The Enviroment and Catholics
The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein (Ps 24:1)
A Common Declaration on the Environment

Across the world people are becoming increasingly aware that certain forms of human activity are leading to environmental damage and seriously limiting the possibility of a sustainable development for all. Climate change, air and water pollution, desertification, resource depletion, and loss of biodiversity are among the consequences. While many have contributed to this damage, all must learn to live in a way which respects the integrity of the delicate balance that exists among the earth's ecosystems. Nor can we ignore the relation between the effect on the environment of population increase in certain areas and of heightened economic expectation among peoples.

Governments, commerce, industry, and agriculture must also collaborate if individuals and communities are to be able to exercise their right to live in a sound and healthy environment.

Concern for the environment has led both Catholics and Jews to reflect on the concrete implications of their belief in God, Creator of all things. In turning to their sacred scriptures, both have found the religious and moral foundations for their obligation to care for the environment. While they may differ in interpretations of some texts or in their methodological approaches, Jews and Catholics have found such broad agreement on certain fundamental values that they are able to affirm them together.

1. All of creation is good and forms a harmonious whole, rich in diversity (Genesis1-2)

God created everything that exists, each according to its kind. "And God saw that it was good." Nothing, therefore, is insignificant; nothing should be recklessly destroyed as if devoid of purpose. Modification of species by genetic engineering must be approached with great caution. Everything is to be treated with reverence, as part of a whole willed by God to be in harmony. It was a willful act of disobedience that first broke this harmony (Genesis 3:14-19).

2. The human person - male and female - is part of creation and yet distinguished from it, being made in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:26)

The respect due to each person, endowed with a God-given dignity, allows for no exception and excludes no ones. Life is precious. We are to affirm it, to promote it, to care for and cherish it. When harm is done to the environment, the lives of both individuals and communities are profoundly affected. Any social, economic, or political activity that directly or indirectly destroys life or diminishes the possibility for people to live in dignity is counter to God's will.

3. The human person, alone of all creation, has been entrusted with the care of creation. (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:15-20)

The human person has an immense responsibility, that of caring for all of creation. No person or group can use the resources of this earth as proprietor, but only as God's steward who destined these goods for all. Assuring that individuals and communities have access to what is necessary to sustain life in dignity is an expression of this stewardship, as is a reverent and moderate use of created goods.

4. Land and the people depend on each other. (Leviticus 25; Exodus 23; Deuteronomy 15)

We all depend on the land, source of our sustenance. While human activity renders the land productive, it can also exhaust it, leaving only desolation. In the Jubilee Year, a time for God, liberty is to be proclaimed throughout the land, debts forgiven, and slaves freed. Also the land is to lie fallow so that it, too, can be restored.

A recognition of the mutual dependence between the land and the human person calls us today to have a caring, even loving, attitude towards the land and to regulate its use with justice, the root of peace.

5. Both Jews and Catholics look to the future, a time of fulfillment

Our responsibility for all that dwells in the earth and for the earth itself extends into the future. The earth is not ours to destroy (cf. Dt 20:19), but to hand on in trust to future generations. We cannot, therefore, recklessly consume its resources to satisfy needs that are artificially created and sustained by a society that tends to live only for the present. We also need to act, together whenever feasible, to assure that sound practices, guaranteed by law, are established in our countries and local communities for the future preservation of the environment.

Care for creation is also a religious act. Both Catholics and Jews use water, fire, oil, and salt as signs of God's presence among us. As part of God's creation, we offer its fruits in prayer and worship, and the Psalmist does not hesitate to summon all of creation to join in praising God (Psalms 96,98,148).

Respect for God's creation, of which we are a part, must become a way of life. We therefore call upon our respective religious communities and families to educate children, both by teaching and example, to fulfill the trust that God has confided to us.

The Bush Record on the Enviroment
Bush administration slashes funding for global warming research
June 03, 2004: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration faces debilitating budget cuts for fiscal year 2005 thanks to the Bush administration's reluctance to combat global warming. A budget document from the NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research reveals that the president's fiscal year 2005 budget will virtually eliminate the agency's research on abrupt climate change and its effects on human health. NOAA's climate change program would be cut from $70 million in fiscal year 2004 to $59 million in fiscal year 2005, including major cuts to paleoclimatology and educational outreach programs.

