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My Letter To Congress About Environmental Policy

washington-d-c-and-environment.jpgI recently composed and sent the following message to the public servants in Congress for my state:

Dear Representative/Senator,

I am very concerned about our nation’s environmental policy.

I recognize that many interest groups have quite different ideas about how to address this topic. Among Democrats, there is widespread agreement that the Environmental Protection Agency must be given strong authority to protect the environment and guide companies and individuals to treat nature in ethical and healthy ways. Republicans have their own ideas, some of which overlap with those of the other party. I do not see theirs so much as a developed system except in a hope or expectation that corporations and individuals will regulate themselves or the market will eventually eliminate bad actors.

I would like to stress how unusual our country is by international standards in its substantially large resistance among many citizens and leaders against a normative acceptance and implementation of strict environmental protections.  This is especially true in comparison to every other advanced Western nation. For example, on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, we ranked 39th in 2009, 61st in 2010 and 26th in 2016. The Quality of Life Index scored America 38th for 2010. Out of 35 member nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we placed 16th in 2016. The Climate Change Performance Index positioned us at 44th in 2015.

If we are to stand in such contrast to those nations outpacing us in effective environmental policy, then the burden of proof is heavy upon us to justify our apparent negligence and even abuse of the natural world. I watched an interview in June 2015 of prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham by Chuck Todd of NBC. Graham openly stated with regret that the GOP had no environmental policy. Regardless of whether or not climate change is real and caused by humans, as has been emphatically stated for many decades by something like 97% of scientists across all disciplines, conservatives, liberals and those of other commitments must find a way to agree on the basics of ecological stewardship. This includes prevention of pollution and destruction of the only habitat available to us and the millions of other species on this planet. Many of the common sense methods we likely can come together on will at least somewhat improve whatever problems exist related to climate change.

Although environmental protection is most often associated today in the United States with Democrats, it is important to remember the accomplishments of 20th century Republicans on this subject. Teddy Roosevelt was a major force behind the establishment of America’s national parks. Richard Nixon deeply influenced the formation of the Environmental Protection Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These types of programs would most assuredly be considered too liberal for today’s GOP to engage in, but this need not be the case. We all must get past our differences for the sake of improving living conditions and preserving the Earth’s land, water and sky.

Scientists from numerous organizations have estimated that between 100,000-400,000 people around the globe are dying each year due to environmental abuse associated with climate change. International terrorism, a serious problem said by many to be more threatening, kills 8,000-18,000 annually.

The Daily Beast remarked: “The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the gold standard for climate science, said in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that climate change caused 150,000 extra deaths a year….But the 150,000 figure took into account only deaths from malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea caused by contaminated water, a common result of floods. Excluded were the effects of heat waves, crop losses due to an increase in pests, and a range of other deadly diseases, which can be substantial. For example, the record-breaking heat wave that blanketed Europe for six weeks in summer 2003 caused at least 71,449 excess deaths, according to a 2008 study sponsored by the European Union.”

The New Republic commented: “When scientists attribute deaths to climate change, they don’t just mean succumbing to a heat wave or, as Huckabee put it, to sunburn. Heat waves kill many, to be sure, but global warming also devastates food security, nutrition, and water safety. Since mosquitoes and other pests thrive in hot, humid weather, scientists expect diseases like malaria and dengue fever to rise. Floods threaten to contaminate drinking water with bacteria and pollution….When the report looked at the added health consequences from burning fossil fuels—aside from climate change—the number of deaths jumps from 400,000 to almost 5 million per year. Carbon-intensive economies see deaths linked to outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke from poor ventilation, occupational hazards, and skin cancer.”

The Guardian noted: “New research shows global warming’s effect on the quality of food available could kill more than 500,000 people a year around the world by 2050….Climate change is already judged by doctors as the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, due to floods, droughts and increased infectious diseases, with the potential to roll back 50 years of progress….Prof Andy Challinor, at the University of Leeds…said, ‘Year-to-year variability of food production will become greater, which will make global food markets more unpredictable. And extreme climatic events will become more common, such as the wheat harvest failure in Russia in 2010 which affected UK food prices. The effects of such events on global food availability and prices will be felt in the UK and around the world.’”

I research and write articles at a web site called Persuade Me Politics and have there contributed a piece titled, “Can Business Save The Environment?” It provides an overview of some possible aids in ameliorating our ecological situation through actions in tandem with government and commerce.

I think the main component in my article that can be helpful is its reference to the writings, policies and activism of entrepreneur and economist Paul Hawken, cofounder of Smith & Hawken garden supply stores. As you may be aware, his books helped to provide impetus for the recent transition since the early 1990s among many businesses toward much greater environmental sustainability. Two key books of his are The Ecology of Commerce: How Business Can Save the Planet (1993) and Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999). The latter was coauthored with scientist Amory Lovins and business professor Hunter Lovins. These texts have been praised for being effective in providing solutions that both liberals and conservatives find useful and profitable. One of the books can be read and accessed online for free.

Please continue to work hard in discovering ways to compromise with others in Congress to improve our quality of life, specifically as it relates to environmental policy. Thank you for considering what I have written above.


Andy Rhodes

Atlanta, GA