A Presidential Election of Environmental Concern

As the Summer Olympics in Athens were drawing to a close, I found myself faced with my first presidential campaign commercial of the year. Watching it, I realized two important facts. The first was the fact that, as a California resident, I’ve been lucky thus far not to have already been bombarded with the ads as those living in the key voter states have been. The second fact was a reminder that it was time to examine the major candidates and their stances on environmental issues.

During the last four years and in the years preceding while George W. Bush was governor of Texas, his record on environmental issues and the actions that he has and has not taken give us ample evidence on where he stands regarding this very important topic. While his campaign speeches might be filled with rhetoric on the steps he plans to take if he once again wins the upcoming election, most people will wonder if his promises are merely the environmental version of the weapons of mass destruction argument used to get us into Iraq.

George W. Bush has been the only president to receive a failing grade from the League of Conservation Voters. In fact, the League recently placed both Bush and Vice President Cheney on its Dirty Dozen list of anti-environment policy makers based on their efforts to derail, rollback, and otherwise harm more than 35 years of policies designed to protect the environment. Bush has proven time and again that he is tucked firmly into the pockets of big business as he initiates and supports anti-environment policies supported by the corporate world.

In April 2004, the National Resource Defense Council completed its third annual assessment of the Bush Administration’s environmental policies. In it, they documented more than 150 harmful actions taken in the past year alone. While the policy changes have accelerated since Bush took office four years ago, the most recent regulatory actions undermine protections for everything from our air to our energy to our public health. Wildlife protection, our forests, water and parks have also taken direct hits from the Bush Administration’s anti-environment stance.

While it would take much too long to document every transgression that the Bush Administration has made against the environment in the past, here is a sampling of the damage he and his big business cronies have wreaked since January 2003:

*November 2003 – The Bush Administration proposed the legalization of releasing inadequately treated sewage into waterways.

*April 2003 – The Bush Administration reversed the policy which protected public lands from drilling, mining, road building, and other development, and thus opened the door for decreased wildlife preservation.

*2003 – The Bush Administration refused to regulate the amount of mercury released by power plants and other industrial plants. As a result, the EPA has allowed more than seven times the amount of mercury pollution from coal-powered plants and relaxed the deadline for compliance. Forty-four states have recently released reports warning of mercury-contaminated fish, a jump from 27 states in 1993. Not only have documents been brought to light which show direct evidence of the role of the major polluters in drafting Bush’s environmental policies, but the Department of Justice discovered industry documents used to weaken the Clean Air Act’s new source review rules.

In February 2004, 63 scientists including 20 Nobel laureates accused the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact in order to mislead the public and further its own political agenda. Sound familiar? As with other steps taken by the Bush Administration in the last four years, “Bushspeak” has been used to make something sound much better than it truly is. These scientists claim that science has been used time and time again to perpetrate abuses of science in the interests of Bush and his big business cronies.

All environmental protection groups agree with the fact that our environment is facing the greatest threats which could potentially be more dangerous than any others since the 1970s. Not only is our world being handed over to those with interests in increased development, pollution, and money making, but public input and environmental analysis is constantly circumvented while the Bush Administration works their black magic.

John Kerry, on the other hand, has earned a score of 92 percent by the League of Conservation Voters for his actions and attempts to protect the environment, the highest score ever received by a presidential candidate. He has led the fight to increase efficiency for SUVs and other vehicles, was a major player in the recent Senate fights against drilling in the Arctic refuge, supports policies that would reduce greenhouse gases and would like to see the international communities take steps beyond those already proposed by the Kyoto Protocol. His campaign promises are filled with his claim to be dedicated to the protection of the environment and his voting record during his time in Congress does show support of this statement. He has led the fight in overturning efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and initiated legislation to incorporate environmental protections into international trade agreements.

While some might criticize the League’s campaigning efforts for Kerry based on the fact that his wife has shown financial support of the League in the past, all one has to do is look at his record to determine that his environmental policies would be much more friendly and healthy for our world than those of the past four years. Besides, with a wife who is supportive of so-called green issues, a vote for him would be like getting two for one with an environmentally friendly first lady as well.

Last but certainly not least, there is Ralph Nader. As the presidential candidate of the Green Party, that perhaps tells us all we need to know about his qualifications and stances on environmental issues. Just in case there is room for doubt, however, let me give a brief rundown on his views.

Nader supports diversifying the U.S. energy policy and would no longer subsidize big business interests. Instead, he would include sources of energy which are environmentally friendly and sustainable such as renewable energy like wind and solar power. Nader is pushing for more efficient vehicles, homes, and businesses, and would like to see an end to our country’s addiction to oil, coal, and atomic power. He also supports the idea of a U.S. Oceans Act which would ensure that our oceans are no longer fished to overcapacity and no longer polluted by runoff. He plans to protect and restore our seas and coastlands through recommendations from the Ocean Commission Draft Report. Finally, Nader would like to see industrial hemp with its many diverse uses become a renewable resource.

As the time to vote for our country’s next president draws nearer, the candidates will be promising us many things on a variety of issues, the environment being only one of these. In the face of the Bush Administration’s drastic attempts to rollback the environmental regulations and thus permanently harm our world, more attention and weight is being given to the candidates’ stances on the environment in this election.

While I have touched on some of the major actions and beliefs in this article, more in depth information can be found at either the League of Conservation Voters (http://www.lcv.org) or the National Resource Defense Council (http://www.nrdc.org).

Remember, the environment might not be the only issue to consider when deciding whom to vote for come November, but without a healthy, safe world, no other issue will matter.

**Disclaimer: Snowshoe Magazine maintains that it does not support one presidential candidate over the other. The details found in this article are formulated by the research and opinions of the writer. However, Snowshoe Magazine encourages everybody to vote and/or register to vote in the upcoming elections.

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Alyssa Skye Collins