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Earth Day 2003

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Earth Day 2003

by Jim Caddell, published by OpEdNews.com

Main Entry: 1con 路ser 路va 路tive
Pronunciation: k&n-'s&r-v&-tiv
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1 : PRESERVATIVE
2 a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism : as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE
3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate> c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners <a conservative suit>
4 : of or relating to Conservative Judaism
- con 路ser 路va 路tive 路ly adverb
- con 路ser 路va 路tive 路ness noun

-- Merriam Webster Dictionary Online

I will never understand why conservatives are against conservation. You would think that a conservative, tending to maintain existing conditions and marked by moderation or caution, would be 100% in favor of protecting air, water, wildlife, national resources, and wilderness areas. You'd think that conservatives would want to err on the side of caution on the global warming issue rather than risk flooding New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, Miami, N'Awlins, and the rest of the world's coastal cities. You'd think that they would want to preserve a few untouched portions of the world's beauty for their children and grandchildren.

But no. Greed and short term profits seem to be driving this administration's environmental policies. And why not? Presidents don't need to plan more then four years ahead, so why not reward corporate sponsors now and blow off the planet's future? Leave the cleanup for the next poor sucker to get the job. It worked for Daddy, didn't it?

Junior will get away with it too. Global environmental threats take some time to develop, and by the time they do Bush will be remembered as the hero that built the American empire and made Iraq our 51st state.  Here are some of the things Bush and his gang are getting away with while our attention is elsewhere:

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Dubya's "Clear Skies" legislation is supposed to "significantly reduce smog and mercury emissions, as well as stop acid rain." It doesn't.  It delays required emission cuts by as much as 10 years, usurps the states' power to address interstate pollution problems and allows outdated industrial facilities to avoid expensive pollution-control upgrades. Internal EPA documents show that full enforcement of existing Clean Air Act requirements would allow power plants to emit only five tons of mercury, as opposed to the 15 tons permitted by "Clear Skies." The 1972 Clean Air Act is sitting on the butcher's block, waiting to be gutted. Bush has proposed new flexibility in the enforcement of the Clean Air Act to allow old coal-fired power plants, the country's biggest polluters, to modernize without meeting modern pollution control standards. This law has protected our air from greedy industries for 30 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Bush's said last October that he wanted to "renew our commitment" to building on the Clean Water Act. Instead he has decided to "update" it by removing protections for "isolated" waters and weakening sewage-overflow rules, which could significantly increase the potential for waterborne illnesses. In March several environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the timber industry and the administration  have been holding secret talks to undermine the Northwest Forest Plan. "In the guise of settling lawsuits, federal officials have retired to the back room to work out deals that sacrifice our old-growth forests, salmon and clean water for the sake of clearcutting our public lands," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice. Oklahoma's Gov. Brad Henry has threatened to file a federal lawsuit if the government doesn 鹿t take action to clean up mining waste at Tar Creek Superfund site. The government agreed to review Endangered Species Act protections for the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, whose declining populations triggered sharp cutbacks in logging on national forests in the 1990s. Remember: extinction is forever. The National Park Service has allowed snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks after a lawsuit by vehicle manufacturers. Two government environmental impact studies have documented the environmental havoc caused by snowmobiles.  Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) explains: "There's a reason that park rangers wear gas masks at the west entrance of Yellowstone. It's because they're subjected to chemical assault [from snowmobile exhaust]." In April the Interior Department announced that, in response to an industry suit, it intends to halt all reviews of Western land holdings for new wilderness protection and to withdraw that protected status from some 3 million acres in Utah. These unspoiled red rock canyon lands and rock formations will be vulnerable to oil and gas development, mining, and off-road vehicle use. In his State of the Union address, Bush proposed $1.2 billion in research funding to develop hydrogen-powered cars. This is supposed to be part of his strategy to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. He didn't mention that the technology and infrastructure required to produce and service H2 powered cars won't be available until at least 2020. I think he's just toying with us. EPA enforcement actions and fines are down by at least 30 percent. Bush has nixed mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions in favor of voluntary reductions. (Yeah, sure, that'll work.) The administration's own projections show that  emissions of heat trapping gases would increase 14 percent over the next decade under the President's plan. The US produces 25% of the world's greenhouse gasses, but it rejects the Kyoto agreement.

It's no coincidence that the GOP's mascot is an endangered species.

To be fair, conservation and pollution controls are a new idea in human terms. In pre-industrial times we never had to worry about it. Peeing in the river was no big deal, because the river was big and people were few. If the drinking water in the next town downstream tastes a little funny, well, that was their problem. But now there are 6 billion people in the world. No matter where you live you know there is someone else living upstream from you. In the modern world we have to cooperate.

No one can predict the future with any accuracy, but with industry still trying to pee in our figurative river one can hazard a few educated guesses. A trickle of toxic chemicals are discharged here and there from a zillion factories and after a while the tap water starts to look and taste funny again. With a ten zillion smokestacks farting carcinogens here and greenhouse gasses there, the air looks and smells a little odd and high tide gets a little higher every day. Perhaps we'll develop treatments for the new cancers and other maladies resulting from increased pollution levels, or perhaps not. If we let the oil companies into the wildlife refuges, where will the wildlife take refuge? Has the road runner escaped the coyote all these years just to be poisoned by an oil spill? If we clearcut a few million acres of forest here and strip mine a mountain there, pretty soon the world will look like a parking lot and there will be nowhere to go on vacation except for Disney's Forest World, famous for its realistic TreeLifeTM forests and singing animatronic beavers.

Singing robot beavers? I just scared myself.

But seriously, if you haven't been to the woods lately, take your kids and go. The best argument for conservation is an hour in your nearest forest, listening to the wind through the trees, with the annoying sound of chainsaws in the distance.

If there isn't a wilderness area near you, then I've made my point.

This article is copyright by Jim Caddell but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

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