The planet Earth usually tries to stay out of politics. It doesn't endorse candidates. It doesn't run attack ads. It doesn't even register as a lobbyist.
But it is hardly indifferent to electoral outcomes. Of the many victims of George W. Bush's presidency, our long-suffering planet surely ranks as high as any.
So, while there are plenty of reasons to cheer the end of Bush's eight-year reign of error, here we take a look at why, on January 20, Mother Nature, especially, will breathe a big sigh of relief.
We've selected 20 specific environmental transgressions of the Bush administration for scrutiny here, drawn primarily from conversations with and reports issued by the nation's leading environmental-advocacy groups. Were we to have written about all the ecological crimes committed by the Bush team — the damage already done, the policies that have since been reversed, the individuals who have moved on to do their damage elsewhere — we'd only be wringing our hands and wasting more paper. Thus, we've limited our Top 20 list to the horrific environmental scenarios still ongoing — these are the assaults on the planet that Bush and his cronies are continuing to this day, and surely would go on doing were their time not coming to a merciful end.
Indeed, in these final weeks of its existence, the Bush administration has only intensified its efforts to implement new policies and ensconce old appointees in permanent positions, in the hopes of perpetuating the damage long after our 43rd president takes his last strut out the White House doors.
"We are absolutely concerned about a lot of these midnight rules," says Julie Sibbing, senior program manager at the National Wildlife Federation. "They have made some of them very difficult to reverse."
Fortunately, Barack Obama's transition team is working equally hard preparing to undo those moves. And Obama has signaled his intentions to make environmental concerns a priority within his administration — as suggested by the top-level team of appointees he introduced this past week.
If the Obama team is successful, there are at least 20 ways in which our home planet will be grateful for the change in management.
1. DRINKING WATER WILL CONTAIN LESS ROCKET FUEL
The Bush White House has blocked a six-year-long effort by career scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit perchlorate levels in drinking water, according to the Washington Post. Perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, is (shocker!) considered unhealthy for children and pregnant women.
And if you think you're safe because you drink bottled water, guess again. At least water that comes through the public tap must meet EPA standards. Water bottled for sale, however, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA was supposed to adopt standards at least as strict as the EPA's, but it hasn't actually done so. The result: there are no standards, and studies have shown that contaminants in some bottled water are over EPA-allowed levels. Not that you'd ever realize it, because neither does the FDA impose any right-to-know labeling requirement on bottled water.