Environmental Faceoff: University Democrats: Fresh strategies from candidates to clean up Earth

By Krista Wettengel

Today I am proposing a new official slogan for the Garden State: “If you wanna smoke, get outta Jersey!” Catchy, isn’t it? But it’s true. People can no longer smoke in restaurants, stadiums or even bowling alleys. The people of New Jersey (and other states as well) simply do not tolerate smoking. So why do we tolerate just about every other kind of pollution?

For far too long, the American people have allowed corporations to use our planet as their personal garbage can. Anyone from Toms River, N.J., knows the fatal potential of toxic waste dumping. Maybe you’ve seen the movie A Civil Action. Perhaps you’ve watched a documentary about the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill in the 1980s. Everyone has heard a horror story about pollution. And that’s just our water. How about our air? It is hardly a coincidence that the asthma epidemic grows along with our level of greenhouse gas emissions. Kids in Los Angeles don’t wear their pajamas inside-out in hopes for a snow day. Nope, they pray for smog days. So our water is contaminated, our air is filthy, what’s left? Oh yes, food. Next time you’re in Daly’s, do yourself a favor and check out the plums that are almost as big as softballs. The last time I ate one, my mouth and face itched like crazy for a couple of hours. Considering I’m not allergic to plums, my reaction can only be explained by the pesticides sprayed on fruit. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

Our government must take the initiative on environmental policy and regulation in the United States and the world. Sen. Barack Obama is the man to lead us in this fight. The League of Conservation Voters has given Obama the highest lifetime rating of all the candidates who ran in this election. One of his first environmental measures would be to restore power to the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama has a plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the interest of our planet and public health. He will raise the national standards for energy efficiency for all new buildings, including government facilities. Obama recognizes that a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions is the millions of cars on American roads. To address this issue, Obama will work to reform federal funding for public transportation — buses, subways, trains. Furthermore, he will require that all governors and local government officials make energy conservation a required aspect of their plans to spend federal transportation dollars. Obama will also protect our water supply. He has already introduced legislation that would require nuclear companies to inform state governments if there is an accidental toxic waste spill.

As for our food, Obama understands the importance and benefits of organic and locally grown food. Organic produce is pesticide free, and therefore much better for people and the environment. Obama will increase federal funding for farmers to comply with organic standards.

Moreover, Obama will work with the United States Department of Agriculture to implement policies that will promote local food production. Think about it: which would you rather have, a fresh apple from Terhune Orchards or a pesticide-covered apple trucked across the country?

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