[OPE-L] Listen Gore: Some Inconvenient Truths About the Politics of Environmental Crisis

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu Feb 01 2007 - 22:24:50 EST

Listen Gore: Some Inconvenient Truths About the
Politics of Environmental Crisis

A Pamphlet by Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," raises
the issue of global warming in a way that scares
the bejeezus out of viewers, as it should since
the consequences of global climate change are
truly earth-shaking. The former Vice-President
does a good job of presenting the graphic
evidence, exquisite and terrifying pictures that
document the melting of the polar ice caps and
the effects on other species, new diseases, and rising ocean levels.

But, typically, the solutions Gore offers are
standard Democratic Party fare. You'd never know
by watching this film that Gore and Clinton ran
this country for 8 years and that their policies
-- as much as those of the Bush regime -- helped
pave the way for the crisis we face today.

Gore never critiques the system causing the
global ecological crisis. At one point, he even
mourns the negative impact of global warming on
U.S. oil pipelines. Oh, the horror! What it all
comes down to, for Gore and the Democrats, is
that we need to shift away from reliance on
fossil fuels and tweak existing consumption patterns.

Even there, Gore and Clinton did nothing to
improve fuel efficiency in the U.S. -- a topic
which Gore talks about in the movie without any
hint that he'd once actually been in a position
to do something about it. The question Gore poses
is, Who can best manage the relatively minor
solutions he recommends, the Democrats or
Republicans? For Gore, it's sort of "trust US,
not THEM, to deal with this situation because
they are liars and we're not." Well, should we trust him?

As Joshua Frank writes, during the campaign for
president in 1992 Gore promised a group of
supporters that the Clinton-Gore EPA would never
approve a hazardous waste incinerator located
near an elementary school in Liverpool, Ohio,
which was operated by WTI. "Only three months
into Clinton's tenure," Frank writes, "the EPA
issued an operating permit for the toxic burner.
Gore raised no qualms. Not surprisingly, most of
the money behind WTI came from the bulging
pockets of Jackson Stephens, who just happened to
be one of the Clinton-Gore's top campaign contributors."(1)

But failing to shut down toxic incinerators is
just the tip of their great betrayal. In the
film, Gore references the Kyoto Accords and
states that he personally went to Kyoto during
the negotiations, giving the impression that he
was a key figure in fighting to reduce air
pollution emissions that destroy the ozone layer.
What he omits is that his mission in going to
Kyoto was to scuttle the Accords, to block them
from moving forward. And he succeeded.

The Clinton-Gore years were anything but
environment-friendly. Under Clinton-Gore, more
old growth forests were cut down than under any
other recent U.S. administration. "Wise Use"
committees -- set up by the lumber industry --
were permitted to clearcut whole mountain ranges,
while Clinton-Gore helped to "greenwash" their
activities for public consumption.

Under Clinton-Gore, the biotech industry was
given carte blanche to write the US government's
regulations (paltry as they are) on genetic
engineering of agriculture, and to move full
speed ahead with implementing the private
patenting of genetic sequences with nary a qualm passing Gore's lips.

You'd think watching this film that Gore is just
some concerned professor who never had access to
power or held hundreds of thousands of dollars of
stock in Occidental Petroleum (driving the U'wa
off their lands in Colombia), let alone was the
Number Two man actually running the U.S.  government!

