Who was America's greenest commander-in-chief? A recent list from Canadian-based media company and "clean capitalism" advocates Corporate Knights ranks the greenest presidents based on votes from leaders of some of the country's largest environmental groups.
Corporate Knights surveyed 12 environmental groups, including World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace and others. Leaders of the dozen groups provided their nominations for the three greenest presidents in U.S. history, according to a press release.
America's 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, claimed the top spot by a wide margin. As president, he established the first national wildlife refuge, in Florida, along with "150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, 18 national monuments and five national parks," explains Grist's David Roberts. Along with Roosevelt, two other members of the Republican Party made the list-- Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
The bipartisan composition of the list was not lost on Theodore Roosevelt IV, a managing director at Barclays Capital and the great-grandson of Teddy Roosevelt. "Conservative environmentalist is not an oxymoron," he said in a statement. "These records of my great grandfather and Richard Nixon show the GOP is also the 'Green Old Party.' Reconnecting with these roots is crucial, not only to honor our covenant with future generations, but for our relevance as a political force."
While both major political parties are represented, what is "most striking," according to The New York Times, is that only eight presidents received votes at all. Yet Princeton professor Julian Zelizer told the Times that promoting conservation was easier for presidents in the past. He said, “Now we’re in an era when that enthusiasm has gone. A lot of the time, problems are more prevalent in the minds of Americans than the possibilities.”
Roberts notes that it's important to remember that many people "wildly overestimate the power of the president." He stresses that presidents with the "the most green accomplishments" were aided by "exogenous forces." He writes, "They were at a convergence of circumstances, their own personal predilections often playing a fairly small role."
Click here to watch C-SPAN coverage of the press conference announcing the greenest presidents.