Scientists and politicians alike have criticized the proposed budget cuts, while lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee have approved a bill by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to fund abrupt climate change research with $25 million. The budget cuts also appear to contradict the Bush administration's global warming priorities as delineated in its 2002 climate change science plan, which repeatedly emphasizes the importance of paleoclimatology study.

In addition, the White House recently attempted to delay an educational NOAA website which was intended to coincide with the launch of the blockbuster global warming disaster movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." The White House cited political unease as the reason behind the attempted delay -- the website, however, was available to the public on time.

"On global warming, the Bush administration fiddles with the funding as the world burns," said David Doniger, policy director of NRDC's climate center.

For More Information
More Background:
NRDC's Global Warming pages

The Bush Record: Related Topic Areas
Global Warming
Environmental Spending

How the White House Whitewashes Its Environmental Record
Hazardous Waste Sites
For the most part, the White House policy toward hazardous waste is hazardous to public health. The Superfund program is bankrupt -- largely because toxic waste cleanups have been underfunded by an average of more than $300 million per year since 2001. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency last year quietly reversed a long-standing environmental safeguard by lifting a 25-year old ban on the sale of land contaminated with cancer-causing PCBs. Shortly afterwards, the agency began a rulemaking process to reclassify industrial materials as recyclable in order to exempt more hazardous waste from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).


WH Claim: Enacted legislation accelerating brownfields cleanup.

Reality: The law provides funding to states, but does not set federal standards for public health and environment protection or deed restrictions on sites where toxins may linger after cleanup has been completed.

Details: (item from 01/10/02) (item from 09/02/03)

Land Conservation
The White House has not proven itself to be a good steward of America's forests, parks and special places. In its quest to boost logging in national forests -- under the guise of wildfire prevention -- the Forest Service has weakened environmental protections and curtailed public participation. Meanwhile, the Interior Department has underfunded and mismanaged national parks, accelerated energy development on public lands and worked to reverse a decade's worth of environmentally friendly mining and grazing reforms.

"Healthy Forests" Initiative

WH Claim: Restores the health and vitality of forests and rangelands, and helps reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

Reality: Exploits people's fear of fire to promote commercial logging in backcountry forests -- which may even promote fire -- rather than "thinning" trees and clearing brush around people's homes, as experts recommend.


National Parks

WH Claim: Of the $4.9 billion maintenance backlog plaguing national parks, $2.8 billion has been allocated and another $1.1 billion proposed.

Reality: The White House's numbers don't add up. The General Accounting Office estimates the current maintenance backlog is between $4 billion and $6.8 billion. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the administration has so far provided only $662 million to address that backlog. The FY 2005 budget proposes only $350 million in new money to address the maintenance backlog. (To the consternation of conservationists, the administration also has shifted money away from other essential park programs.) On average, national parks are operating with only two thirds of the necessary funding, a system-wide shortfall that translates to more than $600 million annually.

Details: (items from 01/28/04 and 03/16/04)

Farm Bill

WH Claim: Enhances conservation and environmental stewardship, providing more than $40 billion to restore wetlands, protect habitats, conserve water, and improve water near farms.

Reality: Only $9 billion of the new spending will address conservation, with the rest funding environmentally damaging policies and subsidizing polluting corporate factory farms. The proposed FY 2005 federal budget also would significantly slash funding for farmer and landowner conservation activities.

Details: (item from 05/14/04)

Conservation Funding

WH Claim: The FY 2005 budget proposal provides $507 million for the Interior Department's cooperative conservation programs to work with communities, nonprofits, states and citizens to remove invasive species, reduce stream bank erosion, and improve critical habitat.

Reality: The administration has proposed slashing federal funding for important cooperative conservation programs including state and tribal wildlife grants. Furthermore, the FY 2005 budget proposes cutting overall environmental funding by $1.9 billion (compared to FY 2004).


