RIO DE JANEIRO — Former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., sharing his thoughts here Saturday on environmental destruction, squared off against the Bush Administration and "the forces of greed and waste."
But he also took a jab at what he called "tax-deduction junkies"--nonprofit groups that advocate environmental protection but shy away from partisan politics.
Brown was speaking at the Global Forum, an international meeting of environmentalists being held in Rio de Janeiro along with the U.N. Conference on the Environment and Development. It was a fitting setting for the frustrated presidential aspirant to talk about one of his favorite subjects.
The green movement needs a much bigger political base, he said, but partisan politics is not tax-exempt. "I appeal to all of you tax-deduction junkies to give up your tax exemptions and fight the politicians who are destroying everything you believe in."
Brown's harshest words were for President Bush and the business corporations that he said risk environmental destruction for short-term profits while arguing that protection measures stunt economic growth.
"George Bush is so confused and so benighted that he thinks efficiency and conservation cost jobs. Well, he's wrong. George Bush costs jobs," Brown said at a press conference.
"Bush is not committed to an environmentally sustainable future because his corporation buddies might make less money," he said.
"Greed and corruption will always work their way until ordinary people take back their politics," Brown predicted. "That's why we're here today, to make it very plain that there is a worldwide concern and a movement to take back what lies in the hands of greedy people."
Earlier, Brown spoke to an audience of environmentalists in a sweltering plastic tent in Rio's Flamengo Park, site of the Global Forum. He recalled resistance in California to environmental measures that he took as governor.
"It's so easy to talk about environmentalism, but when you really get there, you find that the forces of greed are very powerful," he said. "When you do something for the environment, people don't applaud it that much. They call it anti-business, flakery and moonbeam. . . ."
When his state government banned dangerous pesticides, "That made farmers so angry that they are still angry," he said. Brown prescribed "an entire new political force to overcome the obstacles."
The former governor then argued for the creation of a "global conservation corps" to work on such tasks as reforestation, cleaning rivers and environmental teaching.
"It has to be made up of people of all races, all religions and both sexes all over the world to restore, renew, regenerate and heal what has been destroyed," he said.
Brown acknowledged that the idea may not be easy to sell because it lacks a profit motive. But he promised to try to get the proposal into the Democratic Party platform.
"We have an army of 2 million people," he said. "We can certainly have a corps to save forests, clear streams and help in emergencies."
Brown's environmental ideas brought frequent applause from friendly listeners. Some rose to ask questions and offer their own comments.
"I hope that when you become President of the United States, the only endangered flora and fauna are going to be a Bush and a Quayle," quipped John Murray, an environmentalist from Canada.