AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
for Environmental Protection
Sometime ago, I came across the website
of REP America - the
Republicans for Environmental Protection. I would like to
publicize this group and applaud them for what they are trying to do
for the environment, given what they are fighting against in their own
party - particularly the President (George Bush Jr.). I have always
thought that conservation is part and parcel of conservatism. In
India, where I grew up - in a conservative household - conservation
and respect for nature were instilled as moral values. So, it was a
bit of a surprise to me to discover that the Republican Party of the
United States, claiming to represent conservatives, stood not for
environmental preservation and conservation but rather for massive
weakening of environmental protections. Against that backdrop, the
website of REP America was a welcome sight.
Martha Marks, founder and
President of REP America, has just written an article titled "the
Green Old Party" in Sierra
Club's magazine - Sierra
- in the July/Aug 2004 edition (Note: my wife is a member of
Sierra Club, both she and I are members of NRDC).
It is an article worth reading, especially because she tries to remind
Americans that environmental conservation has long been a bipartisan
effort in the U.S. (but only before 1981 (largely) - there is a splendid chart in the
article showing how the two parties have diverged since 1980, which I will hopefully post once it becomes available online).
Indeed, she also points to how well known Republican Presidents of the
yester-years played a leadership role in protecting the
Mark's article is not yet
online at the time of this writing. But many of the facts she points out
in her article may be found in articles displayed on REP America's
website. I will reproduce some of that here because it is pertinent and
highly relevant in this era.
established national forests, parks, monuments and wildlife refuges to
prevent special interests from squandering the nationís natural
bounty. Bush has appointed a stable of industry lobbyists to open up
more of those lands to the same kind of special interests Roosevelt
fought throughout his presidency.
Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge to stop
poachers from destroying a public resource for private gain. Bush
wants to open Americaís largest national wildlife refuge so oil
companies can compromise a public resource for private gain.
Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club, which successfully
campaigned to protect Yellowstone from exploitation by railroad and
mining interests. Bush wants to roll back protections against
snowmobile pollution, catering to off-road vehicle interests.
I am a lifelong Republican and have served as an elected Republican
officeholder in Illinois for 10 years. The GOPís conservation
tradition was one reason I became a Republican. Over the past 20
years, however, the Republican Party seems to have lost its way on
conservation. So, in 1995óat the height of Congressí attacks on
public lands and environmental standardsóI teamed up with two other
women to found Republicans for Environmental Protection, known today
as REP America. Our goal is to restore the GOPís conservation
tradition. Our members believe that conservation is conservative:
protecting our nationís natural resources is consistent with true
conservative principles of prudence and stewardship.
[Teddy Roosevelt] --one of our greatest Republican presidents--left us
a great conservation legacy. Like many other Republican ideas,
however, his legacy has been pirated away by the Democrats.
It's time we in the GOP stole it back.
Environmental Republicans? The idea is hardly novel. Barry Goldwater,
the father of the modern conservative movement, was a lifelong
conservationist (and a member of REP America.) Richard Nixon signed
into law the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the
National Environmental Policy Act; he also established the
Environmental Protection Agency. Ronald Reagan signed laws protecting
nearly 10 million acres of national forest and wilderness. Many
supporters of Ducks Unlimited, the Mule Deer Foundation, Trout
Unlimited, and other sportsmenís groups are loyal Republicans. They
know that the most vital element of their hunting or fishing
activities is a healthy forest, river or stream.
repeatedly show widespread support for conservation among GOP voters...
Roosevelt declared that efficient use of resources is a moral and
patriotic obligation. Frugality and restraint are hallmarks of true
conservatism, as TR well knew. But our new president [George W. Bush]
seems to have forgotten what it means to be a true conservative.
Instead, he is condoning the continued squandering of natural
resources for the short-term gain of a few.
Many people know
that the idea of setting aside public lands began with Theodore
Roosevelt. Few realize, however, that Republican presidents Coolidge,
Taft, Hoover and Eisenhower greatly expanded our public land
inventory. Unfortunately, President Bush seems determined to undermine
this great legacy.
