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Environment Protection in US
While the G8 summit was underway, and once the news of Wednesday's London bombings became known, the American president George Bush was widely quoted on the subject of international terrorism. He spoke of his resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to "spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm" what he called "their ideology of hate".
But as the G8 meeting drew to a close, the US President had rather less to say about the Plan of Action, announced by the world leaders, to tackle what they deemed the "serious and long-term challenge" of climate change.
Stephen Evans, who's on a driving tour of the western United States, says many Americans remain unconvinced that this is an issue they need to take seriously:
I've just driven down from Salt Lake City, through the desert of Utah and Nevada. It is a magnificent sublime wilderness where horizons are wide when they're not broken by the craggy splendour of an ancient volcanic landscape. As the sun sinks here, the rocks glow red and it's hard to imagine a threat to the environment where space seems limitless.
And yet, many of these escarpments hide sites where humans dispose of all sorts of waste. Just beyond the beauty is a land being violated. This is where America throws its trash over the back wall.
I've just been to Yucca Mountain in Nevada where tunnels are being dug deep inside to bury spent nuclear fuel -- engineers told me for ten thousand years. Around here there are dumps for every toxic waste. Dumps that feature on maps but not in the public consciousness. The city of Salt Lake has a big rubbish dump in Skull Valley.
But none of this is evident. Where people on other continents feel the pressure of the crowd, Americans still breathe in what seems deceptively like limitless, virgin territory.
It's also a country, a continent, of extreme climates. This land freezes in winter and is scorching now -- even with snow on the peaks around -- and that too affects the American perception of climate change.
In Europe, insurance premiums rise as homes get built on flood plains in a search for every inch of exploitable space. In America, there is not this connection between wallets and weather. Extremes of climate seem natural.
Only on the crowded coasts is the environment an issue. California and New York have tough regulations. In between, they often can't see what the fuss is about. It's a big country they feel. The taxi-driver in Texas who told me that global warming was hokum is not a lone voice, some of the big oil companies that lobby Mr. Bush are also loathe to concede a link between their product and climate change.
Even where there is concern, it can seem unfocussed. I went to a shop in Santa Fe in New Mexico -- a trendy shop for concerned people, where there was a lot of hessian, and earthenware products and posters with slogans about the earth.
They also sold wooden pens there -- ballpoint pens in casing wood rather than plastic. I asked the woman behind the counter why on earth they sold wooden pens. She replied as though I was a bit stupid -- that wood was more natural -- "natural", as though that somehow meant it was kinder on the world's resources.
And at some of the fancier supermarkets now in trendy areas, the checkout person asks what kind of bag you want: "Paper or plastic?" I usually ask which one is better for the environment, to which the reply is invariably: "I don't know".
The environment sometimes seems like the fashionable issue of the moment, the right badge to wear, the current political designer label.
Things are changing though. Some Christians argue that gas-guzzling cars are a waste of the bountiful creation of their and the President's god.
Neo-conservatives are worried that importing oil means relying on hostile regimes, which, moreover, might funnel some of the dollars to anti-American causes -- what the neo-cons call a "terrorism tax on the American people".
The former head of the CIA, James Woolsey, for example, drives a Honda Prius, powered partly by a battery rather than the notorious internal combustion engine which burns gasoline and emits the smoke that many scientists believe causes global warming.
Mr. Woolsey, no tree-hugging liberal he, drives this cleaner car for what he calls "national security reasons".
And further from the chattering elites in Washington, concern about the environment usually translates as concern about the price of fuel. The last time I was in the Six Pack Diner in Detroit, the car-workers guzzling their cholesterol were not opining about the melting polar ice-caps.
They are worried, though, that their employers -- Ford and General Motors -- have failed to catch a new appetite for cars that consume less. More clean Japanese cars means fewer jobs in Detroit.
So there is pressure on Mr. Bush over the environment but not as a grand cause. It's a concern rather about importing an expensive fuel from hostile places. And Mr Bush may respond with tax incentives for cleaner technology that the US market seems increasingly to want.
Not so spectacular of course as grand declarations of global good intent, but maybe effective nonetheless.