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SG-W:/ Editorial: Dubya's "gift" to environmentalists

>From Friday's New York Times:

Here's the text:

June 1, 2001 

A Tiger by the Tail
And now for a wild prediction. Within 12 months President Bush, Vice 
President Dick Cheney and all their backers in the oil industry will be 
begging — begging — to revive the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the 
accord Mr. Bush yanked America out of after taking office.

Why, you ask? Well, look what's happening in England. A group of celebrities 
there have joined with environmentalists to launch a boycott against Exxon 
Mobil gas stations, which in Europe go by the name Esso. Bianca Jagger, the 
pop star Annie Lennox and Anita Rodrick, founder of the Body Shop chain, 
helped launch the boycott because, as Ms. Jagger said, "This is a way to tell 
Esso that it's not right for them to be claiming that there is no connection 
between CO2 emissions and climate change." 

People connected with Exxon reportedly contributed more than $1 million to 
the Bush campaign. Exxon is a key supporter of research and advertisements 
that try to cast doubt on the seriousness of global warming and its link to 
fossil fuel emissions. Exxon was a big backer of President Bush's decision to 
pull the U.S. out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called for industrialized 
nations to steadily reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Exxon is also a 
major force behind the Global Climate Coalition, a business lobby that 
opposed Kyoto.

The "Stop Esso Campaign" is asking British drivers to shun Esso stations 
until the company supports Kyoto (see www.stopesso.com). The campaign 
recently spread to France. What's funny is that probably none of this would 
have happened had Mr. Bush not bowed to the oil companies and pulled the U.S. 
out of Kyoto. That may turn out to be his greatest gift to environmentalism.

You see, as long as everyone was discussing how to implement Kyoto, no one 
wanted to take any radical steps. Governments could say they were working on 
the problem, but that negotiations were hard. Corporations could mumble nice 
words about environmentalism, but not worry anything serious was going to 
happen. And environmentalists could feel their cause was being advanced, even 
though implementation was far off. 

"As long as Kyoto was there, everyone could avoid real accountability and 
pretend that something was happening," says Paul Gilding, the former head of 
Greenpeace and now chairman of Ecos, one of Australia's leading environmental 
consulting firms. "But now George Bush, by trashing Kyoto, has blown 
everyone's cover. If you care about the environment you can't pretend 
anymore. Emissions are increasing, the climate is changing and people can now 
see for themselves that the world is fiddling while Rome burns."

The result: Environmentalists refuse to sit on their hands anymore. Instead, 
the smart ones are mobilizing consumers to fight multinational polluters on 
their own ground. You have to admire it. It's so Republican — using the free 

If I were Exxon, I would be worried — especially when U.S. college students 
come back to campus in the fall. Remember Monsanto? It was going to sell 
genetically modified food to Europeans. But environmentalists in Europe — 
worried, rightly or wrongly, about the safety of what they were eating — 
mobilized the weakest link in the value chain: consumers. Consumers demanded 
"G.M.O.-free" food. So supermarkets demanded it from their suppliers, 
suppliers demanded it from farmers and farmers demanded it from Monsanto. 
Goodbye, Monsanto.

This is real globalization activism. "The smart activists are now saying, 
`O.K., You want to play markets — let's play,' " says Mr. Gilding. They don't 
waste time throwing stones or lobbying governments. That takes forever and 
can easily be counter-lobbied by corporations. No, no, no. They start with 
consumers at the pump, get them to pressure the gas stations, get the station 
owners to pressure the companies and the companies to pressure governments. 
After all, consumers do have choices where they buy their gas, and there are 
differences now. Shell and BP- Amoco (which is also the world's biggest solar 
company) both withdrew from the oil industry lobby that has been dismissing 
climate change.

What Mr. Bush did in trashing Kyoto was to leave serious environmental 
activists with nowhere else to turn but the market. The smart ones get it. 
You will be hearing from them soon — at a gas station near you. 

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