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Sierra Magazine

Sierra's May/June 2004 Let's Talk book selection:
Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress
A book by Carl Pope and Paul Rauber

Strategic Ignorance What it's about
George W. Bush was correct when he said his critics "misunderestimate" him. Nobody expected him to fundamentally alter the basic equation governing environmental protection in America. What we are witnessing, assert Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope and coauthor Paul Rauber, is larger than the gutting of the Clean Air Act, abandonment of endangered species, and selling out of public lands to oil and timber companies. The Bush administration seeks nothing less than to overturn the consensus on natural-resource policy that developed from the time of Theodore Roosevelt through the Clinton era. Going beyond the gory details of death by a thousand cuts, Pope and Rauber focus on the cynical method behind Bush’s destructive policies.

Where to get it
Strategic Ignorance will be in bookstores by mid-April. You can also order it through Sierra Club Books,

About the authors
A veteran leader in the environmental movement, Carl Pope has been executive director of the Sierra Club since 1992. He has also served on the boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Public Voice, the National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause, Public Interest Economics, Inc., and Zero Population Growth. Pope is the author of two previous books, Sahib: An American Misadventure in India (1971) and Hazardous Waste in America (1981). Paul Rauber, a senior editor at Sierra, has written on politics, the environment, travel, and food for a variety of publications. Pope and Rauber both live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Discussion questions Printable version of questions

  • Pope and Rauber’s introductory "Ten Commandments for the Hard Right," suggest some general ordering principles behind the Bush administration’s environmental strategy. Are they unique to the Bush administration? What would further commandments look like?

  • The authors see Bush breaking a national consensus on the environment that developed during the 20th century. Is this president really different in kind, or just in degree? How is he different from his father? Is Bush different from other conservative presidents—Ronald Reagan, for example?

  • Chapter 4 describes "the right’s romance with risk." Do Americans worry too much about the wrong things? How safe should modern life be?

  • How is it that a very small number of skeptical scientists have been able to forestall action on global warming? What will it take, short of climatological disaster, for the United States to take strong action on this issue?

  • Many of the Bush administration’s environmental positions are espoused (and staunchly defended) on talk radio. How has that medium changed the environmental debate in this country?

  • What is the proper role of the United States in the international community? To what extent should we be governed by international agreements?

  • In their closing chapter, Pope and Rauber offer a number of "commonsense solutions for the next 20 years." Are they too radical, or not radical enough?

  • Links has expanded notes, with links to sources cited. It also includes updates, derivations, and other related material that didn’t find its way into the book.

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