Fuel For the Anti-Bush Fire
Bravo to the corporate public relations folks who have turned the summer media doldrums into an opportunity to spread lies about environmental threats. To take just one example, Time magazine has done a wonderful job taking piles of cash for full-page ads from some of the biggest polluters on the planet. While many of us enjoy blissful vacation days at the beach, we're being bombarded by messaging from technology and other big corporations claiming not only that they have the means to eradicate global warming and other problems, but also that these problems would have been resolved long ago if not for the extreme environmentalists.
Supporting quotes can be found from environmentalists who are raising money from these same companies, with a woe is us, we were too extreme approach, or from ex-Clinton administration bureaucrats who are happy to corroborate, yes, the environmentalists were too extreme, why do you think we were such failures?
Even The New York Times ran an unusually fat op-ed last week by Bjorn Lomborg, the Dane who has been trying to make a living by distorting facts and statistics and pitching his book about how the planet is as healthy as ever. Yet it's pulp fiction, with more errors than an afternoon of Little League baseball (and all refuted by the most respected scientists at www.gristmagazine.com).
I have been fighting against global warming for almost a decade. With a pretty grim record, to be sure. But citizens the world over know we have a huge problem -- one caused by the burning of fossil fuels, with solutions being blocked by the largest corporations in the U.S. These corporations -- including ExxonMobil, General Motors, coal companies, power companies like the Southern Company and many others -- have run with the strategy of "Let them eat cake" to anyone worried about stopping global warming.
Here is my prediction. Corporate America has won this round and just about every round that has preceded this one on global warming. But just as global warming traps too much of the sun's heat (energy) in the lower atmosphere, supercharging our climate system --hence the storms, droughts, and assorted extremes of our once calmer climactic system -- the Marie Antoinette approach is also trapping extreme political pressure in a cauldron that will not be able to hold it. The anti-globalization protesters are not disappearing, just regrouping. Moderate mainstream environmentalists are furious about the state of the planet in a way that I have never seen before in my career.
And George W. Bush has put a face to all that we find wrong: Political corruption. Corrupt influence from big business. A deaf ear to science. Deaf to the will of the people. The only thing green that matters is the buck.
Trust me on this, the center cannot hold. You cannot treat nature this way without it snapping back, and you cannot treat a democratic populace this way without it snapping back. The anger I am finding out there toward Bush -- from rank-and-file environmentalists, but also from firemen, cops, those coveted soccer moms, surfers, cabbies, anarchists and Republicans -- is unlike anything we have seen in modern times. You have to go back to the dark days of Richard Nixon to find such widespread fury toward a U.S. leader.
And yet compared to our sitting president, Nixon was a smarter and more agile politician who gave the people what they wanted: an end to the Vietnam war, once he politically had no alternative, and good environmental laws, once he saw the mandate from the people. Instead, Bush is out in front running the agenda of the dirtiest and most corrupt corporations in America, full speed ahead. I think the day is not far off when the inner circle of puppeteers working around Bush will envy the problems that Nixon had once his Watergate Plumbers got caught.
So, I will tip my hat to Bush's success so far. He has bested all of us who care about the environment. But I will also toast his rocky future and the eventual victory of the environmentalists. For Bush is a leader without a base, without a following, with only the dirty campaign contributions of America's most retrograde companies to his name.
John Passacantando is executive director of Greenpeace USA.