On the very day he was sworn in--urged on by some of his largest
campaign contributors--Mr. Bush suspended one of the most popular and
widely supported forest conservation rules in U.S. history. The policy
to protect the remaining wild portions of our national forests from
logging, road building and mining had been enacted after 600 public
first proposed the Safe Drinking Water Act, which President Ford
signed into law in 1974, setting a new standard for our country...
The Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge is a priceless environmental legacy of the Eisenhower
presidency, which first set the land aside for wildlife habitat...
The first President
Bush signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio
Earth Summit, starting America down the road toward an international
keeping tabs on the Earth's oceans are concerned that global warming
could actually lead to dangerously cold weather in North America and
The notion defies common sense, but the underlying physics are worth
the close attention of citizens and national policymakers who would
have to deal with the harsh consequences.
It starts with the Gulf Stream, a current of warm water in the
Atlantic Ocean that transports warm air northward. That's why much of
Western Europe, which is at about the same latitude as Canada, has a
relatively mild climate. The Gulf Stream is actually part of an
oceanic conveyor belt. As the Gulf Stream gives up its heat in
northern latitudes, the current becomes saltier and heavier than
surrounding waters and sinks, a process that propels the conveyor
Global warming could interrupt this vital process. As temperatures
warm, melting of glaciers and ice fields would accelerate. This is no
idle theory. Glaciers worldwide are retreating. Glacier National Park
is losing its namesake features. Ernest Hemingway's fabled snows of
Kilimanjaro are disappearing.
Melting ice sending a surge of fresh water into the North Atlantic
would dilute its saltiness. Less salty water is lighter. At some
point, the Gulf Stream could stop sinking into the North Atlantic's
depths, bringing the conveyor belt to a halt, like an engine that has
The consequences could be both abrupt and severe. Within a generation,
average winter temperatures in the eastern United States and Western
Europe could drop 10 degrees--a huge drop as averages go--and brutal
winters could be the norm for the following decades or even centuries
in the most economically developed region in the world. Ironically,
the regional deep freeze could occur even as the Earth as a whole
continues to warm, according to a presentation the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institute made to the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, on Jan. 27.
Oceanographers reported in Science magazine last year that the North
Atlantic is rapidly becoming less salty. Does that mean the shutdown
of the Gulf Stream could happen soon? Scientists do not know. However,
there is good evidence from Earth's past that climate can shift
abruptly. For example, scientists are investigating whether an abrupt
climate shift caused the ''Little Ice Age'' between 1300 and 1850, a
period of colder temperatures that resulted in crop failures, disease
and mass migration.
So what should government policymakers do? The first step is to
underwrite research that will improve scientific understanding of
abrupt climate change--both how it occurred in the past and how it
could recur in the future. The second, simultaneous step is to reduce
the risk that global warming could trigger an abrupt climate shift,
through prudent measures to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
greens, Ronald Reagan's environmental legacy can be summed up in two
words -- James Watt.
The appointment of Watt, the reflexively pro-industry ideologue who
oversaw America's public lands as secretary of the Department of the
Interior from 1981 to 1983, was consistent with the stereotype that
Reagan was anti- environmental. But that perspective on the issue is
History has shown that Reagan, whose pragmatic streak defied
expectations, both puzzled his supporters and got the last laugh on
his critics. Reagan skillfully blended principles with pragmatism in
many public-policy arenas, including the environment. After Watt had
ignited one too many controversies, Reagan showed him the door, aided
by a none-too-gentle push from Nancy Reagan, for whom Watt's
cancellation of a concert on the Mall for her favored Beach Boys was
the last straw.
Wilderness, not Watt, was Reagan's environmental legacy. During his
two terms in office, Reagan signed nearly 40 bills that added 10.6
million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, about 10
percent of the system's size (all data according to www.wilderness.net).
No other president has signed so many wilderness bills into law. Since
enactment of the Wilderness Act in 1964, only President Jimmy Carter
has added more wilderness acreage, thanks to his approval of the huge
Alaska lands bill of 1980.
It is a shame that the
Congressional GOP delegation of today (except for a few moderates --
just barely enough to keep egregious bills from passing) is ignoring
their party's past commitment to the environment, and the wishes of the
rank and file of their party.