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Listen Gore: Some Inconvenient Truths About the 
Politics of Environmental Crisis

A Pamphlet by Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

Al 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 8 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 
U.S. 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 U.S. -- 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 U.S. 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 consumption.

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 U.S.  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 technophilia."(2)

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 NAFÂTA, 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 U.S. 
environmental laws, chased production facilities 
out of the U.S. and across the borders, vastly 
increased pollution from Maquilladoras 
(enterprise zones) along the U.S./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 U.S.'s remaining old growth forests.

"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 
mmillion untouched acres adjacent to the refuge, 
home to a large caribou herd and numerous arctic 
species — to oil drilling. The chief beneficiaary 
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."(8)

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 gash open.

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.

NOTES

1. Joshua Frank, Counterpunch, May 31, 2006, 
http://www.counterpunch.org/frank05312006.html. 
Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals 
Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and edits www.BrickBurner.org

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. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0033,ridgeway,17335,6.html

4,5,6 Joshua Frank.

7. The battle over the Delaney Clause has been 
ably documented by Rachel's Weekly, at www.rachel.org

8. Ridgeway, op cit.