Environmental concerns being ignored

By BOB MOUNT, a REP member in Alabama

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: This op-ed was published in the Opelika-Auburn (AL) News on April 10, 2001.


The editorial by David Gergen and the opinion column by John Leo in the April 9 issue of U.S. News & World Report should be required reading for all my fellow Republicans.

Leo’s column also appeared in the April 3 editions of the Birmingham News and Mobile Register.

Both Gergen and Leo sharply criticize the Bush administration and other GOP leaders for thumbing their noses at the Americans who favor strong measures to protect the environment. Neither Gergen nor Leo can be considered “left-wing, liberal enviromentalist wackos” by any stretch of the imagination.

Gergen states,

“The stream of pronouncements and decisions flowing out of the Bush administration on a range of environmental issues from global warming to arsenic in drinking water to road building in the wilderness is not only disheartening but in the long run could darken prospects for all mankind.


“The administration is simply wrong to say that the economy and energy must trump the environment; we must pursue all three at the same time. “Can we become the environmental model of the world? You bet; but to get there, strong leaders must summon us to the mountaintop.”

John Leo says he fails to understand why social conservatives are generally hostile to environmental concern, and poses the question,

“Shouldn’t conserving come naturally to conservatives?”

He points out that one reason why social conservatives tend to view environmentalists with disdain is because

“some environmentalists give the impression that the movement is simply part of the left, thus managing to alienate potential supporters on the right. It’s a tragic mistake but an understandable one, given the hostility to the environment that Republicans have exhibited over the past 20 years.


Leo notes that a polling firm associated with Republican causes reports that

“two out of three Americans say we need to protect the environment no matter what it costs,”

and cites results of a 1999 Zogby poll of probable Republican voters in five key states showing

“about as much support for ‘protect environment’ (92.8 percent) as for ‘encourage family values’ (93.4 percent).

He concludes,

“Republicans may count on the old rule of thumb: Everybody supports the environment in polls, but its nobody’s concern in the voting booth. But if I were running the party, I don’t think I would tie myself closely to the losing side of a broad national argument.”

I should hasten to add that not all influential Republicans toe the Limbaugh line on environmental issues. Several GOP congressmen are bona fide environmentalists, as are quite a few prominent businessmen, including Theodore Roosevelt IV, a managing director and partner at Lehman Brothers.

I had an opportunity to meet some of these types at a meeting of Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) that I attended in 1996. The organization’s president is Martha Marks, a commissioner in Lake County, Illinois

According to John Leo, Marks refers to herself as

“the president of what some jokers have called the world’s funniest oxymoron.”

Most of the aims and goals of the Republican Party seem to reflect those of a majority of Americans, but—as Newt Gingrich has come to realize—the party is out of step with most of the rest of the country on environmental issues.

Perhaps Newt can convince our compassionate conservative president to show some compassion for God’s non-human creations and for future generations of humans who will be forced to cope with the results of our greed.

At the time he published this article, Bob Mount was an Auburn University professor emeritus of zoology and entomology who wrote a weekly column for the News. He was REP’s first member in Alabama and through his writings and personal advocacy did a lot to help us build a membership base there.