AUSTIN, Texas -- "The aide (a senior adviser to President Bush) said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." -- Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004.

             This is the quote that now has some noted bloggers identifying themselves as, "Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community."

             Of all the problems that arise from having an administration that chooses not to believe in reality, the one most likely to have irretrievably disastrous consequences is environmental.

            The Bush solution to global warming is to declare it does not exist. While this solves the problem for him in the short term, global warming is highly unlikely to be impressed by the news that we are now an empire and can change history.

            Just lately, "history's actors" have made a couple of singular contributions to our future that we in the reality-based community will doubtless be studying for some time to come.

            The first allows sewer operators to dump inadequately treated sewage into the nation's waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (a name that becomes more ironic daily) currently requires sewer operators to fully treat their waste in all but the most extreme circumstances, like during a hurricane. The new plan will allow operators to dump sewage routinely any time it rains.

            According to the Natural Resources Defense Council: "For the last 50 years, standard sewage treatment has involved a two-step process: solids removal, and biological treatment to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. The new policy allows facilities to routinely bypass the second step and to 'blend' partially treated sewage with fully treated wastewater before discharging it into the waterways."

            NRDC predicts more Americans -- especially the elderly, very young and those with weakened immune systems -- will get sick and die. That's on account of the fact that bacteria, viruses and parasites are also part of the reality-based community and have no respect for history's actors or empires.

             Next, in one of those under-the-radar moments so beloved of the Bushies, the Pentagon has simply exempted itself from environmental law. A new Department of Defense directive changes a Clinton-era order on "Environmental Security" by eliminating the following policies:

            -- Reducing risk to human health and the environment by identifying, evaluating and, where necessary, remediating contamination resulting from past DoD activities.

            -- Protecting, preserving and, when required, restoring and enhancing the quality of the environment.

            -- Conserving and restoring, where necessary, the natural and cultural heritage represented on DoD installations within the United States.

            There has been no public debate or congressional review of the new policy. The policy was written by the man who watched the looting of Baghdad and said, "Stuff happens."

            To add to the global warming festivities now comes a new novel by Michael Crichton, who has made a fortune by scaring us about nonexistent threats -- the Japanese taking over the world, rampant sexual harassment by predatory females and dinosaurs recreated by insane scientists. This time, Crichton claims to be working against the fear-mongers, because the premise of his new novel is that global warming is much overrated and actually the product of a sinister group of villains -- the environmentalists. Enviros, by and large a pacific bunch of vegetarians and birders, must make unsatisfactory villains (I haven't read the book).

            But in fact, the "villains" in global warming are not environmentalists, but scientists. They are the ones trying to "scare" us by making us aware of the problem, which is reality-based. Yet another study -- by 300 scientists with the International Arctic Science Committee --- finds:

            -- Average winter temperatures in the Arctic are up by 4 to 7 degrees over the past 50 years and now projected to rise by 7 to 14 degrees over the next 100 years.

            -- Polar ice during the summer is projected to decline by 50 percent by the end of this century.

            -- Warming over Greenland will lead to substantial melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, contributing to global sea level rise at an increasing rate. Greenland's ice sheets contain enough water to raise the sea level by about 23 feet.

            Scientists, a reality-based bunch of empiricists if ever there was one, are in no doubt about global warming. The only question is about how fast it's happening. And many of the small minority who argue it is coming slowly are themselves in the pay of oil companies and industry groups.

            As Upton Sinclair observed, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." And that is not conspiracy-mongering. That is reality.

            To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.