A SPEECH BY PRESIDENT GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH
Delivered in Helena, Montana in 1989
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Originally published in the summer 2004 issue of REP’s The Green Elephant after former Montana State Senator Charles Darrow sent it to us with this message. This speech by the first President Bush contrasts sharply with the tone of today’s Republican Party leaders. Republicans for Environmental Protection would give almost anything to hear his son deliver a similar speech in 2004.
Thank you, Governor Stephens. Thank you very much—you and Mrs. Stephens—for greeting us at the airport. Lt. Governor Kolstad, congressional delegation, members of the state legislature and the mayor of Helena. Let me say to everyone gathered here and to all the people of Montana that it is a great pleasure for me to be back in this great state. Happy birthday 100.
And you’re certainly celebrating in style. I have to tell you that I was mightily impressed with that centennial cattle drive. It captured the hearts of America. Nearly 3,000 cattle, sixty miles in six days. Now, maybe I can get a few of those drovers to come back with me to Washington. There’s a herd back on Capitol Hill that I’d like to move in my direction.
But it’s good—it’s good to be back under the Big Sky. Looking out at the Sleeping Giant, with your historic state house a marvel of Montana granite, sandstone and copper standing here at our back, you can feel the history of this great state, its land and its people.
Montana has contributed a great deal in the 100 years since it became a state, along with its gold, copper and ore. Montana’s given our nation a sense of its own pioneering destiny. And there’s something about spaces so vast you can see the curve of the Earth. What encouragement it gives us to see the future as an unlimited horizon…
This morning I spoke in Sioux Falls about a common concern of all of ours —the environment—about the need to awaken a new spirit of environmentalism across America. Here in Montana, I know that spirit exists.
This great state was once the scene of an epic battle—man against nature. Too often, the only question that mattered was what man could take from the Earth, not how we left it, or how we put it back.
Well, no more. Times have changed. The conservation ethic runs deep here. In the past two decades, Montana has enacted some of the most advanced environmental statutes in all of the fifty states. The citizens of the Big Sky State understand it’s not man against nature—it’s man and nature.
Montanans have made a decision never to let environmental exploitation go unchecked. We can have a strong ecology and a strong economy, and that is what I am committed to.
And so, might I add, is the environmental protector, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who works at my side, Bill Reilly. I’m delighted he’s here with me today…
The single most significant word today in the language of all environmentalists is interdependence. That’s a fact all Montanans should find easy to appreciate. Not so many miles from where we stand is a spot called the Triple Divide, where the waters begin their separate journeys to the Pacific, to the Gulf of Mexico, the Hudson Bay and the Arctic beyond—the Earth’s own geography lesson in global interdependence.
The plain fact is this: pollution can’t be contained by lines drawn on a map. The actions we take have consequences felt the world over. The destruction of the rain forest in Brazil. The ravages of acid rain that threaten not just our country, but our neighbors to the north and not just the East but the lakes and forests of the West as well. The millions of tons of airborne pollutants carried across the continents and the threat of global warming.
We know now that protecting the environment is a global issue. The nations of the world must make common cause in defense of our environment. And I promise you this: This nation, the United States of America, will take the lead internationally.
Here in this great state, you’re already taking the lead with your commitment to the environment, led by every schoolchild in this state who has planted a Ponderosa Pine to commemorate 100 years of history. In just a few minutes I’ll be planting a tree of my own, and let me say from the heart, there’s no finer symbol of the love each one of us feels for this land than a tree growing in Montana’s good earth.
We’re working hard to clean up America, but we can’t stop there. We’ve got to work with the rest of the world to preserve the planet. We’ve already taken action. To preserve the ozone layer, we’re going to ban all release of CFCs into the atmosphere by the year 2000. To prevent pollution of the world’s oceans, we’re going to end virtually all ocean dumping of sewage and industrial wastes by 1991.
And after that, anyone who continues to pollute is going to pay for it with stiff fines. And we’re going to join forces with other nations.
In February, the United States will host the plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In July, when I visited Poland and Hungary, I pledged America’s help in tackling the increasingly serious pollution problems those two nations face. At the Paris economic summit, we helped the environment achieve the status that it deserves at the top of the agenda for the seven major industrial democracies. And I mean to keep it right there at the top of the agenda.
America spends more than any other nation in the world on environmental research, and we’re going to continue this pioneering effort to protect the environment and put that environmental expertise to work in the developing world as well. We cannot pollute today and postpone the cleanup until tomorrow.
We have got to make pollution prevention our aim. And sharing our expertise with the world is one way to do exactly that.
Today I want to announce a new environmental initiative—one that will bring the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps together in a joint venture in the service of the global environment.
Beginning in 1990, as part of their standard preparation for duty, Peace Corps volunteers will be trained by the EPA to deal with the full range of environmental challenges—water pollution, prevention, waste disposal, reforestation, pesticide management. Armed with greater knowledge about our environment, our Peace Corps volunteers are going to help spread the word in the developing world. They’ll work to stop pollution before it starts and ensure that economic development and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.
Montanans know more than most how much that means, how vital it is for us to accept our responsibilities, our stewardship of the environment in Montana, across America, and around the world. We hold this land in trust for the generations that come after. The air and the Earth are riches we simply cannot squander.
One hundred years ago, Montana was a land where man sought the treasure that lay beneath the Earth. Today it’s the land itself we treasure —a living legacy we must preserve and pass along.
One hundred years from now, on the bicentennial of this great state, we want our children’s great-grandchildren to enjoy the natural wonders that abound across Montana today. From Glacier down to Yellowstone and out to the Great Plains—we want to know that 100 years from now the legacy will live on…
Thank you for coming out to give me this warm Montana welcome. God bless you, and God bless the state of Montana and bring it another 100 years of happiness.