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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Widely Criticized on Earth Day

UNITED NATIONS -- Hollywood stars, politicians, and businessmen delivered an Earth Day message to U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders: If you care about the environment join British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Vladimir Putin at a UN summit to promote environmentally friendly development.

Bush came under pressure Monday from environmental activists to make a commitment to attend the Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to make the conference a milestone in protecting the planet. Blair and Putin are the two major world figures who have promised to attend the summit.

"The world summit ... could be a turning point in changing the way the entire world addresses key development and environmental challenges," Representative Christopher Shays, a Republican, told an Earth Day observance at UN headquarters. "But it won't happen unless our world leaders participate in the summit."

He challenged leaders from industrialized and developing nations to "take risks" to save the environment and engage in a dialogue of equals at Johannesburg on innovative new ways to tackle climate change, air and water pollution and other issues.

Bush's environmental record was attacked by Andrew Cuomo, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He said he didn't believe the federal government would provide leadership in preserving the environment for future generations, citing the president's opposition to the Kyoto treaty on climate change and failure to announce his attendance at the Johannesburg summit.

Bush defended his environmental record during an Earth Day walk through the Adirondack Mountain woods in northern New York, and dismissed a chorus of Democratic critics, including former presidential rival Al Gore.

The activists gathered under a tent on the lawn at UN headquarters promised to keep up the pressure on the U.S. president -- and other leaders as well.

"We need all of you to insist that president Bush and other world leaders commit to attending the Johannesburg summit," actress Susan Sarandon told the crowd of about 200 invited guests.

Her plea was echoed by her co-host, actor Joe Pantoliano, one of the stars of the Oscar-nominated movie "Memento," who urged people everywhere to send letters to their prime ministers and presidents.

Even though the world is focused on conflict and terror, British actor Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek" fame said, "we must not allow our leaders ... to use international crises [as] an excuse for being distracted" from environmental issues.

As part of the new environmental coalition, executives from two environmentally friendly companies also spoke at the summit -- Starbucks, which supported Earth Day activities all over the country, and Toyota, which has produced the world's first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle and helped pay for the UN event.