Welcome Back to the World Letters to the new U.S. president
BEGINNING WITH HIS REJECTION of the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, President George W. Bush made "go it alone" his administration's guiding principle in international relations. The same year, he snubbed the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. At a 2003 United Nations conference in Nairobi, Kenya, U.S. opposition blocked a global agreement to reduce mercury pollution. Early in his tenure, the U.S. government cut off funds for any overseas family-planning program that so much as mentioned abortion services. In 2007 U.S. intransigence in Bali, Indonesia, eliminated specific targets for reductions of greenhouse gases. Far from the "decent respect to the opinions of mankind" Thomas Jefferson appealed to in the Declaration of Independence, Bush's principle has been "My way or the highway."
As this issue goes to press, we do not know who will succeed Bush, but John McCain and Barack Obama have both said that they want to resume a serious and respectful discussion with the rest of the world. This fall Sierra jumped the gun by asking an assortment of international environmental leaders to open that discussion by writing letters to the next U.S. president, whomever it may be. Their missives amount to a global plea for the United States to reassert itself as an environmental leader, and a welcome back to the community of nations. —Paul Rauber