I am not a fear monger or a worry wart. But as the presidential election runs out its last 24 hours, I fear that my security and the security of my children are at stake in this election. And I worry that, under a Romney administration, the environmental progress we’ve seen over the last four years could come to a screeching halt.
You might not automatically connect environmental protection and security, but they are completely, thoroughly linked. Using oil as a primary fuel for transportation might strike you as an environmental issue; but the cost of defending our oil interests in the Middle East makes it a national security issue, too. The build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is directly linked to climate change, a dominant environmental concern. But as we've seen from the impacts of Super Storm Sandy, climate change threatens our security in fundamental ways. Toxic chemicals pollute our air and water, obvious environmental threats. But they also make us sick and may reduce our ability to have babies. That certainly makes me feel less secure.
Tomorrow's election presents a real choice for Americans, a choice that will impact both our security and our environment for at least the remainder of this century, if not longer. But unless you vote, that choice will be made for you, not by you.
Still not persuaded? Here are five ways our future could be completely different depending on who is elected President in 2012.
Climate Change and Energy – Superstorm Sandy has reminded us that climate change is not a far-flung, whacky environmental theory. Our excessive burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels has put so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that we have actually changed Nature. The only real solution is to use far less energy and to shift as quickly as possible to carbon-free fuels like solar, wind and geothermal.
Under President Obama, we now get twice as much energy from carbon-free sources as we did four years ago. Even though legislation to help normalize the climate was blocked in Congress, the President was able to direct both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to support energy conservation and renewable energy projects that have led to cleaner-burning power plants, an increase in the amount of power we get from solar and wind, and cars and trucks that use gasoline far more efficiently than they did prior to his taking office. In fact, one of the least heralded achievements of President Obama’s success in putting America’s auto industry back on track was his insistence that government assistance be tied to the manufacture of cars that get more miles per gallon, not less.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has scoffed at the idea that there is a link between burning fossil fuels and extreme weather events. The Republican candidate has told national audiences he “loves” coal and would accelerate oil and gas development on our public lands. He supports increasing tax breaks to benefit conventional energy companies, a move the President opposes.
Depending on who is elected tomorrow, we will either see clearer skies, more energy security, and ultimately, a more moderate climate – or less.
Disaster Response – Preventing disasters like Sandy is one thing. Responding to them is another. If you compare responses to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, you will get a sense of how a President Romney might handle a natural disaster during his administration, compared to how President Obama has handled the current crisis in New York and New Jersey.
In the aftermath of Katrina, former President George W. Bush felt it was up to the states and the private sector to handle “local” emergencies, a position Romney embraced wholeheartedly earlier this year on the campaign trail. (We all know how well the Bush approach turned out for the people living on the Gulf Coast.) By contrast, President Obama has rebuilt the effectiveness of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and directed the agency to play a critical role in helping the communities devastated by Sandy. In fact, FEMA’s response has been so quick that even New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie has sung President Obama’s praises.
Depending on who is elected tomorrow, we will either see more effective help for communities struck by disaster – or less.
Toxic Chemicals – The Safe Chemicals Act would protect us and our kids from exposure to dangerous chemicals that can affect our ability to reproduce and cause a whole host of health problems ranging from diabetes to cancer. But there is absolutely no chance legislation like this would pass under a Romney Administration, since the former Governor believes “market forces” should regulate manufacturing, not laws our elected officials pass. President Obama, on the other hand, has already repeatedly used his executive powers to direct the U.S. EPA and the Food and Drug Administration to take measures to protect the public from harmful chemicals.
Depending on who is elected tomorrow, we will either see more protection from toxic chemicals – or less.
Family Planning – Access to contraception and reproductive health care is a basic right – for men and women alike. It is also essential to environmental protection, as unbridled population growth takes a big toll on our natural resources. President Obama supports family planning and a woman’s right to determine what happens to her own body. Mitt Romney will shut down Planned Parenthood and try to use his appointments to the Supreme Court to reduce a woman’s right to reproductive choice.
Depending on who is elected tomorrow, we will either see more access to reproductive choice and family planning – or less.
Supreme Court – Speaking of the Supreme Court, during the next four years, whoever is elected President will probably have the opportunity to appoint at least two Justices to the Court. If you don’t think this is important, remember that, by a majority vote of just one, the Supreme Court awarded George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 when voting in Florida went awry. The current Supreme Court has determined that corporations have the same rights as you and I, even though they have far greater wealth, consume more resources, and wield disproportionate power over elected officials through their political action committees.
The Supreme Court also has determined that a woman’s right to reproductive choice, known as Roe v. Wade, is protected under the U.S. Constitution. President Obama has already appointed two moderate justices to the court, opposes efforts to give corporations more power to behave as citizens, and supports Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney plans to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and continue to favor corporate interests above the citizenry’s.
Depending on who is elected tomorrow, we will either see a court that is more committed to a Constitution that protects American citizens - or less.
Each and everyone of us can affect the outcome of these issues. Each and every one of us can choose a healthier environment and more security. But only if we vote.
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