Air Quality
The White House touts its air pollution policies while trying to undo decades of progress. The EPA's air pollution plan is weaker than the Clean Air Act, and its mercury proposal would allow seven times as much this dangerous toxin to collect in our lakes and streams. While the new proposal to clean up heavy-duty diesels is commendable, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the administration's abysmal record on air pollution. Most notably, the White House avoids discussing its rollback of the Clean Air Act's "New Source Review" program, which allows some of the dirtiest power plants in the country to emit more pollution for a longer period of time than what current law, fully enforced, would allow.

So-called "Clear Skies" Initiative

WH Claim: Reduces sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions.

Reality: Would allow more pollution than existing law permits and does nothing to curb carbon dioxide pollution, the main cause of global warming.


Clean Air Interstate Rule

WH Claim: Would cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

Reality: This is an administrative rule based on the weak "Clear Skies" plan that has stalled in Congress. It would allow more pollution for a longer period of time than the Clean Air Act would allow.

Details: NRDC's legal comments on the rule and other information are available upon request.

Mercury Emissions

WH Claim: Pending legislation calls for 70 percent cut of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury over the next 15 years.

Reality: The bill treats highly toxic mercury as if it is not hazardous. And the proposed cuts are weaker than Clean Air Act would allow, resulting in more mercury pollution over a much longer time period.

Details: (item from 01/10/02)

Diesel Emissions

WH Claim: New rules would cut pollution from heavy-duty diesel vehicles used for construction, agricultural and industrial equipment.

Reality: In sharp contrast to other White House policies, this rule is an important step forward to reduce air pollution.

Details: (item from 01/10/02)

Fuel Savings from Light Trucks

WH Claim: Fuel economy standards for SUVs, vans and pick-up trucks have been raised.

Reality: This 1.5 miles-per-gallon increase over five years is a drop in the bucket toward making America less dependent on foreign oil -- and even these savings will be largely wiped out by the "dual fuel" loophole that allows the auto industry to skirt efficiency standards. We have the technology now to make all vehicles go further on a gas of gasoline, but incremental fuel economy increases are not going to get the technology on the market. Incidentally, one year after this paltry increase was announced, the overall American vehicle fleet hit a 22-year low in average fuel economy.

Details: (item from 02/18/04)

Global Warming
Whether it is ignoring its own National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study saying global warming is happening and has real consequences, or adopting do-nothing voluntary programs, the White House is not taking global warming seriously. Making matters worse, its energy policy amounts to more dirty forms of energy such as oil and coal, at the expense of efficiency and cleaner technology such as wind and solar -- ensuring that the United States remains dangerously dependent on oil from the Middle East and other unstable regions.

Greenhouse Gas "Intensity"

WH Claim: Committed to cutting greenhouse gas "intensity" (ratio of emissions to economic output) by 18 percent by 2012.

Reality: Total emissions will still increase under this plan by as much as 19 percent because of expected economic growth. That is about the same rate of reduction in carbon intensity that has occurred over the past 12 years, according to an Energy Department analysis. In other words, this is a do-nothing approach.

Details: (item from 02/12/03) (see section 1 under Global Warming)

Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy, Hybrids and Fuel-Cell Vehicles

WH Claim: $4.1 billion in tax incentives proposed for developing renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies such as hybrid cars and fuel-cell vehicles.

Reality: Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts that the White House has pushed through Congress, these incentives have not been enacted. Meanwhile, the White House actually has cut R&D funding for alternative energy programs. And while hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles may be viable in the future, technology available today, such as gasoline-electric hybrid engines, can reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Meanwhile, the White House has continued to push Congress to pass an energy bill that rewards polluters with billions of dollars in tax subsidies to continue business as usual.

Details: (hydrogen) (section 5) (NRDC Energy Policy)

Climate Change Research

WH Claim: FY 2005 budget proposes a 42 percent increase in climate research (compared to FY 2004).

Reality: Although the administration increased one climate science program by $70 billion (or 42 percent), it cut the U.S. Global Change Research Program by $109 million, for a $40 million net reduction in climate science research, according to OMB's May 2004 "Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to Congress." In any case, the realities of global warming already have been established, most recently by a National Academy of Science study. We know enough to act -- and real action is needed -- but the White House would rather stall.

