Inconvenient truths about Gore


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Inconvenient truths about the environmental crisis

Mitchel Cohen
24 February 2007

Al Gore¹s film, An Inconvenient Truth, raises the issue of global warming in a 
way that scares the bejeezus out of viewers, as it should since the consequences
of global climate change are truly earth-shaking. The former vice-president does
a good job of presenting the graphic evidence: exquisite and terrifying pictures
that document the melting of the polar ice caps and the effects on other 
species, new diseases and rising ocean levels.

But the solutions Gore offers are standard US Democratic Party fare. You¹d never
know by watching this film that Gore and Bill Clinton ran the US for eight years
and that their policies ‹ as much as those of the Bush regime ‹ helped pave the 
way for the crisis we face today.

Gore never critiques the system causing the global ecological crisis. At one 
point, he even mourns the negative impact of global warming on US oil pipelines!
What it comes down to, for Gore and the Democrats, is that we need to shift away
from reliance on fossil fuels and tweak existing consumption patterns. Even 
there, Gore and Clinton did nothing to improve fuel efficiency in the US, a 
topic which Gore talks about in the movie without any hint that he¹d once 
actually been in a position to do something about it.

The question Gore poses is: who can best manage the relatively minor solutions 
he recommends, the Democrats or Republicans? For Gore, it¹s ³trust US, not them,
to deal with this situation because they are liars and we¹re not².

Well, should we trust him?

As Joshua Frank wrote in the May 31, 2006, Counterpunch, during the campaign for
president in 1992 Gore promised a group of supporters that the Clinton-Gore 
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) would never approve a hazardous waste 
incinerator located near an elementary school in Liverpool, Ohio, which was 
operated by WTI (Wineman Technology Inc).

³Only three months into Clinton¹s tenure², Frank wrote, ³the EPA issued an 
operating permit for the toxic burner. Gore raised no qualms. Not surprisingly, 
most of the money behind WTI came from the bulging pockets of Jackson Stephens, 
who just happened to be one of the Clinton-Gore¹s top campaign contributors.²

But failing to shut down toxic incinerators is just the tip of their great 
betrayal. In the film, Gore references the Kyoto accords and states that he 
personally went to Kyoto during the negotiations, giving the impression that he 
was a key figure in fighting to reduce air pollution emissions that destroy the 
ozone layer. What he omits is that his mission in going to Kyoto was to scuttle 
the accords, to block them from moving forward. And he succeeded.

Environmentally friendly?

The Clinton-Gore years were anything but environment-friendly. Under 
Clinton-Gore, more old growth forests were cut down than under any other recent 
US administration. ³Wise Use² committees ‹ set up by the timber industry ‹ were 
permitted to clear-cut whole mountain ranges, while Clinton-Gore helped to 
³greenwash² their activities for public consumption.

Under Clinton-Gore, the biotech industry was given carte blanche to write the US
government¹s regulations (paltry as they are) on genetic engineering of 
agriculture, and to move full speed ahead with implementing the private 
patenting of genetic sequences with nary a qualm passing Gore¹s lips.

You¹d think watching this film that Gore is just some concerned professor who 
never had access to power or held hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in 
Occidental Petroleum (driving the U¹wa people off their lands in Colombia), let 
alone was the number two man actually running the US government!

³Gore, like Clinton who quipped that Œthe invisible hand has a green thumb¹, 
extolled a free-market attitude toward environmental issues², wrote Frank, who 
goes on to quote Jeffrey St. Clair (Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to 
Me: The Politics of Nature, Common Courage Press, 2004): ³Since the mid-1980s 
Gore has argued with increasing stridency that the bracing forces of market 
capitalism are potent curatives for the ecological entropy now bearing down on 
the global environment. He is a passionate disciple of the gospel of efficiency,
suffused with an inchoate technophilia.²

Before Kyoto, before the Clinton-Gore massive depleted uranium bombings of 
Yugoslavia and Iraq, before their missile ³deconstruction² of the only existing 
pharmaceutical production facility in northern Africa in the Sudan (which 
exacerbated the very serious problems there, as we¹re seeing in Darfur today), 
there was NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The task of Clinton-Gore was to push through this legislation, which not even 
strong Republican administrations under Ronald Reagan or Bush Sr. had been able 
to do. Since its inception, NAFTA has undermined US environmental laws, chased 
production facilities out of the US and across the borders, vastly increased 
pollution from maquilladoras (enterprise zones) along the US-Mexico border and 
helped to undermine the indigenous sustainable agrarian-based communities in 
southern Mexico ‹ as predicted by leftists in both countries, leading to the 
Zapatista uprising from those communities on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA went
into effect.

Clinton-Gore also approved the destructive deal with the sugar barons of south 
Florida arranged by interior secretary Bruce Babbitt, which doomed the 

Early in Clinton-Gore¹s first administration, they pledged they would stop the 
plunder of the northwest forests, wrote former Village Voice columnist James 
Ridgeway in August 2000. ³They then double-crossed their environmental backers. 
Under Bush Sr., the courts had enjoined logging in the Northwest habitats of the
spotted owl. Clinton-Gore persuaded environmentalists to join them in axing the 
injunction. The Clinton administration went before a Reagan-appointed judge who 
had a record as a stalwart environmentalist and with the eco toadies in tow, got
him to remove the injunction, and with it the moratorium on existing timber 

Then, explains Frank, the Gore and Clinton administration ³capitulated to the 
demands of Western Democrats and yanked from its initial budget proposals a call
to reform grazing, mining and timber practices on federal lands. When Clinton 
convened a timber summit in Portland, Oregon, in April 1994, the conference was,
as one might expect, dominated by logging interests. Predictably, the summit 
gave way to a plan to restart clear-cutting in the ancient forests of the 
Pacific Northwest for the first time in three years, giving the timber industry 
its get rich wish.²

Gore and Clinton sent to Congress the infamous Salvage Rider, known to radical 
environmentalists as the ³Logging without Laws² bill, which Frank described as 
³perhaps the most gruesome legislation ever enacted under the pretext of 
preserving ecosystem health². Like Bush¹s ³Healthy Forests² plan, the 
Clinton-Gore act ³was chock full of deception and special interest pandering².

