The environment and 2 PA races

by Chris Bowman, 7/5/10

I’m working in Philadelphia this summer, and on my way to lunch this past Friday I was stopped by a Greenpeace volunteer asking for donations. One stat she mentioned particularly struck me: “In ten years, if we do not change our environmental impact, practices and policies, we will cause irreversible damage.” Because I was hungry and didn’t want to waste her time, I said “sorry, perhaps I’ll join later” and made my way to a deli without really thinking too much about the fundraising effort.

Besides, I consider myself pretty eco-conscious. I use public transportation, I recycle as much as possible, I turn off lights, I cringe when I see Hummers on the road, etc. I know that we’re tearing a whole in the ozone, that we’re depleting the rainforests, that animals are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. This summer is (at least in my mind) surely indicative of global warming. Coupled with the recent BP spill and its detrimental effects and potential for disastrous effects upon the Gulf, the environment is on the forefront of my political concerns. However, I never really considered that the negative effects are irreversible – and the implications of this.

It means that my future kids may never see rainforests and polar bears in real life, that these experiences would be limited only to documentaries and books. It means that the natural beauty that we enjoy on a regular basis will be tainted and reduced, if not eradicated. In short, we will have permanently damaged the earth, and we could do nothing to remedy it.

The respective Republican and Democratic positions on the environment are vastly different, reflected in the Senatorial candidates’ policies.

Joe Sestak’s congressional voting record is 100% according to PennEnvironment an environmental advocacy organization (he is the only Pennsylvanian Congressmen to achieve this rating), and 97% from League of Conservation Voters, a similar organization. He strongly favors alternative energy sources and various green initiatives such as renewable energy grants and tax cuts, clean watershed bills and a policy to decrease carbon emissions. Sestak understands the vitality of our environment, and has made political steps to conserve it.

Conversely, Pat Toomey wants to drill in Lake Erie. And a wildlife refuge in Alaska. And the Marcellus Shale. In fact, the “issues” section of only has an “energy/resources” tab which addresses his absurdly pro-oil policies, mentioning no green initiatives. He apparently “knows it is possible to harness America’s natural resources without doing harm to it.” This position disregards the negative impact upon the fragile ecosystem in Alaska. There is no more pertinent example of the negative effects of drilling upon our environment than the BP atrocity occurring in the Gulf right now. Government deregulation of the oil industry, which Toomey supports, is clearly not safe for the environment. And again: he lists no pro-environmental initiatives and policies he supports.

This disregard of the environment is not what our state or our country needs. I cannot emphasize enough my amazement at the ten-year statistic from the Greenpeace volunteer. This statistic makes the environment an increasingly paramount issue in this fall’s elections. Sestak has proven he is a supporter of green policies and initiatives. Toomey is mute on the subject, aside from his support of high oil consumption and continued drilling–policies that would only make our problem worse.

Meanwhile, in PA’s 16th congressional district, Representative Joe Pitts supported the interests of the League of Conservation Voters 0 percent in 2009; and the interests of the Environment America 0 percent in 2008. In 2007-2008 Republicans for Environmental Protection gave Representative Pitts a rating of 8 percent, and 0 percent in 2005. Pitts faces the very environmentally conscious challenger Lois Herr (see her chart detailing differences on environment here).

Let’s not destroy the only earth we have; in stead, let’s preserve it by paying attention to candidates’ statements and records, and vote accordingly in this fall’s elections.

Chris Bowman, from West Goshen, is a political science major at Dickinson College.


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