Details: (item from 01/10/02)

Carbon Sequestration

WH Claim: Over the next 10 years, the United States will sponsor a demonstration project to create a coal-fired, zero emissions power plant and also create a hydrogen energy system, which will include hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

Reality: While carbon sequestration and zero-emission technologies should be encouraged, the White House opposes enforceable limits on carbon emissions that would drive private investment in deploying this technology. Moreover, energy efficiency and renewable energy technology such as wind and solar are available now, and will reduce air pollution and global warming emissions now, not decades in the future. (For hydrogen, see above section on fuel cells.)

Details: (item from 01/27/04)

Climate "VISION"

WH Claim: A voluntary approach to convincing industries to reduce their global warming pollution is preferred.

Reality: Voluntary programs are not enough to effectively decrease global warming pollution. The United States has tried a range of domestic and international voluntary efforts to reduce global warming pollution over the past decade, but U.S. emissions have continued to rise.


Our oceans face far-reaching problems, ranging from invasive species to climate change. But the sharp decline of ocean health is primarily the result of overfishing and pollution (particularly coastal habitat degradation). At the heart of the recommendations in recent reports by the independent Pew Commission and the presidentially appointed U.S. Commission on Oceans Policy is the need to shift human ocean activity away from exploitation and resource extraction toward stewardship, revitalization and recovery. Both reports conclude that capitalizing on this historic opportunity to significantly advance ocean conservation will require bold, visionary political leadership.

Marine Ecosystem Restoration

WH Claim: Working with NOAA and state and local governments, the National Park Service has begun work on restoring marine ecosystems.

Reality: In the face of collapsing ocean ecosystems, protecting and restoring marine reserves -- while a positive step -- falls far short of the policies needed to address the concerns raised by the Pew and U.S. commissions.

Details: (items from 04/16/02 and 03/29/02) (item from 09/02/03)

Waters and Wetlands
Almost every aspect of clean water protection -- from wetlands and sewage control to efforts to reduce factory farm pollution -- is under siege. More than 300,000 miles of the nation's rivers and shorelines -- and some 5 million acres of the lakes -- are "impaired," according to EPA. In fact, after years of improvement, 45 percent of the nation's assessed waterways are too polluted for fishing or swimming, up from 40 percent a few years ago.


WH Claim: Earth Day 2004 pledge of an overall increase of 3 million wetland acres annually over the next five years.Reality: Three million new wetland acres is a laudable goal, but what about the estimated 20 million acres of wetlands (and countless waterways nationwide) threatened by a January 2003 directive to federal agencies easing Clean Water Act protection? Although the administration, under pressure from conservation groups, agreed to end its rulemaking process for lifting Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands, its accompanying directive remains in effect.

Details: (items from 04/22/04, 05/22/03, 12/26/02, 01/14/02, 11/02/01, and 08/8/01) (items from 05/28/04 and 04/09/04)

Great Lakes Funding

WH Claim: FY 2005 budget proposes $45 million for the EPA and community partners to remediate contaminated sediments to prevent toxics such as PCBs and heavy metals from entering the food chain.Reality: The Great Lakes region is a net loser under the FY 2005 budget proposal. The budget calls for an overall cut of nearly $500 million for sewage system upgrade nationwide (under the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund), and includes a nearly $240 million (more than 40 percent) decrease in clean water funding for the nine Great Lakes states. (NRDC's funding analysis is available upon request.) In addition, White House air pollution policies ignore mercury pollution from power plants, which has prompted fish consumption warnings in the Great Lakes region.

Details: (item from 01/10/02) (items from 03/16/04, 10/29/03, 10/10/03)

Water 2025

WH Claim: FY 2005 budget requests $21 million for Water 2025 to strategically address water demands, help state, tribe, and local communities conserve water, andmonitor resources using collaborative approaches and market-based transfers.

Reality: The administration remains more focused on water supply than water quality. And it should be noted that EPA has misled the public on drinking water qualityand safety.