With Earth Day just two days away, the Bush White House is scurrying to show it's not averse to some tinges of green. This week has seen decisions to sign an international treaty to reduce pesticide and industrial pollution, to leave in place federal rules to expand protection of wetlands, and to require thousands of additional businesses to report their emissions of lead.
Until these moves, the news emanating from the administration had, from the environmentalist point of view, been uniformly bad (see story, page 1). Decisions not to strengthen rules on carbon-dioxide emissions, to opt out of the Kyoto treaty on global warming, and to postpone rules to reduce naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water brought a storm of criticism.
Even some Republicans worried that the president was allowing himself to be painted as dogmatically anti-environment. The greener stances taken this week are clearly intended to adjust this perception.
But there's more to all this than political maneuvering. It's no surprise the Bush administration is taking a different tack on the environment. This is a pro-business administration that will do what it can to reduce the regulatory burden on industry. Yet safeguarding natural resources and reducing pollution remain top national goals, backed by most Americans.
President Bush and his team can't afford to turn from those goals - both for political reasons and because to do so would be a breach of public trust. And despite the near apocalyptic protests of some critics, it's far from clear that the administration has any such environmental reversal in mind.
The president is closing ranks with his Environmental Protection Agency chief, Christine Todd Whitman. The pesticide treaty and other decisions were announced at the White House.
Mr. Bush may never do enough to quiet critics. But he has lots of time to show that the environment is much more to him than an afterthought.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor