Look at what happens when a Big Media journalist tries to venture into the rough and tumble world of science and politics:
In the second presidential debate, President Bush said: "I'm a good steward of the land. The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president."
Sen. John Kerry responded this way: "The president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. We're going backwards." He vows to reverse many of Bush's policies.
Which presidential candidate is right? How has America's environment fared under Bush?
Gosh, I don't know. Pray tell:
Over the past 30 years, the nation's air and water have become dramatically cleaner, but the steady improvement has stalled or gone into reverse in several areas since Bush took office, according to government statistics. On Bush's watch, America's environment deteriorated in many critical areas - including the quality of air in cities and the quality of water that people drink - and gained in very few.
Knight Ridder compiled 14 pollution-oriented indicators from government and university statistics. Nine of the 14 indicators showed a worsening trend, two showed improvements and three others zigzagged.
Wow, let's see what has gotten worse:
Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent.
Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled.
Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent.
The number of beach closings rose 26 percent.
Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent.
Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent.
Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent.
There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days.
Whoa there Nelly, let's take these one by one:
Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent. Well, you might not like that, but that's not evidence of a worsening trend. I certainly would think that some 24 years after the creation of the EPA's Superfund that new sites weren't being created as fast now as they were pre-1980. So maybe, there are fewer sites to clean up, or maybe the easy sites have been cleaned up and now all that's left are the tougher, more expensive sites. The decline in a government meta-statistic should not be confused with a decline in what is being measured.
Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled. But has pollution in rivers increased? An increase in warnings does not necessarily mean that pollution is worse. It may only indicate more attentive enforcement, which would seem to be a good thing under President Bush, no? Jeez.
Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent. But has pollution in lakes increased? An increase in warnings does not necessarily mean that pollution is worse. It may only indicate more attentive enforcement, which would seem to be a good thing under President Bush, no? Double jeez.
The number of beach closings rose 26 percent. But has pollution increased? An increase in closings does not necessarily mean that pollution is worse. It may only indicate more attentive enforcement, which would seem to be a good thing under President Bush, no? Triple jeez.
Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent. Maybe because the evil capitalist polluters have been cleaning up their acts over the years. Do you really think all the fines and lawsuits over the years that Big International Conglomerates are actually more anxious to subject themselves to civil citations?
Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent. Or criminal prosecutions? Sigh. Jeez to inifinity.
Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent. But is that because of increased pollution? Maybe it is, but there may well be other significant factors involved here as well.
There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days. First of all, the evidence that the earth is getting warmer may not be true, and even if it is whether it is because of "pollution" is debatable. But granting that it is, is this really something you think President Bush can control? Have you seen how much more energy China is using these days -- that would be the China not subject to the Kyoto Accords, so please don't bring up that red herring. And finally, do the number of unhealthy air days really indicate a worsening pollution problem or might it once again be more attentive enforcement, a byproduct of some weather cycles in some areas, huge wildfires in Southern California, or other events far, far beyond the control of President Bush, or even a President Kerry?
So, do you actually have any instances or data that support your contention that the environment has gotten worse under President Bush?
No, I didn't think so. Any good news?
There were signs of pollution improvement, though. Major air-emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes dropped 9 percent, and greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced by 0.5 percent.
Nice of you to pack that into one paragraph rather than double spaced bullets for effect, by the way. But do you know what's different about the two areas just cited and the nine previously cited? In the latter, there are real statistics quoted about pollution levels, wheras in the former all that are quoted are statistics about the government's measurement of pollution. Big difference.
So what about the three areas that fluctuated?
Statistics that have fluctuated are the number of people living in smoggy cities; the number of people drinking from tainted water supplies; and overall toxic pollution releases by industry.
What does fluctuated mean? Are they higher or lower? And, incidentally, these measures are pathetic. Smog levels could be going down in L.A. for instance, but if more people move in then there are still more people living in smoggy L.A. than before. To quote King Theoden, "Is this all you've got Saruman?"
In land-use policy under Bush, another 12 indicators reveal record-low additions to national parks, wilderness, wildlife refuges and the endangered species list. The Bush administration also approved 74 percent more permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in its first three years than were granted in the previous three years.
Bush also has ordered dozens of sweeping changes to existing environmental policies, usually to benefit business interests. He reversed the government's course on global warming, power plant emissions, roadless areas of national forests, environmental law enforcement and agricultural run-off.
Two major Bush administration proposals still languish in Congress. One would change the way air pollution from power plants is regulated, with gradually shrinking limits on emissions and the first-ever limits for mercury pollution. Critics say Bush's approach would require fewer pollution reductions than current law.
The other pending Bush proposal is his energy bill, which calls for more drilling on public lands, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - which Kerry has been a leader in opposing.
Kerry vows to reverse Bush's efforts to make it easier for older power plants to expand without additional pollution controls. He promises to "plug loopholes" in industrial air-pollution regulations, limit suburban sprawl and mount a new program to protect America's waterways.
Over nearly two decades in the Senate, Kerry has gotten extremely high marks from environmental groups, including from the League of Conservation Voters. Henry Lee, Harvard University's environment and natural resources program director, said Kerry didn't initiate any environmental legislation that became landmark law, but he often was "out in front on the issue."
If Kerry is friendly with environmental activists, "the Bush administration is sympathetic to the concerns of business," said Eban Goodstein, the chairman of the environmental-studies program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. "They're bringing in people that are really hostile to the current regulatory framework."
Wow, that sounds like a nice objective press release from, well, from the DNC. There's more quoting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Carol Browner, but really, what's the point.
It is surprising what passes for journalism these days isn't it?