A world is a terrible thing to waste

Dec. 19, 2004, midnight | By Avi Wolfman-Arent | 17 years, 5 months ago

How President Bush has systematically and severely damaged our environment

It was such a non-issue in the presidential election that you may not even think George W. Bush has an environmental agenda. In his 2004 State of the Union Address, he failed to mention the topic even once. But hidden behind the tint of a Code Orange world, President Bush does have a plan, a plan that will destroy our world of green quickly, quietly and permanently.

While you were out

The environmental crisis that the U.S. now faces starts here in our nation's capital. In the epicenter of the free world, pollution is threatening the quality of life that we claim is the American way. The Washington Post reported in November that the Anacostia River is among the most polluted waterways in the nation. Also, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air quality of the Washington, D.C., area is well below government standards.

Even closer to home, approximately 73.62 tons of pollutants are dumped daily by cars passing Blair, according to estimates from the MCPS construction office dating from before Blair's construction. The most striking reality of this sad scenario is that the current president's administration is not only neglecting to fix the problem but is actually helping polluters make it worse.

During the 2000 presidential election, the energy industry poured
$48.3 million into the coffers of the Republican Party, according to Crimes Against Nature, a book by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. released in 2004. These companies understood that with a direct line to the White House, there would be no limits to what America's most blatant contaminators could accomplish. Even before Halliburton's ex-CEO, Dick Cheney, was chosen as Vice President, the energy industry knew it had a close friend in Bush. All it had to do was look at his record.

Someone messed with Texas

If oil is king in Texas, then Bush is its most loyal subject. As governor, Bush supported bills to allow factories to monitor their own pollution emissions, report any violations and then make promises to the government to clean up their act. In 1999, four years after Bush took office, 15 of the nation's 30 highest smog readings were taken in Texas, and Houston became the nation's smoggiest city.

The Lone Star State became a polluter's paradise, and Texans have started to feel the effects: One in ten Texan children now has asthma, and an area along the Texas-Louisiana border is referred to as "cancer alley" because of its petrochemical production.

Instead of addressing the fact that Texas is the number one producer of air pollution, water pollution and toxic chemicals, Texas under Bush spent less on the environment per capita than any state. Well, any state save Utah, whose governor, Mike Leavitt, went on to become Bush's EPA Administrator.

Mr. Bush goes to Washington

In his first term, Bush allowed polluters to violate environmental laws by reducing enforcement and penalties. Kennedy notes that since Bush took office, violation notices and administrative fines have fallen 58 and 28 percent, respectively.

Our president also set his sights on weakening existing environmental protection laws. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush announced a plan called the Clear Skies Initiative, but the only thing clear about his proposal was that it would make our air far cloudier.
By allowing a five-fold increase in mercury levels, the initiative would dramatically elevate the tons of pollutants present in the atmosphere for years to come. This deadly airborne mercury eventually seeps into our waterways and contaminates fish.

It is ironic that "pro-life" Bush would propose such a plan when the EPA recently estimated that one in six U.S. women of childbearing age has mercury levels high enough to harm a developing fetus. For the 630,000 at-risk fetuses each year, the Bush policy is clear: Abortion is immoral, but severely inhibiting a fetus's development is sound.

The air down here

As Blazers, we live in an urban area threatened daily by those who value their profits more than our lives. Fifty thousand children in the D.C.-metropolitan area suffer each day from the debilitating effects of asthma, which is often triggered by airborne contaminants.
Nearly half a million cars pass our school and athletic fields, exposing Blair's students and athletes daily to the effects of pollutants.

Despite all this, George Bush will continue cozying up to the energy and automobile industries instead of setting higher miles-per-gallon standards for automobiles and requiring manufacturers to curb car-produced emissions. That is, unless the people begin to speak.

A call to action

It was not until the grassroots environmental movement of the 1970s that pollution became a public concern. The Nixon government responded by creating the EPA and passing laws like the Clean Air and Water Acts. Yet today, when faced with larger concerns than ever, the cries of the public have been reduced to a whisper. During the 2004 presidential campaign, the environment was on average the 12th to 13th most important issue to voters. But what the voters fail to realize is that our action, or inaction, will affect our lives"and the lives of our children"in a way that is drastic and permanent. Tom Smith, a leading Texan environmentalist with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, puts it best: "People forget the skies are supposed to be blue." We not only need to remember; we must demand blue skies once again.

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Avi Wolfman-Arent. Avi Wolfman-Arent has been called many things: super genius, mega hunk and an all around cool guy; but through the praise he has remained down-to-earth and humble. At a muscular five feet nine inches he may seem intimidating when striding down Blair Boulevard, but when … More »

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