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Bush an 'environmental disaster,' Ehrlich tells Commonwealth Club

STANFORD -- "When George Bush said he would be the 'environmental president,' he was being as sincere as when he said 'read my lips, no new taxes,' " Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Friday, Oct. 16.

"Bush got off to a good start with the appointment of Bill Reilly as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and with his support of the Clean Air Act," Ehrlich said in the luncheon address. "Unfortunately, his subsequent performance has put the future of our children and grandchildren in grave jeopardy.

"Bush hasn't listened to Reilly and undermined Reilly's attempts to administer the Clean Air Act responsibly," Ehrlich said.

In addition, Ehrlich - Bing Professor of Population Studies and the author of The Population Bomb and The Population Explosion - said Bush has:

  • Failed to develop a national energy policy featuring conservation (contrary to his promises).
  • Failed to use the Gulf War as an opportunity to point out the needs both to conserve energy and guard against nuclear proliferation.
  • Failed to recognize that he was sacrificing many potential jobs by not encouraging the United States to assume a leadership position in energy conservation and environmental protection, giving Japan and Germany a golden opportunity to profit at our expense.
  • Done everything possible to prevent the United States from taking even "no regrets" steps to take out insurance against a potential climatic catastrophe because of global warming, disgracing the United States internationally in the process.
  • Failed to explore market mechanisms for dealing with environmental problems despite his opposition to government regulation.
  • Dragged his feet on the critical issue of protecting the ozone layer (again contrary to earlier promises).
  • Worked against protecting the remaining half of America's vital wetlands (again contrary to earlier promises).
  • Sent the chairman of his Council of Environmental Quality to Arkansas to accuse Governor Clinton of responsibility for that state's agricultural runoff problems, even though Bush supported the Reagan administration's opposition to federal water pollution control legislation that would have helped to solve Arkansas' problems as well as similar problems in the other 49 states.
  • Killed his own administration's attempts to promote recycling (again contrary to earlier promises).
  • Opposed effective administration of the Coastal Zone Management Act, and worked to get Exxon free of criminal charges for the Exxon Valdez oil spill (after making repeated public statements during the 1988 campaign about the need to clean up Boston Harbor).
  • Generally not supported efforts to preserve biodiversity at home and abroad, including opposing additions to the National Park System, opposing improvement of the management of the National Wildlife Refuge system, and failing to sign the Biodiversity Initiative at Rio, again deeply embarrassing the United States before the world community.

"Worst of all, Bush, who once wrote compellingly about the need to limit the size of the human population, has subsequently done everything possible to fuel the population explosion," Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich said that when Bush was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, he supported National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), which was produced at the request of President Nixon by the CIA, the Agency for International Development, and the departments of Defense and Agriculture.

"NSSM 200 warned that population growth threatened the world's economic, political and ecological systems, as well as humanitarian values. It recognized the role of population pressures in generating wars. While Bush has been vice president and president, about one billion people have been added to Earth's population, bringing the total to 5.5 billion. Fewer than 2 billion were alive when Bush was born," Ehrlich said.

"George Bush seems incapable of understanding that the critical security issue now is that of environmental security, and that it is impossible to have environmental security as long as the population explosion continues," Ehrlich said. "And, tragically, by working against the provision of birth control to hundreds of million of women in poor nations who desire it, George Bush has been a major force promoting abortion worldwide.

"In short, George Bush promised to be the 'environmental president' and then did everything he could to wreck the environmental underpinnings of our economy," Ehrlich concluded. "As a registered Republican I am deeply ashamed of the Bush-Reagan record, which represents a 180-degree turn from the pioneering efforts of Teddy Roosevelt and those of modern Republican environmentalists like the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.); Sens. William Cohen (R-Me.), John Chafee (R-R.I.) and Jim Jeffords (R- Vt.); and congressmen like our own Tom Campbell (R-Calif.)"



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