Obama, Clinton, Gore Should Read Up on Roosevelt, Analyst Says

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - Barack Obama, meet Franklin Roosevelt.

This is the recommendation of John Berlau, author of "Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism is Hazardous to Your Health!" and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who spoke Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation.

At a dedication ceremony for what is now called the Hoover Dam, held in the late 1930s, Berlau recounted, Roosevelt had celebrated human creativity in a way that would greatly antagonize contemporary advocates of environmental causes.

Roosevelt had described the Nevada wilderness as a "cactus covered waste" and an "un-peopled forbidden desert." He also praised engineers who had found a way to tame the "turbulent and dangerous" Colorado River.

Any politician who invoked similar language today would be accused of being a "shill for Big Oil," Berlau said.

Presidential hopefuls Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and other top Democrats like former Vice President Al Gore would be well advised to consider the views of their historical antecedents, he continued.

The central message conveyed in Berlau's book is that "nature is not always our friend and there is no such thing as a risk-free world."

That concept was widely understood during the time Roosevelt was president but no longer resonated in the midst of today's environmentalism, he argued.

Instead of trying to link Bush administration policies with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, Obama should blame political activists who stand in the way of engineering initiatives that would ultimately save lives, Berlau contended.

In a December 2005 speech in Florida, Obama said Republicans believe, "You are on your own to buy your own health care, to buy your own retirement security ... to buy your own roads and levees," a reference to the hurricane in New Orleans four months earlier.

"The philosophy Obama and everyone else should be holding to account for the destruction caused by Katrina is modern environmentalism, the tenets of which are enshrined in a series of federal laws that put ecosystems and every species of bug or rat above essential economic activity and human lives," Berlau said.

It has been evident for over 40 years - since Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965 -- that New Orleans was in need of stronger levies.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, with the backing of the largely Democratic congressional delegation in the 1970s, proposed the construction of "large steel and concrete gates" that would be used to block "storm surges" into the city, Berlau said.

These gates could be activated during hurricanes to close the two major channels that connect the Gulf of Mexico with a lake the leads into the city.

Unfortunately, the project never came to fruition as a result of a law called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Berlau said. The law gives "aggrieved citizens" the ability to file suit, if they believe a particular project is environmentally harmful.

The legal battle that ultimately derailed the sea gate project in New Orleans is detailed in Berlau's book. A group calling itself "Save our Wetlands" sued under NEPA claiming the gates would be harmful to certain fish populations, Berlau said.

A judge then issued an injunction, halting construction. At the time dissenting voices warned that "thousands could be killed" unless the sea gates were constructed, Berlau told Tuesday's meeting.

Other voices from the past "who knew a lot about science" include President Reagan, who had warned radio listeners about the dangers associated with bans on pesticides like DDT and the impact it would have on combating the spread of malaria. Reagan often cited Dr. Norman Borlaug, an agronomist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1970s.

Tragically, the warnings of Reagan and Borlaug were not heeded and the consequences were quite severe in some regions of the world such as Africa, where about two million people die of malaria each year, Berlau said.

Although Reagan did not see his views on the subject vindicated, Berlau said Borlaug, who is now 92, can take satisfaction in knowing that just a few months ago the World Health Organization reversed its position and is now arguing in favor of using DDT in anti-malaria efforts in Africa.

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