"Gore, like Clinton who quipped that 'the
invisible hand has a green thumb,' extolled a
free-market attitude toward environmental
issues," writes Frank, who goes on to quote
Jeffrey St. Clair: "Since the mid-1980s Gore has
argued with increasing stridency that the bracing
forces of market capitalism are potent curatives
for the ecological entropy now bearing down on
the global environment. He is a passionate
disciple of the gospel of efficiency, suffused
with an inchoate technophilia."(2)

Before Kyoto, before the Clinton-Gore massive
depleted uranium bombings of Yugoslavia and Iraq,
before their missile "deconstruction" of the only
existing pharmaceutical production facility in
northern Africa in the Sudan (which exacerbated
the very serious problems there, as we're seeing
in Darfur today), there was NAFÂTA, the North
American Free Trade Agreement. The task of
Clinton-Gore was to push through this legislation
which not even strong Republican administrations
under Reagan or Bush Sr. had been able to do.
Since its inception, NAFTA has undermined U.S.
environmental laws, chased production facilities
out of the U.S. and across the borders, vastly
increased pollution from Maquilladoras
(enterprise zones) along the U.S./Mexico border
and helped to undermine the indigenous
sustainable agrarian-based communities in
southern Mexico -- as predicted by leftists in
both countries, leading to the Zapatista uprising
from those communities on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA went into effect.

Clinton-Gore also approved the destructive deal
with the sugar barons of South Florida arranged
by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, which doomed
the Everglades. (In fact, Clinton was on the
phone with Alfonso Fanjul, Jr., the chief of the
sugar barons, while Monica Lewinsky was busy
doing her thing in her famous blue dress under Clinton's desk.)

Early in Clinton-Gore's first administration,
they pledged they would stop the plunder of the
Northwest forests, writes former Village Voice
columnist James Ridgeway. "They then
double-crossed their environmental backers. Under
Bush Sr., the courts had enjoined logging in the
Northwest habitats of the spotted owl.
Clinton-Gore persuaded environmentalists to join
them in axing the injunction. The Clinton
administration went before a Reagan-appointed
judge who had a record as a stalwart
environmentalist and with the eco toadies in tow,
got him to remove the injunction, and with it the
moratorium on existing timber sales."(3) Then
Gore and Clinton "capitulated to the demands of
Western Democrats and yanked from its initial
budget proposals a call to reform grazing,
mining, and timber practices on federal lands.
When Clinton convened a timber summit in
Portland, Oregon, in April 1994, the conference
was, as one might expect, dominated by logging
interests. Predictably, the summit gave way to a
plan to restart clear-cutting in the ancient
forests of the Pacific Northwest for the first
time in three years, giving the timber industry its get rich wish."(4)

Gore and Clinton sent to Congress the infamous
Salvage Rider, known to radical environmentalists
as the "Logging without Laws" bill, "perhaps the
most gruesome legislation ever enacted under the
pretext of preserving ecosystem health." Like
Bush's "Healthy Forests" plan, the Clinton-Gore
act "was chock full of deception and special
interest pandering. 'When [the Salvage Rider]
bill was given to me, I was told that the timber
industry was circulating this language among the
Northwest Congressional delegation and others to
try to get it attached as a rider to the fiscal
year Interior Spending Bill,' environmental
lawyer Kevin Kirchner says. 'There is no question
that representatives of the timber industry had a
role in promoting this rider. That is no
secret.'"(5) What the Salvage Rider did was to
"temporarily exempt ... salvage timber sales on
federal forest lands from environmental and
wildlife laws, administrative appeals, and
judicial review," according to the Wilderness
Society -- long enough for multinational lumber
and paper corporations to clear-cut all but a
sliver of the U.S.'s remaining old growth forests.

"Thousands of acres of healthy forestland across
the West were rampaged. Washington's Colville
National Forest saw the clear cutting of over
4,000 acres. Thousands more in Montana's Yak
River Basin, hundreds of acres of pristine forest
land in Idaho, while the endangered Mexican
Spotted Owl habitat in Arizona fell victim to
corporate interests. Old growth trees in
Washington's majestic Olympic Peninsula -- home
to wild Steelhead, endangered Sockeye salmon, and
threatened Marbled Murrieta -- were chopped with
unremitting provocation by the US Forest Service."(6)

The assault on nature continued with Gore's blessing.

