william jefferson clinton (b. August 19, 1946) was the 42nd president of the United States, serving from January 20, 1993 until January 20, 2001. In the first year of his term, President Bill Clinton promised to bring justice to the practice of environmental racism as well as to work to resolve the tension regarding management of the Pacific Northwest federal forests, and yet throughout his term he would be known as the president who gave tax breaks to oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico, who no longer banned tuna that was not dolphin-safe, and who increased logging in the Tongass National Forest of Alaska.
Environmental racism refers to the fact that lower-income communities, which tend to house peoples of ethnic minorities, as well as communities of non-whites, are at a higher risk of being located near environmentally-toxic sites, such as landfills or hazardous waste dumping grounds. Consequently, people living in these communities are at an elevated risk of developing chronic disorders such as asthma or cancer.
On April 2, 2003, Clinton along with Vice-President Al Gore and several advisors and Cabinet members attended a meeting convened by Clinton to discuss the Pacific Northwest federal forests. This meeting was held in Portland, Oregon. After the meeting, President Clinton promised to develop a plan for sustainable and economic management of the forests, and this plan was released on July 1 of that year. It was called The Forest Plan for a Sustainable Economy and a Sustainable Environment.
The three chief purposes of the plan were forest management, economic development, and agency coordination; of the three, forest management had most to do with the environment. This theme set aside reserves with minimal activity allowed within them, although it did allow thinning and salvage for purposes of returning the forest to its old patterns of growth. Some environmental groups were nonetheless concerned that the salvage activities and thinning would be exploited for corporate gain. Other areas of the forest such as those designated as spotted owl habitat were slated for limited collection annually, in order to preserve the habitats while maintaining a sustainable timber harvest. Additionally, the plan called for improved sales of dead or dying timber within the forestland, in order to clear way for new trees.
After barely one month in office, on February 22 1993, President Clinton outlined his priority: "long-term economic growth that creates jobs and protects the environment." He did so in a Statement on Technology for America's Economic Growth. A significant contribution of the Clinton Administration to envi-ronmentalism was that trade agreements between the United States and other nations required that those countries observe environmental standards. This change in United States trade policies was praised for its environmentalism, but criticized for its potential to harm citizens of countries where employers and/ or leaders exploited the environment while trying to succeed in the global economy.
To keep with his priority of environmentally safe economic growth, Clinton created a new watchdog position at the Department of State to monitor international environmental conditions. This position of Undersecretary for Global Affairs was assigned to Timothy E. Wirth. Wirth, a former Senator from Colorado, was a member of the Green party and acted as Undersecretary for Global Affairs from 1993 until 1997. Following in this environmentalist spirit, Secretary of State Warren Minor Christopher issued a statement on February 14, 1996 stating that U.S. foreign policy would from that point on keep the environment and its care in focus and that Department of State officials must consider this focus when designing international policies or meetings. Christopher also served from 1993-97.
This international environmental watchdog stance did not extend beyond trade and meeting policies. In 1996, the Clinton Administration challenged China's desire to build a dam to control the flooding of the Yangtze River to curb its enormously high death toll. The reason for the Clinton Administration's refusal of support was that the dam, called the Three Gorges Project, would threaten many species of wildlife, such as freshwater dolphins and Siberian cranes. The Clinton Administration attempted to influence commercial credits for American companies looking to capitalize on the Three Gorges project, and was accused of trying to use its voting power at the World Bank to impede funding for the dam.
Clinton had three Secretaries of Energy during his Administration. They were Hazel O'Leary (1993-97), Federico F. Peña (1997-98), and Bill Richardson (1998-2001). His Vice President, Al Gore, would go on to become a leading environmentalist. In an interview with CBS news in 2006, James Hansen, the Director of the Goddard Institute at the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said that the Clinton administration sometimes wanted him to make global warming sound worse than it was. In contrast to this statement, Vice-President Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in the year 2007 for his efforts to spread education about global warming and curtail its progress. He shared this award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
SEE ALSO: Bush (George H.W.) Administration; Bush (George W.) Administration; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
BIBLIOGRApHY. Robert D. Bullard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality (Westview Press, 2000); Luke Cole and Sheila Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (Critical America Series) (New York University Press, 2000).
Claudia Winograd University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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