Customer Reviews: Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 19, 2004
I tend to go along with Republicans on quite a few issues but I definitely part company with them on the environment. If you listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Just go ahead and live your life and do whatever you want and to hell with everyone else. In "Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress" Carl Pope who is Executive Director of the Sierra Club has written a very convincing and well documented book that portrays George W. Bush as perhaps the most anti-environmental President in our history. He points out that the Bush administration will use every means available to short circuit environmental programs and regulations. Are you aware that the Superfund that was created by Congress two decades ago to clean up toxic waste sites has all but been eliminated? Perhaps you do not know that various officials in this administration are trying to privatize the National Parks! And would it upset you that the Bush administration supports policies that encourage the building of gas guzzing vehicles while at the same time cutting R&D on hybrid vehicles that if mass produced would significantly cut our dependence on foreign oil?

Carl Pope introduces us to the key players in the administration and sheds light on how they go about their business. Most of them come from the very industries they are supposed to be regulating! Given his position at the Sierra Club, Pope clearly has an agenda and ordinarily I might dismiss much of what he has to say. But I found his arguments to be for the most part quite sound and as such I would recommend "Strategic Ignorance" to anyone interested in environmental issues.
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on April 29, 2004
This detailed, and highly readable, account of the Bush administration's predation's on our nation's natural resources will leave you incredulous -- until you see the pages and pages of citations at the end. It's amazing that more people don't realize what's going on, and one can only hope that this book will open some eyes.
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Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club and his co-author Paul Rauber is a senior editor at Sierra Magazine. Their prose is direct, clear and hard-hitting, and their book is a devastating indictment of the Bush administration's environmental polices.

Exhibit #1 is the big lie. As Pope and Rauber put it, the Bush administration's strategy is to "Say one thing, do another" and "Never admit what you're up to. Rather, assert the opposite repeatedly and despite all available evidence." (p. 24) The interesting thing about this is, what could be more authoritarian and anti-democratic?

Bush's so-called "Clear Skies" proposal, which is aimed at circumventing the Clean Air Act, is an excellent example of the big lie and of the Orwellian doublethink employed by Bush's people. The authors quote Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords as saying, "The President says one thing, but does another...With a straight face he talks about protecting resources for our children--even as he abandons the federal protection of land and air and water as fast as he can. Does he think we don't notice?" (p. 78)

Actually we don't, most of us anyway. It very hard for most people to believe that the President can call for "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" while deliberately fostering the opposite. Yet, that is exactly what Bush does as this book so clearly and overwhelming demonstrates. The question might be why? Don't the people in the Bush administration love their children too?

Strange as it may seem the faith-based logic of the administration has Higher goals. It believes first that it is essential to reduce the size and effectiveness of government. Bush wants to make government less popular by making it less effective (see Chapter 13). But more than this is an underlining rationale that simultaneously desires a return to a social Darwinian ethos while believing that the Second Coming will make all of this irrelevant anyway. Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt, who would fit nicely into the Bush administration except for his candid expression, put it like this when asked if it might not be wise to save something for future generations: "I don't know how many future generations we can count on until the Lord returns." (p. 25)

Meanwhile, no more "nanny state." Let's bring back the "social Darwinian notion of the struggle for existence as 'red in tooth and claw.'" Only "this time...the predators" will be "ruthless corporations, not carnivores." Let's "Stop coddling the public. Only wimps and trial lawyers worry about parts per million." (p. 23) Indeed, there is the idea that winning is its own justification, even if you cheat to win, and the devil take the hindmost.

Consequently it is not greed alone that is powering the Bush pollution machine. It is instead a kind of spiritual arrogance that allows the employment of a deliberate strategy of ignorance, as the authors see it, a strategy that allows Bush to reward polluters and others who desecrate America, without qualm, all in the name of a new sort of laissez faire mentality combined with a belief that this earth, this country and our lives are just stopping places on the way to the coming rapture. With this kind of mentality it doesn't matter what science says. The studies are really irrelevant. Junk science is as good as real science; indeed, the only science that matters is the science that agrees with the polluters.

Pope and Rauber detail in sharp focus how the Bush administration has perverted the scientific method and in effect substituted false rhetoric and lies for scientific experiment. But it is not enough to allow the contamination of our country by big corporations. It is also necessary that laws be passed that protect those corporations from being sued by people who may be harmed by their pollution. Therefore it is a top priority this year for the White House to see that laws are passed limiting the ability of citizens to sue those who pollute or otherwise harm them.

In addition to the indictment, the authors present a way to reclaim America's future as outlined in Chapter 15. Clearly at the top of the list of how to save America is to ENFORCE the Clean Air Act! The authors also want the Superfund tax restored so that polluters will have to pay for their own clean-ups instead of putting the burden on taxpayers. This is included in the "Ten Commonsense Solutions for the Next Twenty Years" that they present beginning on page 228.

To the commonsense solutions I would offer this: we need more journalists trained in environmental concerns and publishers who are not afraid to actually report what the administration is doing. If a wider public actually knew the extent of the despoiling of America being undertaken by George W. and friends, they would cry out long and loud and maybe something could be done about it. The authors offer, in an appalling Appendix beginning on page 241, a list of what Bush has done to the environment since taking office in 2001.

Messrs. Pope and Rauber are to be commended for their work in trying to counteract the horrors committed by the Bush administration, and Sierra Club Books and the University of California Press are to complimented on helping to produce such an outstanding and extremely important book.

