By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Bush's response to the record 740,000-acre fires was the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which again ignored science and granted the timber industry unchecked access to clear forests for profits instead of effective fire prevention.
Even local OC issues got short shrift. Two years after local environmentalists got the EPA to adopt rules for Upper Newport Bay—where toxic runoff imbued fish with levels of PCBs, DDT, lead, copper, mercury and selenium well above those considered safe for human consumption—the agency had taken no steps to enforce those rules.
Things were no nicer offshore, where a UC Irvine study found that surfers off Newport and Huntington beaches were nearly twice as likely to become sick as those surfing less-polluted beaches.
People had assumed our oceans would be "the breadbaskets of the future," but a 2003 study in the journal Nature found that larger fish such as tuna, swordfish, cod, halibut and flounder were down to 10 percent of their 1950s numbers, while 75 percent of food-fish populations were fished out to capacity and on the way to extinction. In 2004, even a panel of industry insiders hand-picked by the Bush administration found overfishing, pollution and poor regulation had all but destroyed fish populations in much of our coastal waters. The Bush administration boldly called for further study.
Much of California's water came from the Colorado River, which had 500 pounds daily of the rocket-fuel ingredient perchlorate leaching into it from military facilities. Perchlorate had been shown to cause developmental problems in children and was in the water at concentrations seven times the safe limits. In 2004, the General Accounting Office found the military had taken no action on Congress' orders that it clean up the perchlorate contamination. The Bush response was to suppress an EPA report on the chemical's dangers and to work to exempt the military from environmental laws, claiming it hindered the war on terror.
Even at Sept. 11's Ground Zero, the government had misled the public. An EPA report that cited health concerns for New Yorkers from the unprecedented combinations of burning chemicals, concrete dust, asbestos and other toxins that hovered in the air was ordered changed by the White House before it was released, to instead announce a week after Sept. 11 that the air was safe to breathe. The administration was later reported to be anxious for Wall Street to reopen without delay.
Global warming was the real dying elephant in the Bush administration sitting room. They ignored scientific evidence. They ignored anecdotal evidence. Meanwhile, each year from the 1990s onward was among the world's hottest.
Remember Rooney's drought-mad kangaroos? In the early 2000s, much of Australia sweltered under record 122-degree temperatures. Indonesia endured much the same, with fires that sent smoke around the world. Much of Asia was underwater in the monsoon season. In 2004, scientists from 14 laboratories reported in Nature that they expected more than a third of the 1,103 species they were studying to have vanished by 2050 due to global warming.
The summer of 2003 was Europe's hottest in 500 years, and thousands died in the heat. In October of that year, a NASA satellite study showed temperatures at the Earth's poles to be warming at two degrees per decade. Temperatures had been rising over the previous 100 years but were now rising eight times faster. The Arctic's largest ice shelf broke apart, and the ice was disappearing at 9 percent per decade.
Closer to home, by 2003, Lake Mead had dropped 90 feet below its normal level. Lake Powell was less than half-full. So little water went through the Glen Canyon generators that they only produced 30 percent of capacity. In a report by two dozen respected scientists in the November 2002 issue of the journal Climactic Change, the consensus was "global warming will have a devastating effect on the available water in the Western United States."
The years-long drought, vanishing icepack and blind dearth of conservation efforts resulted in total collapse here. Bureaucrats couldn't argue about water allocation anymore because there wasn't any. Desperation far greater than seen in the Depression's dust bowl set in. Without drought-resistant GMO corn and sorghum strains rushed to market, starvation would have been rampant. Forests were dying faster than the fires could consume them. There wasn't even water to stop the fires when they spread from Sierra Madre through the basin to the beach cities.
Bush called environmentalists "greenie weenies" or something and was dismissive of the science behind global-warming theory. In 2003, White House staffers so heavily rewrote and gutted a section on global warming in the EPA's annual report that EPA head Christie Whitman deleted it entirely rather than print what she called "pabulum."
Whitman quit the EPA shortly thereafter. Bush picked former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt to replace her. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a significant chunk of his past campaign contributions had come from corporations with outstanding EPA violations. As governor, Leavitt's state had the second-worst environmental record in the nation. The first had been Texas under Bush.
All this would have been Nurgific if the eco-cide had occurred over a couple of decades. That's what was meant to happen, giving the chemical and bio-science industries time to do their part. Bush hastened their progress as well, but some things take time.