Bringing the green—or not so much?

Trees courtesy of shutterstock

You might not know we reelected a president last week from reading this site. We try to stick to gardening politics.

But presidents do have an effect on environmental policies, conservation, farming and—eventually—gardening. A few years back I posted about the ten greenest presidents in U.S, history, according to this site. Back then, the best recent environmental record was owned by Bill Clinton. It still is. Clinton created 17 new national monuments (4.6 million acres of preservation), extended protections for wetlands and old-growth forests, and banned off-shore drilling. His record isn’t perfect, but it’s better than Obama’s, whose last grade from the Center from Biological Diversity was C-.  Although the president has shown leadership on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency, he’s also allowed fossil fuel extraction to increase during his tenure. Treehugger reluctantly endorsed him—how could they do otherwise, given the alternative?

So over the next four years, it will be interesting to see how the Obama 2.0 administration addresses the following concerns:

GMOs: California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified food, was defeated, but awareness was raised. Many of our readers feel the recent studies debunking organics may have been released to help defeat 37. What type of policies about GMOs will emerge at a national level, now that the profile has been raised?

Climate change: Although it was not discussed during the campaign, in his acceptance speech, the president said he’d fight to make sure the nation “isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” We’ll see.

Pesticides: Although studies proliferate on the effects of various pesticides on all animals, including bees and humans, spraying is still the norm in Big Ag world.

It’s cool that the White House has  a vegetable garden and all—but the big picture stuff is still loaded with question marks.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Sad that environmental advocates are getting stuck in an anti-GMO stance. Climate change, they believe scientists. But GMO’s… suddenly, every study that shows that GMOs are harmless is not to be believed.

  2. Maybe we can suggest they go camping to one of the national parks and get a better sense of our natural resources that are being exploited.

    disappointed to hear about GMO but awareness is a good thing

  3. I agree. Our president is not doing his job regarding the environment. What happens in the next four years is going to be vital and we all must become even more active and vocal. I disagree with George, however; the problem with GMOs are many and well documented. Not allowing consumers to be informed on what they are buying is an outrage. Climate change and GMOs are THE two biggest environmental issues facing us today.

  4. The President’s record on the environment is disappointing. I think the extreme anti-environmental stances of the Congressional Republicans is a legitimate partial excuse. The other thing is that Obama actually tends to be a very cautious politician – I sometimes wish he really was the wild radical portrayed by his enemies. However, I was encouraged by the fact that he did mention global warming twice during his victory speech. Sandy, and the Bloomberg endorsement, may have had something to do with that. Moreover, if he is as concerned about his legacy as he is supposed to be, I cannot imagine that he will not at least try to come to grips with global warming.

  5. How can you have any hope that the president will make any changes for the environment when the people he appoints are directly from the ranks of the Big Ag companies?
    Sure he can assuage you with vague inuendos during his victory speech (or perhaps open ended ideas with no real tangible measure of success – I didn’t watch it to be fair), but when it comes to action, look at who he has put in charge of the FDA, the EPA and the USDA (this is a bipartison problem btw – Bush did it too).
    Then redouble/rethink your efforts at the grass roots/local/state level, because until the people demand that the politicians and industries start taking the environment seriously, you’re just going to get a lot of smooth speeches that don’t mean anything at all.
    I’ve read several books regarding peak oil and the food system in America that suggest that, until the people themselves turn from being consumers of oil and every environmental resource they can get their hands on, the politicians will never really force the issue until some external factore (oil runs out, massive weather changes demand action, etc) forces them to change their tune. Suggesting the sort of change we probably need would be political suicide as far as getting votes is concerned. That’s a gross approximation of these well written and researched books, but the point was eye opening to me. In a way, they’re giving the masses what the masses want – cheap oil, cheap food, etc at a very high price from the perspective of inhabiting the planet in the future and tosses the rest of us some nicely worded platitudes.

  6. TR is on the list? Yeesh! I think someone skipped some essential research.

    All of us alive today have witnessed only the comparatively tame meat and trophy types of hunting–largely because of the massive depopulation caused by the type of hunting a rich, privileged Roosevelt did: sport hunting. TR killed thousands upon thousands of animals in his life. With the very best weapons and servants available to pick up the carcasses, he probably killed more wildlife in a single family vacation outing than all the meat hunters killed in your state last year. And this was completely unregulated hunting: anything that moved was a target, any time of the year, with no “bag limits”. Untying one bear and diverting other people’s money to federal parks–where hunters continue to destroy wildlife and endanger visitors and, oddly, self-defense from other humans using a weapon is not “allowed”–sorry that shouldn’t even qualify as atonement for TR’s sins.

    TR is a hero to people who imagine a constitutional right to shoot animals in the face….because, hey, what better place to shoot an animal in the face than someone else’s land? No need to maintain the land….just dump the gutpile, toss the non-biodegradable remains of your McDonalds Big Breakfast on the ground and drive down the highway with your oversize, mostly empty V-10 pick-up carrying an eviscerated, bloody carcass with one antler dragging on the highway right right out in the open where kids can be mentally scarred by the sight. Hey, the kids love it! That’s why they wake up screaming in the middle of the night for the rest of their lives.

    But that’s just my opinion. I’m not an environmentalist so maybe I see things differently.

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