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2003-06-04 - 11:47 p.m.

Coin Toss - Enviromental Protection VS Corporation/Consumer Excess

Sitting here high on my fence, I can see the arguements from both the Enviromentalists' perspective and from the perspective of the big corporations. Enviromentalist want to protect our natural resources and our wildlife, and the Big Corps want to provide consumers with those resources. I can also agree that sometimes the enviromentalists go a bit overboard with wanting to save every blasted thing they can, but I also know that if big corporations were given the go-ahead, they would strip us dry of every natural resource out there in their pursuit of money. But isn't some of this really our fault as consumers? We thrive on new technology, bigger and better vehicles, the expanding suburbs, and the modern comforts of our times. We scoff at electric cars, solar-powered generators, and ethanol fuel because to use these things would inconvenience us too much, not to mention they would be expensive in the short term, causing few consumers to buy into them.

The alternative has been to pass laws to satisfy both sides of the arguement. The Enviromentalists get their Wildlife Reserves, their Clean Air Act, their Endangered Species Act, etc. and the big corporations get their relaxed regulations on toxins they pump into the atmosphere and their abilities to mine, log and drill in certain areas. And yet, there are still constant battles between these two groups.

All of this fighting may soon come to an end if the Bush Administration has its way. However, it may not just be the enviromentalists who lose. We will all suffer the consequences of this administrations actions.

It should be a given that as humans, we need certain basic things: clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and appropriate amounts of land to live on. However, from a scientific stand-point, we also need to remember that animals and plants play an important role in the Food Chain. In order for this planet to continue to survive, we humans need to learn how to co-habitate with the wildlife around us. This does not mean that we should allow the planet to go wild, but it does mean that we need to start using our natural resources more wisely.

Unfortunately, this may not happen under the current administration. Here are a few of the Bush Administrations latest attacks as taken from this report entitled Bush administration steps up war on environment by David Walsh:

    * In April, the Bush administration quietly removed 200 million acres from possible wildlife protection, opening it up to development. In one order, Interior Secretary Gale Norton declared that the government would end reviews of western and Alaskan landholdings. These areas can now be opened to mining, drilling, logging or road-building. “They are trying to declare, by fiat, that wilderness does not exist,” commented Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. The Bush administration decision is a reversal of decades of federal wilderness policy.

    The New York Times noted, “With a single order, the Bush administration removed more than 200 million acres from further wilderness study, including caribou stamping ground in Alaska, the red rock canyons and mesas of southern Utah, Case Mountain with its sequoia forests in California and a wall of rainbow-colored rock known as Vermillion Basin in Colorado.”

    * The energy bill recently passed by the House includes the proposal to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic wildlife refuge, a favorite of the Bush administration and the oil industry.

    The Senate version of the bill, in the words of one commentator, “is a compendium of tired ideas favoring the coal, oil and gas industries, including one or two ideas the House hadn’t thought of—notably a provision that would authorize oil and gas exploration in coastal waters that have been faithfully protected since the first Bush administration.”

    * Bush’s appointee as deputy secretary of the interior, J. Steven Griles, is a former lobbyist for the oil, gas and mining interests he now monitors. The Associated Press discovered that while Griles’s nomination was pending before the Senate in 2001, Chevron, the oil giant, was paying him $80,000 to lobby the Interior Department.

    According to the Denver Post, “When the Bush administration set out to write a clean-air strategy, a key member of its team [Griles] needed no introduction to the energy executives across the table. They were from the same energy companies who once paid him to lobby on clean-air rules.... When he [Griles] became deputy secretary, he joined the Clear Skies Senior Policy Group, a collection of nearly three dozen administration officials charged with helping to formulate Bush policy on air pollution. As part of that group, he met regularly with top administration officials on air-pollution strategy.”

    * In the guise of responding to the risk of damaging forest fires, the House recently voted to loosen regulations and give the government the authority to thin undergrowth and trees on 20 million acres of federal land. It would provide for a speeded-up process if the measures are challenged in court and would hand over more of the work to private companies. The House bill is a backdoor measure aimed at promoting more commercial logging in national forests.

    Opponents of the measure pointed out that rather than focusing efforts on clearing areas closest to homes and most at risk, the bill would permit logging “deep in the backcountry in the name of fuel reduction.” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope remarked, “Instead of protecting communities, the House buckled to the Bush administration’s agenda, choosing to sell out America’s forests to corporate special interests and limiting the public’s right to speak out on behalf of forest protection.”

    * The computer system used by the EPA to track polluters is outdated and full of faulty data, and fails to take into account thousands of significant pollution sources, a recent government report reveals. Critics note that the computer system’s faults make it possible for mining and oil industries and developers to discharge vast quantities of pollutants into US waterways undetected. Daniel Rosenberg, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented, “The deliberate neglect of this project is a perfect example of the Bush administration’s effort to dismantle the Clean Water Act with as little public awareness as possible.”

    * The federal government recently recommended changes to the regulation of Appalachian mountaintop coal mining in a manner that will relax standards that currently exist, to the benefit of the mining companies.

    Mountaintop strip mining involves blowing off the tops of mountains to get at coal deposits. Tons of broken rock are thereby dumped into nearby valleys and streams, polluting the waterways and killing wildlife and plants. A recent Environmental Impact Study (EIS) noted that over 700 miles of Appalachian streams “have already been eliminated by valley fills” and that aquatic life forms are being harmed or killed. The EIS observed that the harm caused by this practice was far more pervasive than previously believed, yet failed to call for the curtailment of the practice. On the contrary, the Bush administration is expected to call for an easing of restrictions, arguing that a “case-by-case” approach is more flexible.

    Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice said, “The administration is snugly in the pocket of the coal industry. There is no other way to explain why the administration’s policy recommendations are completely at odds with the scientific studies.”

    *On May 28, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will temporarily halt the designation of land as critical habitats under the Endangered Species Act within a matter of weeks because the program has depleted its budget for the fiscal year. The Act authorizes the service to list animal and plant species as endangered or threatened, to protect them from risk and to encourage their recovery by designating areas critical to their continued existence.

    Critics of the service’s announcement noted that it had not requested more money from Congress to continue financing the program. Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, commented, “They’ve engineered a budget crisis.”

    Incredibly, the Fish and Wildlife Service has begun inserting “disclaimers” into critical habitat designations, which open with the statement, “Designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection to species.” Testifying before Congress last month, Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson, the individual who made the May 28 announcement, called critical habitat “a process that provides little real conservation benefit, consumes enormous amounts of agency resources, and imposes huge social and economic costs.”

    According to Suckling, “Species with critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as those without it.” Habitat loss is the primary threat to 85 percent of endangered species.

    The Bush government is attempting by various means to roll back protection for endangered species to benefit gas, oil, timber and mining interests. Rep. Richard Pombo, a California Republican, tagged on a provision to the 2004 military spending bill that would have given the Secretary of the Interior discretion over where, when and how to designate critical habitat for endangered species.

    The House, on May 22, voted to exempt the Defense Department from laws designed to protect endangered animals and plants, on the grounds that the regulations hamper the military’s ability to train US troops and test weapons. According to the Washington Post, “The 252 to 174 vote was a victory for the Bush administration, which has spent more than a year seeking authority to sidestep regulations meant to protect endangered species, marine mammals and migratory birds that are on or near military installations.”

Since we all live on this planet, I will let you all draw your own conclusions about how these actions will affect you. As for me, I would rather give up some of my modern conveniences to learn how to live with the natural world around me before it is all gone.

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