Dear Umbra,

I got into a long debate with a conservative friend recently about how President Bush has shown that he does not have environmental interests at heart. But I did not have any facts on hand about detrimental policies or budget cuts. On the other hand, my friend was able to go to the EPA website and show me a list of initiatives and results. There must be some reason environmentalists feel that Bush is not Mother Nature’s friend, but finding facts to back that up, not just liberal hype, is difficult. Is there cause to think Bush is good for the environment, but the media just doesn’t portray it?

Alani Taylor
Athens, Ga.

Dearest Alani,

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Um, next question?

To be fair, no administration has been fabulous. Bush may believe his actions are good for the environment in the long run (debated point). But as others point out, if ecological interests were a priority, the administration would be strengthening and expanding existing environmental policies that have proven track records. It is not. So while it’s possible that we will look back in 50 years and be surprised to see improvements — the air has gotten cleaner, water safer, species diverser (new coinage!), and global warming stopped — anyone who actually cares about these things would rather be sure now than surprised later.

What’s the deal?

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Photo: iStockphoto.

Don’t fall for your friend’s tricks. Firstly, the EPA is a federal government agency. It’s filled with many hardworking environmentalists (our hearts go out to them), but at the end of the day, of course, EPA propaganda boosts the administration’s “achievements.” Secondly, resources that critique the gummint are not simply “liberal hype,” a term created and promulgated by the right in an effective war of words. A few places to bone up on politics: Grist‘s own Muckraker, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Cooperative Research, where an open-content file on Bush’s record is managed by the League of Conservation Voters.

The LCV each year publishes a national voting scorecard, where you can see last year’s major congressional actions affecting the environment and find your Georgia delegation’s score (Sen. Saxby Chambliss got a big fat goose egg). NRDC, LCV, and Grist are nongovernmental organizations that focus on environmental concerns — concerns that are neither liberal nor conservative, but shared across the political spectrum.

The best way to keep tabs on what politicians are doing on the environment is to read the news regularly. I know it can be hard to sift through the missing-dog stories to find relevant and educational environmental news — but hey, that’s what Daily Grist is for. If you spend an hour on the sites I’ve suggested, and keep somewhat abreast of news as it comes along, you’ll develop your own opinion about Bush and his policies that will have little to do with my hot air or that of your friend. Only you know if you are a hyped-up liberal. (I am, but I’m the one part of Grist allowed to escape objectivity. Whoopee!)