Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Bill Moyers: Eve of Destruction?

Anyone who has seen Bill Moyers' show "Now with Bill Moyers" or read any of his articles knows that he is one of the only journalists in America who has the insight and courage to stand up to the Bush administration -- especially on environmental and workplace health and safety issues.

Check out this interview in Grist for more insight into (and inspiration from) Bill Moyers on environmental issues.

He first talks about the Bushies preference for "religious and political dogma" over facts:
Their god is the market -- every human problem, every human need, will be solved by the market. Their dogma is the literal reading of the creation story in Genesis where humans are to have "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing ..." The administration has married that conservative dogma of the religious right to the corporate ethos of profits at any price. And the result is the politics of exploitation with a religious impulse.

Meanwhile, over a billion people have no safe drinking water. We're dumping 500 million tons of hazardous waste into the Earth every year. In the last hundred years alone we've lost over 2 billion hectares of forest, our fisheries are collapsing, our coral reefs are dying because of human activity. These are facts. So what are the administration and Congress doing? They're attacking the cornerstones of environmental law: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]. They are allowing l7,000 power plants to create more pollution. They are opening public lands to exploitation. They're even trying to conceal threats to public health: Just look at the stories this past week about how the White House pressured the EPA not to tell the public about the toxic materials that were released by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.
But, of course pure politics also factors in:
It's payback time for their rich donors. In the 2000 elections, the Republicans outspent the Democrats by $200 million. Bush and Cheney -- who, needless to say, are oilmen who made their fortunes in the energy business -- received over $44 million from the oil, gas, and energy industries. It spills over into Congress too: In the 2002 congressional elections, Republican candidates received almost $15 million from the energy industries, while the Democrats got around $3.7 million. In our democracy, voters can vote but donors decide.
The problem is that they're so good at it. Unlike the public bluster of Ronald Reagan's James Watt, these guys know that results are more important than rhetoric -- unless the rhetoric is used to lull the American people into believing that all is well:
They learned a big lesson from the Watt era. Not to inflame the situation. Use stealth. If you corrupt the language and talk a good line even as you are doing the very opposite, you won't awaken the public. Gale Norton will be purring like a kitten when she's cutting down the last redwood in the forest with a buzz saw.
But all is (hopefully) not lost. Moyers leaves us with a small bit of inspiration:
I once asked a friend on Wall Street about the market. "I'm optimistic," he said. "Then why do you look so worried?" I asked. And he answered: "Because I'm not sure my optimism is justified." I feel that way. But I don't know how to be in the world except to expect a confident future and then get up every morning and try in some way to bring it about.
Well, we may not all be Bill Moyers or have his acess to the media, but if we all "expect a confident future and then get up every morning and try in some way to bring it about," maybe we can start to turn this ship.

-- This is Pollyana Barab, signing off.