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The Planet
Getting the Word Out

What Your President Won’t Tell You and Your Neighbors Need to Know

OK, pop quiz.

First question: What did the Bush administration do to weaken the Clean Air Act earlier this year? The San Francisco Chronicle called it the "most damaging rollback in its 30-year history."

Yeah, you, in the corner, from Maine.

Right. Bush allowed old polluting factories and refineries to expand without installing modern pollution-control technology. The rest of you, you knew that, right? Or sort of knew it.

Second question: The Bush administration has weakened wildland protection in several ways.
Name one.

Over there, in the back, from Oregon.

OK, good. He weakened the roadless initiative that former President Clinton signed by giving governors the chance to exempt forests in their states. How many of the rest of you knew that? Raise your hands. Good. Most of you.

So here’s the problem. You know these things, but most Americans don’t.

President Bush has been roundly criticized for his attacks on environmental protection on newspaper editorial pages, but amazingly he’s managed to fly under the public’s radar for most of this. The administration makes its onerous announcements on Friday afternoon when media coverage is lightest. Bush stands in front of national parks for the TV cameras and speaks soothing words. He calls his weakening of clean air laws "Clear Skies" and he calls his plan to increase logging on public lands "Healthy Forests."

Our challenge is to communicate what we know to friends and neighbors and family who don’t.

That’s what Sierra Club members in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania were doing in late October—going door to door in Concord, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Organizers in other states are planning similar outreach activities.

Before the Concord community walk, Kathy Harper, from Keene, New Hampshire, told the 200 people assembled that ""two months ago I had never done anything with the Sierra Club. I’d been a member off and on for 20 years, but all I was doing was reading the magazine. When I got a phone call from the Sierra Club, I felt I had to get involved. I got out into the community, started talking to my neighbors, and it was really fun."

Important, too. Polls continue to show that people care about the environment. An October Newsweek poll found that for 55 percent adult respondents, the environment was "very important" in determining their vote in next year’s presidential election—33 percent said it was "somewhat important."

We need your help to get the word out so Americans who care about the environment know what the Bush administration is doing to endanger it. Maybe you can write a letter to the editor. Talk to your friends and family. Contact your local chapter.

To help you keep tabs on latest misdeeds of the Bush administration and fuel your outrage, the Sierra Club is launching a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter called "Raw—the Uncooked Facts of the Bush Assault on the Environment." To sign up for it, go to sierraclub.org/raw. And don’t forget to forward your favorites to your friends and neighbors.

— John Byrne Barry

john.barry@sierraclub.org


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