Speaking yesterday at the School of Natural Resources and the
Environment, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope promoted the
tenet of his new book — that the Bush administration is
“recklessly destroying a century of environmental
progress.”

Eston Bond
Pope

His message, though delivered in a state that is closely divided
between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John
Kerry for the presidency, found favor with the vast majority of the
more than 80 audience members, who were mostly students and area
residents.

Scott Foley, a member of the University College Republicans
executive board, said, “I wouldn’t take anything from
the Sierra Club as fact.” The Sierra Club is known to have a
liberal bent, overwhelmingly endorsing Democratic candidates such
as Bill Clinton in 1992, Al Gore in 2000 and Kerry this year.

Pope spoke of the EPA’s progress from 1980 to 2000 in
cleaning up hazardous waste sites. “At the rate of
environmental cleanup that still existed in 2000, all of the major
U.S. toxic waste dumps would have been cleaned up by 2020,”
he said. The Bush administration’s watch, he said, has seen
the first hazardous waste increase in 20 years.

Pope said Bush has drastically reversed what was, until his
administration, an ongoing national record of improving drinking
water cleanliness. He said the reversal is one of
“hundreds” of the Bush administration’s
environmental failures.

Nostalgically, Pope discussed the acreage of national landmarks,
which had been increasing through the year 2000. He said in the
three years of the Bush presidency, 145 million acres of land were
stripped of their protective status, breaking a tradition that
began with Theodore Roosevelt and was kept alive by all subsequent
U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton.

“Why did the Bush administration try so hard to reverse
all of that progress?” he said. He discussed the possibility
that the administration had been “paid off” to enact
environmental policy that would reduce expenses for corporations.
But he said he could not see how most of the administration’s
policies would result in greater campaign donations.

“The administration understands the importance of clean
air and clean water,” he said. He noted that the Washington
residences of senior administration officials are
disproportionately located in areas with cleaner air and water. He
pointed to the state-of-the-art water purification that the
president installed on his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“When you visit Crawford, drink bottled water –
except when you’re a guest of the Bushes.” Turning to
the Vice President, he said “most of Dick Cheney’s
undisclosed hours at undisclosed locations are spent at his Wyoming
ranch.”

Pope said the administration does not view clean air and water
as the common rights of all citizens, but as commodities to be
competed for in the marketplace. He said maintenance of clean air
and water requires a “strong and robust central
government” that conflicts with right-wing laissez-faire
ideology.

He said it was the position of the administration that if clean
air and water were made universal rights to all citizens,
“people will be entitled to clean air and water that they
haven’t earned. And then what’s the point of being
successful? What’s the point of being Dick Cheney?” he
said.

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