Environmental Policy Affects Health, Economy, Security
October 4, 2004
By Gov. Howard Dean M.D.
One of the many things I learned when I ran for president is that 95 percent of all Americans want job opportunities, health care coverage, high quality public education and a foreign policy consistent with American moral values.
And, there is a fifth area we also have in common, which has hardly been mentioned at all during the campaign: our environment. This issue is not just about state parks and land conservation; it affects our health, economy and national security.
• As a doctor, health issues concern me greatly. For example, in 2001 the Bush administration tried to weaken protections to reduce arsenic in drinking water. Arsenic can lead to kidney failure and ultimately death.
• In 2002, the Bush administration announced its “Clear Skies” initiative, an optimistic-sounding plan that would actually allow dramatically more mercury emissions into our atmosphere. This is already evident in the food we eat. For example, nearly every state in America recommends that we should only consume a certain amount of fish because of the high mercury levels in their flesh. The long-term damage to our children’s nervous systems is not just a medical expense, it will be a special education expense as they get older and in some, it’s a moral disgrace. Mercury pollution is preventable by enforcing the Clean Air Act. We need a president that will enforce, not rollback.
• If President Bush continues to violate the Clean Air Act, global warming will continue unabated. Hurricanes like the ones that are barraging Florida will occur with more frequency. Although the Bush administration cannot be blamed for the causes of hurricanes, they can be blamed for failing to act to mitigate them. There is a reasonable linkage between the increasingly violent weather this decade, and global warming.
• Instead of leading on the global warming issue by developing new clean technologies and therefore creating thousands of new jobs, President Bush abandoned the international Kyoto Protocol and believes he can somehow stop dependence on foreign oil by drilling in pristine wilderness areas.
• Residents of most states send billions of dollars out of state and out of the country to provide oil and electricity. For example, Iowa’s energy bill in 2000 was $8.3 billion, most of which is sent outside Iowa. For every $1 billion worth of energy made inside Iowa, 15,000 – 20,000 new jobs would be created – more than enough to make up for the jobs lost in Iowa since George Bush became president. This can be accomplished by using alternative energy sources such as ethanol, wind and solar power.
• President Bush needs to understand that America is financing our own attackers by sending money to the Middle East that could be spent in the U.S. on renewable energy. Some of that money ends up in terrorist hands and some ends up financing fundamentalist schools throughout the Islamic world which teach children to hate Americans, Christians, moderate Muslims and Jews. Because we have no renewable energy policy, we are helping to teach the next generation of terrorists and suicide bombers to hate us.
Environmental policy is not just about beautiful surroundings. Environmental policy is about health, national security and jobs. We desperately need a president who understands that.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
Email Howard Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved.
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