When it comes to protecting the environment, it seems like we’re always playing “catch up.”
We’re trying to catch up on shutting down toxic waste sites. Catch up on eliminating dangerous chemicals from our personal care products. Catch up on – and this is a really big one – removing all the climate-changing carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.
It’s a frustrating game, since we never really manage to get caught up. America’s environmental legislators and regulators are mostly focused on clean up – trying to solve a problem after it’s occurred. No one, it seems, remembers the sensible adage, “First, do no harm.”
So… what would happen if the game changed? What transformations could occur if, instead of focusing on cleaning up problems after the fact, we made it a priority to prevent them in the first place?
That’s the topic Green Moms Carnival grapples with this month. Understanding the importance of preventing problems before they occur, and enthusiastic about the presidential election of “change” candidate Barack Obama, we are urging the President-Elect to adopt a prevention agenda as the guiding principle for his environmental policies.
How? Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish urges the President-Elect to “change the fundamental basis on which prosperity is measured. Is the American Dream the pursuit of newer and bigger houses and cars and the latest gadgets? Higher consumption of the earth's resources? Is that what healing the economy means?”
Beth thinks a better approach is to encourage deeper American values, like voluntary simplicity, sustainable living, and connections among people over material wealth. “The world cannot afford for us to continue trashing the planet as we have been,” she notes, reminding Obama that he is in a unique position to “change the course of our imaginations and help us redefine how we measure prosperity.”
Over at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, MC Milker reminds Mr. Obama of the need for standards to make it easier for consumers and manufacturers alike to raise the environmental bar. Says MC, “It just requires someone in authority … to stand up and say, “Hey, let’s get some clarity around this issue.” Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust urges the next president to “Please put Accountability and Transparency into the green market by invoking sustainable product standards – consumers demand it, investors need it and manufacturers will take the easy way out if you leave it up to them (which is what they are doing right now).”
Mary also reminds us all that “An ounce of preventative education is worth a pound of bail out cure when it comes to creating a stable economy and green jobs.” Her informative post about the efforts of the L.A. Community College District to save energy on nine campuses could help instruct the president-to-be on effective ways to build or retrofit thousands of energy-efficient buildings to prevent additional CO2 build-up, help companies save money, and protect natural resources.
The Crunchy Chicken also encourages Mr. Obama to focus on “investing in green and renewable energy, the accompanying jobs that would be created and the resulting impact on climate change, air quality and environmental health. It's a one-two-three punch that is low-hanging fruit to some really tough problems.”
Alline Anderson muses at Ecovillage Musings about the need to keep the trains running – Amtrak trains, in particular. “Remember that our country is vast, and that ecologically-sound, dependable, economical transportation is needed beyond the Northeast Corridor… America needs our train service back.” Urges Alline: “Please do not follow the pathetic example of your predecessor George W. Bush, who in his final budget sought to cut Amtrak's subsidy by more than a third, or $500 million. Please be the change that we all seek. We are counting on you.”
When you talk about prevention, you have to talk about preventing danger to children. Says Anna Hackman at Green Talk, "Mr. President-Elect, we need to stop the exposure of toxic chemicals by updating the 1976 Toxic Substance Chemical Act (TSCA). A law that grandfathered 62,000 chemicals presumed to be safe… It is a re-run not worth watching.”
Asks Anna, “Please explain to me why manufacturing companies are not required to provide health and safety studies prior to chemicals coming onto the market? 20,000 new chemicals have come onto the market since TSCA was enacted.” Enacting the Kid-Safe Chemical Act would “put the burden of proof on the chemical companies to prove that a chemical is safe before it is allowed on the market.
Green and Clean Mom's Sommer Poquette also argues in favor of the Kid Safe Chemical Act, noting in a letter addressed to President Obana, "You have children. I have children. We have that common bond and wanting to keep them safe and healthy is certainly your priority and mine. When your wife was pregnant did you ever test her umbilical cord for toxins after either of your daughters were born? We didn’t for my two children but if we had, we might have been surprised to find that there could have been over 300 industrial chemicals that were pre-polluting our babies in their safe wombs. Really who would think that a child is not safe inside their mother’s womb?"
Talking about food is the issue nearest and dearest to Karen Hanrahan. At Best of Mother Earth, she writes, "Our nation needs to shift the way we eat. To me, this begins with the seeds we plant and the way we farm them. It continues into priistine manufacturing practices and with policies that supports and reeducates families about getting back to eating locally and seasonally."
Michelle ("Green Bean") of Green Phone Booth agrees. "If the world switched to an organic agricultural system that relied on compost and cover crop, we could sequester up to 40% of current carbon emissions. But that is just the tip of the quickly melting ice berg. Rebuilding our food system would preserve open space, reduce toxins in the air, ground and water, nurture biodiversity, secure our food from terrorism, reduce obesity, and create tens of millions of green jobs," she writes.
Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama encourages President-Elect Obama to lead by example – starting with the White House. How about cleaning the residence with non-toxic chemicals? Drinking from reusable water bottles? Serving locally grown and organic food?
Heather at EnviroMom also volunteers to give the White House a green mansion makeover. While you’re thinking about scrubbing down the Lincoln bedroom with baking soda and vinegar, Heather encourages you to answer two interesting questions: 1)” What are some things you would be willing to change if our President-elect requested it (assuming that you respect him and believe in his reasoning)? 2) “If our government did issue 'environmental guidelines' — you know, kind of like the food pyramid — would you follow them?”
Micaela at Mindful Momma wraps it all up with a comprehensive list of "hopes and dreams" that would go a long way towards helping the Obama Administration think preventively about protecting the planet, including a reminder to uphold and strenghten organic agriculture standards, make food safety a top priority, and ensure the safety of children's toys, drinking bottles and personal care products.
Do you have your own questions to pose? We invite you to comment on any or all of these blogs; then head on over to The Prevention Agenda forum and add your ideas to the list. We'll be pulling together some recommendations prior to Obama's inauguration, and welcome your suggestions.
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