Sunday, May 25, 2003

Abandon hope all ye who enter Bush territory

In a move that should be shocking to no one, on Wednesday Florida governor Jeb Bush signed legislation that would extend the deadline for local sugar producers to clean up the Everglades from 2006 to 2016. (Click here for's rendition, here for the National Resource Defense Council's version. Two very similar accounts of a decision that can only be seen as anti-environment, pro-business.)

This is yet another example of (and please allow me to generalize here) Republicans' tendency to favor the short-term over the long-term, and to favor persons over people. I am consistently disgusted by this party's repeated neglect for the environment, and their deference to corporate interests, in this instance the Florida sugar farmers who want to continue contaminating the Everglades with phosphorous.

In the short-term, lax anti-pollution legislation may facilitate a more prosperous and free economy because businesses will not have to invest earnings into reducing their emissions or disposing of their waste responsibly, which is indeed an expensive pursuit. This may allow corporations to spend more money on new jobs, or to increase the incomes of their low-level workers. Or in all likelihood, this will allow them to increase the profits of their shareholders and their managers. Pardon me if I don't expect altruism from corporate owners.

In the long-term (and short-term, for that matter), legislation that abandons the environment and caters to corporate interests will lead to the destruction of natural habitats, the unjustifiable death of countless animals, and in some instances the extinction of certain species. Even if you can't muster up the enthusiasm to defend the rights of non-human animals, you have to concede that a diminished environment is harmful to the health of us homo sapien sapiens.

The most ridiculous but nevertheless indicative comment I've heard/read on Jeb's new bill is from United States Sugar Corp. Senior Vice President Robert Coker: "When the environmentalists finish filing lawsuits, running negative TV ads and making speeches, maybe they'll join us in restoring the Everglades." Ha ha, Bobby C. Who's going to stop you from dumping pollutants into fragile environments if not us pesky, pinko environmentalists? The president? Last time I checked, running a public campaign to defend the environment does not preclude you from restoring the Everglades; you can do both at the same time. It's also fantastic that Coker wants the environmental interests to stop running ads and stop making speeches; is he perhaps afraid that once the general public is aware of these exigencies and aware that the sugar corporations are relentlessly polluting the Everglades that they might take action against it, up to and including protesting his company, or worse, ending their support for the politicians that buckle to corporate interests?

The Democrats are not perfect when it comes to pro-environmental legislation. Frankly, the Democrats are not perfect when it comes to everything. I'll admit that freely. But to compare the Democrats' actions to the Republicans' complete disregard for all things environmental would be ludicrous. I genuinely fear for my well-being and the well-being of my grandchildren if the Republicans continue to be such a powerful political influence. I'm actually scared. While economies rise and fall with few permanent repercussions, the pollutants we allow to enter our environment are irretrievable. The species we kill cannot be brought back, nor can the lives of the animals and humans we damage because of our collective lack of concern for the preservation of our planet. The decisions we and our political "representatives" make today will affect our world long after we shrivel up and die a carcinogen-induced death. That is why people like Jeb Bush and his conservative brood frighten me.


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