Original Article on VoteNader.org Site

October 20, 2000

To whom the earth concerns:

In the 2000 Presidential election, the environmental movement faces a special challenge to its integrity and its future impact on American politics. This challenge does not primarily emerge from George Bush. His archaic vision of environmental rape and pillage, of denial and delusion, is pathetically out of touch with the vision of most Americans. When Bush used Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski as his surrogate in a speech before the National Press Club to promote oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he underscored a blatant disregard for Alaska’s special contribution to our ecosystem and fundamental American priorities. Bush’s “old school” allegiance to plunder and extermination as humanity’s appropriate relationship to our world speaks a language effectively discounted by the great tradition of naturalists from John Muir to David Brower. Bush’s blatant anti-environmentalism will lose corporate favor as it loses popular support. It is a language of politics fading rapidly, and without a future.

A political language more sophisticated in its seductive impact on pragmatic environmentalists and environmental policy has replaced the threat to our planet articulated by Bush and his ilk. A carefully crafted alliance of multinational corporations is now fully conversant in the language of environmentalism. Politicians cognizant of this alliance are not overtly dismissive of constituencies concerned with dangers to the planet. To the contrary, these politicians wrap themselves in the mantle of environmental concern. They seize on serious threats to global survival as valuable political currency. Soon they will replace overt apologists for global exploitation on the political landscape. These new environmental poseurs are the natural product of two forces in modern politics. The first are organized voters with a developed conservation agenda, prepared to support or oppose candidates with their votes and vocal endorsements. The second is multinational corporations who view environmental issues as yet another barrier to profit making that can be deflected or compromised with the appropriate political proxies. For these corporations, environmental agenda must be manipulated to corporate advantage. Big corporations are prepared to offer vast sums of money for seduction of environmentalists and systematic compromise of their ideals.

Vice President Albert Gore is preeminent among the politicians who have seized on this new corporate prerequisite for investment as an avenue for career advancement. He has best defined the role of politicians deemed attractive by corporations that appreciate the dangers and opportunities of environmentalism in politics. Corporations now reward politicians who can deliver environmental votes and opinion without seriously deterring their goals with burdensome environmental constraints. Albert Gore is the politician who has best understood that his ability to attract and deliver the environmental constituency would make him attractive to corporate backers. Earth in the Balance, Gore’s script for his re-emergence as a national politician was an advertisement for his calculated strategy and availability as an environmental poseur, prepared to attract, barter and mollify environmental support for corporate cash. As a broker of environmental voters on corporate terms, Gore is the prototype for the bankable, Green corporate politician. He has literally written the book.

We can document Gore’s commitment to his role as broker of environmental voters for corporate cash. Gore’s agenda explains his apparent broken promises as, more than betrayal, proof of his calculated role as corporate double agent within the ranks of conservationists. Some examples:

The Nader candidacy offers environmental groups and voters committed to protection of our planet through the political process an opportunity to disengage from this con game as defined and played by Gore. As an achieving environmentalist for nearly four decades, I offer the environmental community an opportunity to reassert its independence as a potent and uncompromised political force. Environmentalists who stand with this candidacy can assert their own agenda and priorities without fear of contradiction. If environmentalists ally with Gore because he is positioned as distinctly different from a self-proclaimed plunderer of the old school, they must acknowledge that any and all environmental positions taken by the candidate will be subject to mutation and subjugation to his corporate agenda. They thus allow corporations to define environmental results. They tell future political leaders that the environmental community is for sale, because its constituency values “access” to the process over any demonstrable and permanent results.

Even as this letter is being written, we watch Gore turn his back on perhaps the worst political disaster to hit the conservation front this Congressional session, a range of riders to the EPA appropriations bill that would:

  1. Delay safe drinking water standards by telling the EPA to get new costs data before proceeding.
  2. Substitute federal taxpayer dollars for increased fees that pesticide manufacturers were supposed to pay to fund EPA’s pesticide programs.
  3. Prohibit the EPA from listing localities with unhealthy smog levels until June 15, 2001 or a date set by the court in current litigation.
  4. Delay EPA’s effort to set new arsenic standards of five parts per billion to protect millions of American s from cancer and other health risks. 
  5. Weaken the EPA’s effort to clean up rivers, lakes and bays contaminated with toxic waste by demanding further study.
  6. Block implementation of 1998 environmental justice guidelines to expedite civil rights claims against the EPA alleging discrimination in permitting.

Where is Al Gore when the chips are down? Does it take courage to make these cruel riders a major vocal difference between him and George W. Bush? Clinton-Gore opposed these riders in the House but signed off on them in the Senate, despite vocal opposition from health and conservation groups. They apparently assumed that campaign rhetoric would conceal riders that blocked the EPA from designating non-attainment areas under the new smog rule, clean ups of PCBs in river, or blocked EPA from investigating environmental racism in the permitting process, among others. Who among their allies in the environmental community would dare speak out? The same friends of the earth who condemned the Clinton-Gore regime of “anything goes with the coddled biotech industry” now proceed to endorse Gore, who will outrage them even more should he become President.

In the meantime these same environmental groups urge their members to vote for Gore either because he writes and speaks their language or because he is the lesser of two evils when compared with George Bush. In environmental terms, they fight the last war instead of confronting the new politics of their new adversaries and the new advocacy at their disposal. They have adopted the servile mentality of the lesser of two evils (see Michael Lerner, Tikkun).

My candidacy offers environmental groups and voters committed to protection of our planet through the political process an opportunity to disengage from this conservation con game as defined and played by Gore and his corporate allies. I offer the environmental community an opportunity to reassert its independence as a potent and uncompromising political force. 

Independence critical to sustained environmental influence on political events is contingent on a conscious withdrawal by environmentalists from pseudo-environmentalists supported by corporate money, which have fueled both parties with tens of millions of dollars. This important opportunity will be valued increasingly as the Gore betrayals accumulate, from the Everglades to East Liverpool to the environmental racism that he so cruelly ignores. People concerned about the environment don’t just need access to politicians—they need access to power. For that to happen, the power must come back from the corporations to whom it has been auctioned.

For the earth and the common good,

Ralph Nader