George W. Bush: Environmentalist?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Here’s a headline to make brows furrow: “Bush Plans Vast Protected Sea Area in Hawaii.” Bush plans what now? The man with the worst environmental record in history wants to protect what? No, apparently it’s true: he’ll designate as a national monument a 1,200 chain of small Hawaiian islands, along with the surrounding waters and reefs, creating the world’s largest protected marine area. But here’s the backstory:

Some environmentalists noted yesterday that the extra protection was an easy call for the administration, in part because there was little significant opposition in Hawaii or Washington. The move could also help the re-election prospects of Linda Lingle, Hawaii’s first Republican governor, who last fall banned commercial activities in state waters in the area and endorsed the federal sanctuary plan.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I was worried there was a totally non-cynical explanation for all of this. But surely bailing out a Republican governor isn’t enough to spur Bush into helping the environment, right? I mean, wasn’t there some sort of business or commercial interest opposed to protecting the reefs that he needed to kowtow before? Apparently not:

[Environmentalists] noted that there were only eight commercial fishing boats licensed to fish in the remote islands, and that rising fuel costs had made such trips less and less profitable.

Gotcha. Fishermen don’t really care about this sanctuary, not much harm was being done to the reefs anyway, so Bush may as well go ahead and protect the damn thing, especially since he can now claim that he has “accomplished the single largest act of environmental conservation in history.” Our hero. Well, it’s good news regardless, although there are countless other reefs and coastal regions that still need actual protection. What are the odds of Bush acting on those? No, let’s not answer that. By the way, it’s come to my attention that I get paid by the shameless plug, so do check out Mother Jones‘ new Ocean Voyager site, which takes an in-depth look at all the ocean stuff being neglected these days. It’s really quite amazing.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate