Gore's 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, typically, the solutions Gore
offers are standard Democratic Party fare. You'd never know by
watching this film that Gore and Clinton ran this country 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. Oh, the horror! What it all 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 he'd 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, it's
sort of "trust US, not THEM, to deal with this situation because they
are liars and we're not." Well, should we trust him?
As Joshua Frank writes, during the campaign for president in 1992 Gore
promised a group of supporters that the Clinton-Gore EPA would
never approve a hazardous waste incinerator located near an elementary
school in Liverpool, Ohio, which was operated by WTI. "Only three
months into Clinton's tenure," Frank writes, "the 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-Gore's top campaign contributors." (1)
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.
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. "Wise Use" committees -- set up by the
lumber industry -- were permitted to clearcut whole mountain ranges,
while Clinton-Gore helped to "greenwash" their activities for public
Under Clinton-Gore, the biotech industry was given carte blanche to
write the US government's 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 Gore's lips.
You'd 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 U'wa off
their lands in Colombia), let alone was the Number Two man actually
running the US government!
"Gore, like Clinton who quipped that 'the invisible hand has a green
thumb,' extolled a free-market attitude toward environmental issues,"
writes Frank, who goes on to quote Jeffrey St. Clair: "Since 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
Before Kyoto, before the Clinton-Gore massive depleted uranium
bombings of Yugoslavia and Iraq, before their missile "deconstruction"
of the only existing pharmaceutical production facility in northern
Africa in the Sudan (which exacerbated the very serious problems
there, as we're 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 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 Maquiladoras (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 Everglades. (In fact, Clinton was on the phone with Alfonso
Fanjul, Jr., the chief of the sugar barons, while Monica Lewinsky was
busy doing her thing in her famous blue dress under Clinton's desk.)
Early in Clinton-Gore's first administration, they pledged they would
stop the plunder of the Northwest forests, writes former Village
Voice columnist James Ridgeway. "They 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 sales." (3) Then Gore and Clinton "capitulated
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." (4)
Gore and Clinton sent to Congress the infamous Salvage Rider, known to
radical environmentalists as the "Logging without Laws" bill, "perhaps
the most gruesome legislation ever enacted under the pretext of
preserving ecosystem health." Like Bush's "Healthy Forests" plan, the
Clinton-Gore act "was chock full of deception and special interest
pandering. 'When [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 Bill,'
environmental lawyer Kevin Kirchner says. 'There is no question that
representatives of the timber industry had a role in promoting this
rider. That is no secret.'" (5) What the Salvage
Rider did was to "temporarily exempt ... salvage timber sales on
federal forest lands from environmental and wildlife laws,
administrative appeals, and judicial review," according to the
Wilderness Society -- long enough for multinational lumber and paper
corporations to clear-cut all but a sliver of the US's remaining old
"Thousands of acres of healthy forestland across the West were
rampaged. Washington's Colville National Forest saw the clear cutting
of over 4,000 acres. Thousands more in Montana's 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 Washington's majestic Olympic
Peninsula -- home to wild Steelhead, endangered Sockeye salmon, and
threatened Marbled Murrieta -- were chopped with unremitting
provocation by the US Forest Service." (6)
The assault on nature continued with Gore's blessing.
Around the same time, Clinton-Gore appointee Carol Browner, head of
the EPA, was quoted in the NY Times as having said that the
administration would be "relaxing" the Delaney Clause (named after its
author, Congressman James Delaney, D-NY). Congress had inserted this
clause into section 409 of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in
1958. It prohibited FDA 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. (7) 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 she'd never
said it, but the proof was in the pudding. The ban on cancer-causing
additives (the "Precautionary Principle") that had held through the
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.
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 "safe" amounts of
carcinogenic chemicals (as designated by the Environmental Protection
Agency) to be added to all food. (According to Peter Montague, editor
of Rachel's Weekly, "no one knows how 'safe amounts' of
carcinogens can be established, especially when several carcinogens
and other poisons are added simultaneously to the food of tens of
millions of people.) Nevertheless, the Clinton-Gore administration
spun this as "progress."
The Clinton administration, with guidance from Gore's 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, writes James
Ridgeway, "Clinton 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 China's industrial growth."
Not once in the entire film does Gore criticize 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-Gore's 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 earth's gaping wounds, which they themselves helped to
Clearly, the vast destruction of the global ecology is a consequence
not just of poor governmental policies but of the capitalist system's
fundamental drive towards Growth and what passes for Development --
Grow or Die. Environmental activists won't 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 critique.
is a member of the Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of NY State.
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1. Joshua Frank,
Counterpunch, May 31, 2006.
2. Jeffrey St. Clair, Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to
Me: The Politics of Nature, Common Courage Press, 2004.
3. James Ridgeway, "Eco Spaniel Kennedy: Nipping at Nader's Heels,"
Village Voice, Aug. 16-22, 2000.
4 Joshua Frank, Note 1.
7. The battle over the Delaney Clause has been ably documented by
8. Ridgeway, op cit.