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Obama and Environmentalists
Protest at Mt. Rushmore
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July 17, 2009

"[President Bush's environmental record] is a low standard to measure President Obama by. [...] His benchmarks and measurements need to be: Is he leading the world and this country using the bully pulpit of the presidency to lead this country to make the reductions necessary to solve this problem?" --Erich Pica
President Obama has just made his climate change debut on two fronts — with public statements at the G8 Summit and with his support for "The American Clean Energy and Security Act" (Waxman-Markey Bill) which just passed in the House. The administration's leadership on climate change has divided the green community. Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth oppose the newly-passed House legislation. The Sierra Club and The Natural Resources Defense Council support it.

But as the Pew Center for Global Climate Change notes pragmatically in its analysis, "no bill is perfect," and shows that advocates on all sides have made a few too many generalizations about the bill. The group lays out "Eight Myths about the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill."

Bill Moyers talked with Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth and Mary Sweeters of Greenpeace USA about why they oppose the legislation in its current form and are calling on President Obama to change tack. Erich Pica lists among the faults of the legislation: "One, the bill doesn't reduce global warming emissions in the United States fast enough. Two, it strips away the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions [...] Three, it gives away a tremendous amount of money — hundreds of billions of dollars — to the polluting industries that have, essentially, caused the problem of global warming [...] Four, and this is kind of overwhelming the entire system, is that it relies on Wall Street to help solve the problem of global warming."

Sierra Club President Carl Pope, while acknowledging there are aspects of the bill he'd like to see strengthened suggests that it's a big step in the right direction. "The Waxman-Markey draft bill is a strong start....Passing a comprehensive clean energy bill that holds polluters accountable for their global warming pollution will fuel innovation, revitalize our economy with millions of new green jobs, and move America toward energy independence. This bill combines the right mix of policies and the long-term vision necessary to build the green economy that will pull us out of the current economic crisis."

Discover a wide range of views from the resources listed below and tell us what you think on The Moyers Blog.

Erich Pica
Photo by Robin Holland

Erich Pica is the director of domestic programs at Friends of the Earth, having previously served as the organization's director of economic programs. He has co-authored the "Green Scissors Report," "Trails Of Destruction" and "Running On Empty" (PDF). In the political arena, Erich has worked both in the field and within the confines of the US Senate. Erich acted as a field organizer in the state of Michigan, coordinating local activities with advance staff during the 1996 Presidential Campaign. He has also worked on Capitol Hill with the offices of US Senator Carl Levin, where he was responsible for researching and analyzing legislation on environmental issues. Erich has extensive experience in the field of environmental planning, having worked on several environmental planning boards in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Mary Sweeters
Photo by Robin Holland Mary Sweeters started working with Greenpeace USA in September 2007 as a field organizer in Michigan. She moved into her current role managing field organizers in March 2008 and currently works with a team of organizers across the country to make global warming a top priority for Congress and the Obama Administration. Prior to her work with Greenpeace USA, Mary was a campus organizer from 2005 to 2007 with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and canvass director for the Fund for Public Interest Research, training students to organize at the grassroots level on social and environmental issues and directing fundraising offices for environmental campaigns.

Guest photos by Robin Holland.
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Dissident voices from Thomas Paine to Ralph Nader.

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The 2006 film IS GOD GREEN? documented the debate among evangelical Christians over the environment. (October 11, 2006)

References and Reading:
The White House: Energy and Environment
President Obama's policies on energy and environment. Guiding principles: "To take this country in a new direction, the President is working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to protect our nation from the serious economic and strategic risks associated with our reliance on foreign oil and the destabilizing effects of a changing climate."

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (Waxman-Markey Bill)
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change frequent updates the status of the bill, provides summaries, and notes voting records.

Environmental Reporting

"Obama veers from Bush's environmental course," Traci Watson, USATODAY, March 9, 2009.
A 100 days evaluation of President Obama's environmental agenda and accomplishments.

"A look at Barack Obama’s environmental platform and record,"'s look at the pre-presidential environmental records of Barack Obama.

