Tuesday night I watched with excitement as President George W. Bush proved himself to be the environmentalist I always knew he could be. From the beginning, his State of the Union address was informed by a conservationist ethic — touting the environmentalist maxim that, as he stated, “we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, other presidents, and other generations.” Bush made clear the need to “answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people.” And it’s obvious from the courageous and far-reaching efforts he announced to combat our environmental ills that he sees our environmental problems as a clear and present danger.
His third goal for the nation (beating out the fourth goal of “compassion”) is to “dramatically improv[e] the environment.” After spearheading two years of anti-environment legislation, and issuing executive orders that blatantly eviscerated existing environmental regulations, it seems that Mr. Bush has finally seen the light. Who knew that he had sent Congress “a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation?” All I remember hearing about is the plan to drill for oil at home, not only in the Arctic, but off the coasts of California and Florida as well. Surely this exciting new plan can’t be the same one that cut solar, wind and geothermal energy programs by 50 percent?
But one thing is certain, Bush definitely cares about our skies. A “70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years” has to be good for “clear skies.” Let’s admit it: what we all really hate about air pollution is the smog that obscures the view from our multi-million dollar beachfront condos (did he say no more double taxation on dividends?!). Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” calls for filtration systems at the end of smokestacks that reduce the emissions of unsightly pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and mercury. It’s unfortunate that the plan leaves out carbon dioxide from its regulations, since carbon dioxide is the leading factor in global climate change and ozone depletion. And it might be a good idea sometime in the future to think about regulating it. But the majority of carbon dioxide comes from cars, and we’ll all be driving pollution-free hydrogen-powered cars in the future, thanks to Mr. Bush’s generous new $1.2 billion research initiative for clean automobile technology.
I must confess that I was suspicious when I heard similar plans put forth in the past. What would the automotive industry want more, I thought, than a plan that takes the immediate burden to improve the environmental impact of automobiles off of the producers? Instead of having to worry about improving fuel efficiency or downsizing their vehicles, these companies could point to the future to cover for their present inaction.
But if my child will be able to drive a hydrogen-powered Hummer in 20 years instead of a dorky Prius hybrid right now, I’ll be happy.
And how could anyone possibly argue against Bush’s “healthy forest initiative?” We must do everything in our power to stop these wildfires that kill innocent creatures and ravage our treasured woodlands. If the trees are the price we have to pay to save our forests, then I’m willing to support you all the way Mr. Bush. A policy of thinning dense forests by allowing commercial logging companies to harvest in previously restricted areas, and giving them full discretion over what they harvest, makes perfect sense. Of course, since lumber companies know trees so well, they must already understand what causes forest fires. They won’t harvest the commercially-valuable old growth, but will instead take the worthless underbrush and invasive species that are the tinder for large fires.
The new environmental era shouldn’t be about “endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations,” as Mr. Bush so astutely pointed out. What is the point in telling people to recycle this and conserve that, renew this and sustain that? History shows that without the interference of government regulations, people are naturally environmentalists.
Humans have always naturally balanced environmental stewardship with economic gain. Just look at the Industrial Revolution. And for those few malefactors (the Enrons of the environmental sphere), what’s the point of suing them when the court battles are just so endless?
We’ll have better uses for our time in the future prophesied by Bush’s State of the Union remarks. Thanks to Mr. Bush’s sensitivity to environmental issues, my children and I will be able to have healthy forests, clean water, and the chance to watch pigs fly by across a clear blue sky.
Jack Dafoe is a junior in Morse College.