³ŒWhen [the Salvage Rider] bill was given to me, I was told that the timber 
industry was circulating this language among the Northwest Congressional 
delegation and others to try to get it attached as a rider to the fiscal year 
Interior Spending Bill¹, environmental lawyer Kevin Kirchner said. ŒThere is no 
question that representatives of the timber industry had a role in promoting 
this rider. That is no secret.¹²

What the Salvage Rider did was to ³temporarily exempt Š salvage timber sales on 
federal forest lands from environmental and wildlife laws, administrative 
appeals, and judicial review², according to the Wilderness Society, long enough 
for multinational lumber and paper corporations to clear-cut all but a sliver of
the US¹s remaining old growth forests.

Frank wrote: ³Thousands of acres of healthy forestland across the West were 
rampaged. More than 4000 acres of Washington¹s Colville National Forest was 
clear cut. Thousands more in Montana¹s Yak River Basin, hundreds of acres of 
pristine forest land in Idaho, while the endangered Mexican Spotted Owl habitat 
in Arizona fell victim to corporate interests. Old growth trees in Washington¹s 
majestic Olympic Peninsula ‹ home to wild Steelhead, endangered Sockeye salmon, 
and threatened Marbled Murrieta ‹ were chopped with unremitting provocation by 
the US Forest Service.²

Special interests

The assault on nature continued with Gore¹s blessing.

Around the same time, Clinton-Gore appointee Carol Browner, head of the EPA, was
quoted in the New York Times as having said that the administration would be 
³relaxing² the Delaney Clause (named after its author, James Delaney, a 
Democratic member of Congress for New York).

Congress had inserted this clause into section 409 of the federal Food, Drug and
Cosmetic Act in 1958. It prohibited Food and Drug Administration approval of any
food additive found to cause cancer in humans or animals. Alone among all 
food-related directives, this legislation put the onus on the manufacturers to 
demonstrate that their products were safe before they were allowed to become 
commercially available.

A federal appeals court in July 1992 expanded the jurisdiction of the Delaney 
Clause, ruling that it was applicable to cancer-causing pesticides in processed 
food. Browner retracted her comment, claiming she¹d never said it, but the proof
was in the pudding. The ban on cancer-causing additives (the ³Precautionary 
Principle²) that had held through the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford,
Reagan and Bush senior administrations was finally removed, not by the 
Republicans but by the Clinton-Gore administration.

Instead of expanding the Delaney clause to protect produce and other unprocessed
foods, the new Food Quality Protection Act legislation permitted ³safe² amounts 
of carcinogenic chemicals (as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency)
to be added to all food. (According to Peter Montague, editor of Rachel¹s 
Weekly, no-one knows how ³safe amounts² of carcinogens can be established, 
especially ³when several carcinogens and other poisons are added simultaneously 
to the food of tens of millions of people².) Nevertheless, the Clinton-Gore 
administration spun this as ³progress².

The Clinton administration, with guidance from Gore¹s office, also cut numerous 
deals over the pesticide methyl bromide, despite its reported effects of 
contributing to ozone depletion and its devastating health consequences on farm 
workers picking strawberries.

Much is being made these days about the need to save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
But Clinton-Gore opened the National Petroleum Reserve ‹ 24 million untouched 
acres adjacent to the refuge, home to a large caribou herd and numerous arctic 
species ‹ to oil drilling.

The chief beneficiary of this was Arco, a major ($1.4 million) contributor to 
the Democratic Party. At the same time, wrote James Ridgeway, ³Clinton dropped 
the ban on selling Alaskan oil abroad. This also benefits Arco, which is opening
refineries in China. So although the oil companies won the right to exploit 
Alaskan oil on grounds that to do so would benefit national development, 
Clinton-Gore unilaterally changed the agreement so that it benefits China¹s 
industrial growth.²

Not once in the entire film does Gore criticise this awful environmental record 
or raise the critical questions we need to answer if we are to effectively 
reverse global warming: Is it really the case that the vast destruction of our 
environment that went on under his watch and, continuing today, is simply a 
result of poor consumer choices and ineffective government policies? Is the 
global environmental devastation we are facing today rectifiable with some 
simple tuning-up, as Gore proposes?

Neither he ‹ as point man for the Clinton administration on environmental issues
‹ nor Clinton-Gore¹s energy secretary Bill Richardson (with major ties to 
Occidental Petroleum), nor the Democratic Party in general offer anything more 
than putting a tiny band-aid on the Earth¹s gaping wounds, which they themselves
helped to gash open.

Clearly, the vast destruction of the global ecology is a consequence not just of
poor governmental policies but of the capitalist system¹s fundamental drive 
towards growth and what passes for development. Environmental activists won¹t 
find in Gore the kind of systemic analysis that is needed to stop global 
warming. Instead, we need to look elsewhere for that sort of deep systemic 

[Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Greens Party in Brooklyn, US. He can be 
contacted at <•••@••.•••>.]

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #700 28 February 2007.

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