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Unhealthy politics

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Action Report 2002 officially concluded that human activity, particularly the use of fossil fuels, will cause specific and costly damage to the environment.

Neither the report nor anyone in the Bush administration suggests that any effort should be made to limit the damage, however, arguing that it is already too late to prevent it from occurring.

Maybe we need malpractice laws for politicians. Imagine if your doctor told you, "Your diet is giving you diabetes and with those cholesterol levels you'll certainly have a heart attack sooner or later, but changing your diet now won't prevent any of these things so don't even bother." You wouldn't vote for him, you'd sue him.

And in the environment's case, the damage we do now will continue to cause destruction and loss for years after we're dead. For all we know, cutting back on fossil fuels now could have a substantial effect on global warming over the short term, too.

But of course Bush & Co. don't care — there's no political motivation for them to, and all that oil money telling them not to. In an item in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, Elizabeth Kolbert concluded by saying:

Most Americans would probably say that it is wrong to leave decisions of national importance, like the fate of rivers and mountaintops, and of global significance, like the future of the climate, to a small group of self-interested industry insiders. Yet if the decisions reached by the President and his inner circle actually struck at core American values, or were even just inconsistent with the lives we live, it is hard to believe that the Administration would have been able to accomplish so much in so little time. Whether you date the inception of the American environmental movement all the way back to John Muir or only to Rachel Carson, it has a long history. As the past sixteen months suggest, however, its achievements, if not quite illusory, are painfully fragile.

No doubt she's right. It takes a catastrophe to get voters to even think about the future.

June 4, 2002 11:45 AM

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