Around the same time, Clinton-Gore appointee
Carol Browner, head of the EPA, was quoted in the
NY Times as having said that the administration
would be "relaxing" the Delaney Clause (named
after its author, Congressman James Delaney,
D-NY). Congress had inserted this clause into
section 409 of the federal Food, Drug and
Cosmetic Act in 1958. It prohibited FDA approval
of any food additive found to cause cancer in
humans or animals. Alone among all food-related
directives, this legislation put the onus on the
manufacturers to demonstrate that their products
were safe before they were allowed to become
commercially available. (7) A federal appeals
court in July 1992 expanded the jurisdiction of
the Delaney Clause, ruling that it was applicable
to cancer-causing pesticides in processed food.
Browner retracted her comment, claiming she'd
never said it, but the proof was in the pudding.
The ban on cancer-causing additives (the
"Precautionary Principle") that had held through
the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford,
Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations was finally
removed, not by the Republicans but by the
Clinton-Gore administration. Instead of expanding
the Delaney clause to protect produce and other
unprocessed foods, the new Food Quality
Protection Act legislation permitted "safe"
amounts of carcinogenic chemicals (as designated
by the Environmental Protection Agency) to be
added to all food. (According to Peter Montague,
editor of Rachel's Weekly, "no one knows how
'safe amounts' of carcinogens can be established,
especially when several carcinogens and other
poisons are added simultaneously to the food of
tens of millions of people.) Nevertheless, the
Clinton-Gore administration spun this as "progress."

The Clinton administration, with guidance from
Gore's office, also cut numerous deals over the
pesticide Methyl Bromide despite its reported
effects of contributing to Ozone depletion and
its devastating health consequences on farm workers picking strawberries.

Much is being made these days about the need to
save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. But Clinton-Gore
opened the National Petroleum Reserve — 24
mmillion untouched acres adjacent to the refuge,
home to a large caribou herd and numerous arctic
species — to oil drilling. The chief beneficiaary
of this was Arco, a major ($1.4 million)
contributor to the Democratic Party. At the same
time, writes James Ridgeway, "Clinton dropped the
ban on selling Alaskan oil abroad. This also
benefits Arco, which is opening refineries in
China. So although the oil companies won the
right to exploit Alaskan oil on grounds that to
do so would benefit national development,
Clinton-Gore unilaterally changed the agreement
so that it benefits China's industrial growth."(8)

Not once in the entire film does Gore criticize
this awful environmental record or raise the
critical questions we need to answer if we are to
effectively reverse global warming: Is it really
the case that the vast destruction of our
environment that went on under his watch and,
continuing today, is simply a result of poor
consumer choices and ineffective government
policies? Is the global environmental devastation
we are facing today rectifiable with some simple tuning-up, as Gore proposes?

Neither he -- as point man for the Clinton
administration on environmental issues -- nor
Clinton-Gore's Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
(with major ties to Occidental Petroleum), nor
the Democratic Party in general offer anything
more than putting a tiny Band-Aid on the earth's
gaping wounds, which they themselves helped to gash open.

Clearly, the vast destruction of the global
ecology is a consequence not just of poor
governmental policies but of the capitalist
system's fundamental drive towards Growth and
what passes for Development -- Grow or Die.
Environmental activists won't find in Gore the
kind of systemic analysis that is needed to stop
global warming. Instead, we need to look
elsewhere for that sort of deep systemic critique.


1. Joshua Frank, Counterpunch, May 31, 2006,
Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals
Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and edits www.BrickBurner.org

2. Jeffrey St. Clair, Been Brown So Long It
Looked Like Green to Me: The Politics of Nature, Common Courage Press, 2004.

3. James Ridgeway, "Eco Spaniel Kennedy: Nipping
at Nader's Heels," Village Voice, Aug. 16-22,
2000. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0033,ridgeway,17335,6.html

4,5,6 Joshua Frank.

7. The battle over the Delaney Clause has been
ably documented by Rachel's Weekly, at www.rachel.org

8. Ridgeway, op cit.

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