Green, Inc.
THE NEW YORK TIMES' blog on "Energy, "Environment and The Bottom Line."

"Waxman-Markey Bill: What’s Next for Global Climate Deal?"
Keith Johnson, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 22, 2009.

"Morning Bell: Waxman-Markey an Energy Tax That Doesn't Work,"
The Foundry blog from The Heritage Foundation, June 26th, 2009.

"Does NASA's James Hansen Still Matter in Climate Debate?"
Christa Marshall, THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 14, 2009.

"Lines in the Sand,"
ECONOMIST, July 13th 2009.
THE ECONOMIST evaluates the G8's pronouncements on global warming: "Climate change could ignite wars in volatile regions."

"Green Ink: Obama's Climate Change Debut,"
Keith Johnson, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, July8, 2009.
The JOURNAL blog notes: "The U.S. faces lots of skepticism from environmentalists and Europeans over the strength of its commitment to tackling climate change—especially when it comes to near-term targets.""

Environmental Groups

Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental advocacy group with four main goals: (1) Stabilizing the Earth's climate, (2) Safeguarding the world's oceans, (3) Protecting human health, and (4) Defending and restoring biodiversity.

Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth list among its accomplishments on its Web site: eliminated billions in taxpayer subsidies to corporate polluters; reformed the World Bank to address environmental and human rights concerns; and stopped over 150 destructive dams and water projects worldwide; pressed and won landmark regulations of strip mines and oil tankers; banned international whaling.

Founded in 1971, the environmental activist organization is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and has 2.8 million supporters worldwide, and national as well as regional offices in 41 countries. You can read their policy statement about the Mt. Rushmore action here.

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The NRDC combines the grassroots power of 1.2 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation is the official nonprofit partner of the Forest Service. The group creates community-based and national programs that promote the health and public enjoyment of the National Forest System. The NFF also administer private gifts of funds and land for the benefit of the National Forests.

National Parks and Conservation Association
Established in 1919, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is the only private, nonprofit, advocacy organization dedicated to educating the public about our national parks and protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System.

Sierra Club
The Sierra Club works to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources, educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment, and use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

Wilderness Society
Founded in 1935, the Wilderness Society is one of the most vocal advocates for wilderness advocacy. Its former president, Howard Zahniser, was one of the authors of the original Wilderness Act. Today the non-profit group is lobbying against changes to the roadless rule and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Global Warming

Climate Change Science Program
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program integrates federal research on climate and global change, as sponsored by thirteen federal agencies and overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget. The Bush administration's August 2004 report to Congress can be found on the site.

Climate Choices
A project of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Climate Choices focuses on California's future, and positions the state as a test case for exploring the impacts of climate change, noting that "emission reductions in California could help lead our nation to transition to more sustainable energy, vehicle, and land-use polices, ultimately affecting a significant percentage of world heat-trapping gas emissions." The site offers details on some of the "innovative solutions" that address global warming.

EPA's Global Warming Site
The EPA's site gathers information on climate, emissions, impacts, actions, and news on the topic of global warming. The site features a section on what individuals can do to make a difference.

Global Warming
This web site is a project of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a sub-group of the National Consumer Coalition. According to the site, "The Cooler Heads Coalition was formed in 1997 to dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis. Coalition members will also follow the progress of the international Global Climate Change Treaty negotiations." The group is part of Consumer Alert — "a national, non-profit membership organization for people concerned about excessive growth of government regulation at the national and state levels."

Heartland Institute Publications
The research and outreach organization views its mission as promoting "common-sense environmentalism." The Institute presents many articles critical of the idea of global warming.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC is the most authoritative source for statistics and figures on climate change. Visit this site to view the latest assessment reports, press releases, and graphics.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association answers frequently asked questions about global warming.

Pew Center on Global Climate Change
This nonprofit organization is "dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change." It provides information on the science behind climate change, the potential consequences of it, a glossary of relevant terms, and other valuable material.

U.S. Global Change Research Program
This site brings together information about federally funded research on global warming, changing ecosystems, the carbon cycle, the water cycle, and much more. It contains links to hundreds of U.S. and international science organizations.

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