The next time you visit the National Mall in Washington D.C., you can expect a bit less from the U.S. Botanic Garden. The House of Representatives has voted to approve an amendment that reduces the Botanic Garden’s budget by 1.23 million dollars.
The amendment, written by Paul Gosar, was offered with the idea of reducing spending. The reduction in spending, however, is little more than an empty gesture, representing a cost of less than half a penny per citizen per year.
At the same time that Congress is cutting funds from America’s national garden, legislation is being drafted to prevent any cuts at all in military spending, with an annual budget in the hundreds of billions of dollars for the Pentagon.
Republicans 188 and 25 Democrats voted to cut the Botanic Garden budget. 41 Republicans and 152 Democrats voted against the cuts.
Why should there be a partisan divide on an issue of gardening? The U.S. Botanic Garden is more than a lovely place to visit. It’s a center of national leadership on gardening issues, and gardening issues are environmental issues. The Botanic Garden reconnects people to the biosphere of the planet that they live on, and that encourages a bit less willingness to sacrifice the natural world for the sake of corporate profits. That kind of vision of environmental responsibility runs counter to the laissez-faire ideology cherished by most republicans.
The events that take place at the U.S. Botanic Garden are sometimes reflective of a larger economic threat to the wealthy investors who back Republican politicians. On June 19, for example, author Katie Fallon will be giving a lecture at the Botanic Garden about her new book, Cerulean Blues, which reports on the environmental threat that mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachians creates, not just to individual animals such as the cerulean warbler, but to entire ecosystems in areas of biological diversity that are higher than anywhere else on land in the continental United States.
Pointing out the cost of extreme coal mining runs contrary to the economic interests of members of Congress like Paul Gosar, who has taken tens of thousands of dollars from oil and coal companies and electric utilities in for the two congressional campaigns he has run so far in his career (and that’s not counting independent expenditures). These politicians are happy to trample a garden, because a clean green place for Americans to congregate doesn’t match their vision of a United States of Asphalt and Armaments.