboxes: that is, all 230 billion acres that currently have trees standing on them, including the national parks.
Devine's thesis is laid out pretty clearly at the beginning, but the book does an admirable job of remaining non-partisan.
Many of the Republicans he interviewed fondly recall the days when environmental conservation and social conservatism were aligned, as they were when Teddy Roosevelt laid the foundation for the national parks system in 1906.
The epilogue ends with a plea for readers to consider the environment a key issue in the 2004 election, a plea we now know went unheeded. Bush has another four years to loot the environment for the benefit of his friends in high places.