In the flurry of books released before the 2004 Presidential election, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Crimes Against Nature got lost in the shuffle. And that’s a shame. Instead of the usual unsubstantiated rants pro or con for what had been going on in the country over the previous four years, Kennedy has produced a railing indictment of the Bush Administrations environmental policies, or lack thereof.
Why is his book so different? Kennedy has documented everything along the way. There are extensive footnotes citing sources such as court cases, newspapers, television interviews, and more. Crimes Against Nature comes in at 199 pages long, and is followed by almost 40 pages of footnotes. Yes, I would say Kennedy did a thorough job.
Some people (to use the administration’s own straw man tactics) might argue that the subtitle: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy makes this just another “Bush Bashing” book. However, shortly into the book it became clear to me that Kennedy had good reason to send up red flags when it comes to this administration and the environment. When an appointee to a key regulatory post has written information pamphlets titled Why the National Toxicology Program Cancer List Does More Harm Than Good and At Christmas Dinner, Let Us Be Thankful for Pesticides and Safe Food, there’s something really wrong there. Kennedy picks apart many of the appointments Bush made, showing how he gutted all of the advancements made on behalf of the environment over the last 3 years by appointing people who were lobbyists for various industries or had been a part of those industries themselves to key Cabinet and Administration positions, especially in the EPA.
Kennedy talks of how he won a lawsuit in North Carolina to clear up the waterways from the industrial hog farms. Lest anyone think these regulations surrounding pollution were unreasonable, the local farmers and residents were behind him. The local farmers have to live there and they want to preserve the way of life in their communities, unlike the industrial farms which often have their headquarters in city some distance away, if not in an entirely different part of the country. When a Reagan-appointed judge gave these people a victory against the pollution Smithfield Foods was dumping into their waterways, President W. Bush simply rolled back the regulations allowing the hog industry to go on polluting the waterways.
All of this is tied together by Kennedy to show how the corporate influence present in the Bush Administration like in no other Administration before it has superseded the Democratic process. When corporations are found to be in violation of regulations written and adopted in the democratic principles this country was founded on, the regulations are simply re-written, either by a decree of President Bush or by the appointed shills for the industry he has put in place.
Many of the regulations put into place over the last 30 years have been rolled back under the Bush Administration. That is a fact. Remember what our rivers and lakes looked like back in the 1970’s? Remember when the Cuyahoga River caught fire? River fires were actually a very common occurrence over the last century, something which was mitigated by the regulations passed by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 30 years. Kennedy cites the rollback of many of these regulations as being a key factor in Vermont Senator James Jeffords’ decision to leave the Republican Party and represent his state as an Independent.
I live in an area of the country now that has typically been very Conservative in both it’s thinking and voting, yet the damage to the environment can no longer be denied by these folk. They see the effects of acid rain on our forests and killing off life in ponds and lakes, essentially making them “dead”. They have seen industrial pollution contaminate lakes and streams and have seen some of them come back under regulations which have now been thrown out. They have witnessed the effects of climate change on their very livelihoods. Perhaps that is the main reason this traditional Republican State when Democratic in the last election. It’s just a shame that it’s going to have to touch other people on such a level before they wake up and start realizing that corporations and the people who run them only care about getting more profits in the moment, and not about our future or our children.
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Categories: Book Reviews