Image via Macalester.edu
Who were the 10 greenest US presidents? Any attempt to answer that question is sure to be met with controversy—as is any list that groups together Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Theodore Roosevelt, and George W. Bush for any reason at all.
But MSN's slide show of the greenest US presidents in history goes for the glory anyways, and they admit that their list is "somewhat arbitrary and more than a little whimsical." And so it should be. Here they are—the presidents responsible for deeds like establishing the National Park system, sowing conservation minded ideals, passing the Clean Air Act, and simply living a green lifestyle.
You will be surprised.
The Top Ten Greenest Presidents
And here they are, via MSN:
1. Thomas Jefferson
Evidently he was a passionate botanist, and a strong advocate of agrarianism, or a culture based on farming—in fact, he envisioned an entire country made up of farmers and family units spread across the country. He made the Louisiana Purchase to further this aim.
2. Andrew Jackson
Yes, despite being a notoriously aggressive soldier and dueler, Jackson nonetheless makes the list for his contributions to conservation:
Jackson did lay the very first brick in what would become the magnificent edifice of America’s national parks system when, in 1832, he signed legislation setting aside for future federal use four sections of land in the Arkansas Territory known as the Hot Springs Reservation. Though there was no thought at the time that Hot Springs and other parks one day would be maintained as places for the public to commune with nature, Jackson’s act was precedent setting.
3. Abraham Lincoln
In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln nonetheless continued to sow the seeds of conservationism, when he decided to "sign a bill establishing California’s breathtaking Yosemite Valley and its Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias as an inalienable public trust to be administered by the state. This marked the first time land was set aside for public enjoyment."
4. Ulysses S Grant
Like Jackson, Grant is another president renowned more for his wartime prowess than his green tendencies, but he nonetheless did some undeniable good for the environment:
he signed legislation creating America’s first national park: Yellowstone. The act stipulated that 2.2 million acres, most of it in what today is northwest Wyoming, be "set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." Once established, this principle that the federal government could preserve land for the enjoyment of all citizens would be exercised repeatedly.
5. Theodore Roosevelt
Now here's one we saw coming. Often heralded as the first modern environmentalist, many of us have paid our respects to Teddy many times over. He did, after all, use the Forest Reserve act to set aside 150 million acres of land, which would lead to the creation of the US Forest Service. According to MSN, "He also created 50 wildlife refuges and five national parks."
6. Woodrow Wilson
In the midst of his tumultuous presidency, Wilson managed to create the National Park Service.
7. Lyndon Johnson
LBJ makes his way onto this list (rather dubiously) for his wife's contributions to the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
8. Richard Nixon
Many of us like to consider Nixon only as a villainous, power hungry crook. But he also harbored
support for creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the bureaucratic manifestation of the National Environmental Policy Act he signed on New Year’s Day 1970. Suddenly it seemed appropriate for the federal government to protect citizens and the environment from the depredations of pollution, and it was a role Nixon embraced
9. Jimmy Carter
Carter makes the cut for his prescient energy policy, as he
warned as stridently as he could of the dangers of a dependence on foreign oil. He created the Department of Energy to formulate a sensible national energy policy stressing alternative fuels, and he preached the virtues of conservation, going so far as to have solar panels installed on the White House roof and setting the mansion’s thermostats at 68 degrees. To ward off the chill he wore cardigan sweaters and fired up a wood burning stove in the living quarters. If only we had listened.
10. George W Bush
There he is, a man often reviled by environmentalists, rounding out MSN's list of the greenest presidents in history. Why? As we've noted before, Bush may be a closet green. If you take his policy out of the equation, and consider only his lifestyle (minus all the private jetting), MSN says Bush could very well make the cut:
His house in Crawford, Texas, is an environmental marvel. Its geothermal heating and cooling system requires only 25% the electricity of conventional systems, and a 25,000-gallon underground cistern collects rain and waste water which is purified and used to irrigate the landscape surrounding the four-bedroom home. If only he preached what he practices.
Not convinced he should be on the list? Check out the startling results of this TreeHugger survey on green presidents.