Bush's crimes against the environment

Friday, July 27, 2007

The following is abridged from a speech given by Paola Harvey to a people's trial of US President George Bush, organised by the Stop Bush committee in Wollongong on June 23. Harvey is a Resistance member and helped initiate last year's Walk against Warming rally in Wollongong.

It is impossible to discuss the crimes that Bush has committed against the environment without talking about the war on Iraq. It is the most poignant example of the absolute disregard for the planet we live in and rely on.

One of Washington's justifications for the war was Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Since 2003, this fallacy has been completely blown out of the water. However, weapons of mass destruction have been used in this oil war, just not by Iraq. Under the guise of pre-emptive strike, the US's "shock and awe" attack carpeted Iraq with so-called bunker-buster bombs, which were fitted with depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium is a toxic heavy metal that burns on impact, creating tiny particles that emit radiation. These particles can be carried long distances, have a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years, and cannot be prevented by gas masks from entering victims' lungs. Despite the massive environmental contamination and devastating human health consequences of depleted uranium, PM John Howard is pushing for an expansion of uranium mining in Australia.

Bush and Howard have been claiming that nuclear power is the solution to climate change. Australia has the world's largest known deposits of uranium, and there are no positives about the nuclear industry that outweigh the overwhelming negatives. To mine uranium, the Indigenous owners and custodians are forced off their land to make way for an industry that destroys fragile ecosystems and leaves nothing but radiation and pollution.

During the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium has to be dug out, separated from other minerals and soil, enriched, transported, used, and then the waste has to be transported again and then stored.

Despite constant industry claims that a safe way to store nuclear waste is just around the corner, the reality is that there is no safe method. We have no technology that will last the necessary billions of years. The US's answer to the storage problem has been to put the depleted uranium in missile heads and drop them on Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush has blood on his hands.

It has been calculated that even if Australia converted to nuclear power, our carbon dioxide emissions would only decrease by 5%, and uranium is not renewable. It is estimated that we would run out of electricity-grade uranium in about 50 years. Big business is the only winner in this scenario.

Bush's defence of big business profits is the driving reason behind his inaction on climate change. The US alone has already spent $436 billion to secure Iraq's oil reserves and suck all the wealth out of the country. In one motion, Bush is facilitating oil companies' thieving, destroying Iraq, and locking the world into dependence on dirty non-renewable fuels.

This criminal negligence is turning the world into a ticking time bomb and time is running out. There are countries already going under water. People in Tuvalu are being forced to flee from rising waters as climate refugees.

Oil companies are not only aware of climate change, but are using it to further increase their profits. The Bush administration is currently engaged in a battle with Canada over ownership of a new oil reserve off the coast of Alaska. The area that these oil reserves are in was previously under an ice shelf, which has broken up and melted due to rising global temperatures.

Bush has not only denied the existence of climate change, but is actively involved in fighting for the oil companies' so-called right to pollute, and their right to ever increasing profits at the cost of the planet and its people.

It should be people before profit, not profit before people. We must stand up and be counted and make sure that our voices are heard. If we are willing to fight against proposed nuclear waste dumps in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, we must be willing to fight against Bush turning Iraq into one.