Hurricane Katrina showed us how difficult it has become to distinguish between natural disasters and man-made ones. First, the Army Corp of Engineers decides it can build a better river than Mother Nature and in the process deprives the delta of storm-absorbing wetlands and barrier islands while allowing the ground under New Orleans to subside into a suicidal bowl. Then a storm hits and... well, you know the rest of the story. The lesson is simple: we are embedded in natural systems and whether we acknowledge that or not can be a matter of life and death.
What follows next you've heard a hundred times: the Bush administration's environmental record is lousy. More than lousy, it is potentially disastrous. But why? At first glance, it's easy enough to understand. Philosophically, Republicans believe in the power of the marketplace to shape behavior. Their animosity toward government regulation is long-standing. They emphasize the rights of private-property owners over any notion of the commons, and so are comfortable letting corporations pursue profit at the expense of air or water quality. Obviously, a Texas oilman like George W. Bush and a former Halliburton CEO like Dick Cheney aren't about to object to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Caribou, they certainly believe, are expendable if they get in the way of our urge for faster-bigger-more.
The Bush administration's assault on environmental quality has, however, been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations -- while not wrong -- are hardly adequate. During their time in power, Bush's officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on.
The writer concludes that it is religious dominionism in combination with corporate opportunism that accounts for the systematic disregard for the environment that is evidenced by Bush's environmental policies.
Bush's assault on the environment makes perfect sense once you see the bargains that drive it. The fundamentalists give Bush political power; his corporate cronies get free reign to plunder the land for their profit; and the fundamentalists get the heads of nature-worshipping enviros on an arsenic platter. The rest of us, of course, get left behind.