And yes, rivers should NOT catch fire, nor should those who drop their waste on the rest of us get away with it.
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on April 29, 2004
The authors show that the Bush administration is not just threatining the environment and health, but also science and even democracy. While promoting freedom overseas, the Bushies are taking it away at home by making secret deals, and taking away people's right to sue and influence legislation. They also show that far from having new ideas on how to solve environmental problems, the administration is returning to the bad old days of the robber-barrons and social Darwinism.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 13, 2004
There are plenty of recent books exposing the ethical crises of the Bush administration. This one by Pope and Rauber focuses on the Bush environmental record, and you shouldn't be surprised that there is enough on that subject to fill an entire book. Here we find that the modern neoconservative anti-environmentalism is not just an offshoot of the administration's megalomania for corporate profiteering and campaign contributions, but also the result of unyielding and extremist ideology. This hard conservatism, cloaked under dishonest claims of compassion and populism, indicates a sheer hatred for nature by our current leaders that would be insulting if it wasn't so worrisome for our national heritage.
Pope and Rauber show convincingly that corporate cronyism has given us anemic enforcement of existing regulations, at the whim of campaign contributors, as well as an across-the-board assault on environmental protections of any kind and a complete contempt for the interests of the American public. Pope and Rauber then examine the hard-right ideology of Bush and his neoconservative pals, which has led to some downright absurd actions against the environment. These include actually trying to increase the trade in endangered species (which would have miniscule impact on the American economy, but is a triumph of ideology over common sense), plus ordering the US military to stop its voluntary efforts toward environmental protection, or cracking down on states who are trying to enforce protections stronger than those of the Feds (this from an administration concerned about states' rights).
Pope and Rauber carry out a very strong investigation here, backed up solidly by journalistic sources and interviews. The investigation also gives the reader a few bonuses, like some detective work into Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, and a debunking of many of the claims for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I must complain a bit about the rather thin and idealistic "solutions" chapter that wraps up the investigation, but the appendix that closes the book, giving a chronology of the administration's assault on environmental law and policy, is truly disturbing in its sheer size and frequency. Pope and Rauber find that our administration, in its attempts to discredit all opposing realms of political thought, is dealing in an absurd hatred of nature that is completely lacking in common sense, not to mention any concern for the wishes of the people or the health of humanity.(...)
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on June 15, 2004
I'd thought the worst of it was that the Bushwhackwers intended to undo the New Deal era. But there's more, as this work documents: they want to scotch the entire environmental legacy beginning with T. Roosevelt's pioneering conservation activism, and his challenge to the Social Darwinism of the age of the robber barons and laissez faire. And why are we not all fired up? Because dubious Dubya is a brazen liar/manipulator, along with his media crew, and all the slogans are designed to paralyze the public long enough to get the stealth jobs done. The number of rollbacks on the environment listed in this book is staggering, plus other record breaking audacities, like suppressing the environmental reports of the 9/11 aftermath.
The author has a good epitaph for this presidency: laissez faire (caveat emptor) as to regulation, now, in the death throes of the Clean Air Act, laissez spiror, let the breather beware. What's a little asthma in a million children. It's the economy, Dubya.
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on June 14, 2004
This book is both painful to read and impossible to put down.
Painful because the authors carefully document revelations about the horrors that the Bush administration is visiting upon this country. Impossible to put down because they have somehow managed to break this material down into entertaining and well-written bite-size pieces.
This is one of those rare books that has you walking around ranting at everyone you know that they absolutely must read it.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 24, 2006
Pope believes Bush has done his best to turn back the clock a full century on environmental progress. A prime mechanism for accomplishing this is through misleading verbiage - eg. "Healthy Forests" for logging, suppressing evidence on global warming, a "Clean Air" act that allows increased pollution, etc.

On the other hand, "Strategic Ignorance" is weak on specifics and documenting some of its points. For example, it criticizes renaming radioactive nuclear waste as "incidental waste," but doesn't tell us how radioactive the reclassified substances are. (There are several classes of nuclear waste, ranging from extremely dangerous to very mild.) It also claims, probably correctly, that there need be no tradeoff between auto-safety and fuel economy - especially when both vehicles are considered. However, specific data are not presented. A third example is that condemning the administration's recalculating the value of human life for use in cost/benefit analyses - yet, if done logically this offers a major tool in prioritizing regulatory focus. ("Strategic Ignorance" did not offer any evidence that the new calculations were in error.)

Recommendations include increasing auto fuel economy requirements, greater use of solar and wind energy, installing modern air pollution controls on older electric plants, restoring the Superfund tax, more controlled burns in the forests, and supporting the Kyoto objectives.

Bottom Line: Evidence from other areas (eg. Iraq, Katrina, tax breaks) suggest that "Strategic Ignorance" probably is close to being "on the money." However, it does not do a very good job of quantifying what is going on.
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on July 26, 2004
It seems that if nothing else, you have to give George W. good marks for having the ability to get what he wants through congress. (I remember Clinton holding up the Universal Health Care card, of which nothing happened.) In this book, the executive directer of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope says that Dubya is fundamentally altering the basic equation governing environmental protection in the United States. The range of changes to the environmental laws and regulations is emmense: including Clean Air Act, endangered species, selling public lands, polluting industries writing their own regulations.

This book is a report on the ways the president has not exactly changed the laws, but how their enforcement has been on the side of business, and perhaps on economic growth - but this is questionable. It attempts to explain the why George W. has made the decisions he has (It comes down to protecting his electoral base), and more important, how the people appointed by Bush to critical positions within the Government have come from the industries that they now oversee.

It seems that books are the environmentalists answer to the conservative dominated talk radio. Does this say that perhaps liberals are more literate?

Only after books like this come out can you begin to understand what happened within a Presidency. It makes interesting reading.
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on March 14, 2006
This book reveals a lot of facts most American's have missed. Why are policies that will determine Earth's future habitability Faith Based rather than Science Based? Why is the potential for clean safe nuclear power tied up with the future of leaky old plants that nearly destroyed Toledo? What companies and administration investments benefit from denying the realities of global warming?
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