Ben: Wow, the sky is really beautiful.
Leslie: It's pollution from the Sweetums factory. It's gorgeous. But is it worth the asthma?
- Parks and Recreation, "Camping"
Right now, President Obama reminds me a lot of Leslie Knope in the above dialogue. In TV's Pawnee, Indiana, the Sweetums factory produces delicious candy while polluting the air and making the citizens fat. Yet they sponsor fun parks activities like the Harvest Festival. They create beautiful pink and blue sunsets with their pollution. And did I mention their candy is delicious?
So let's imagine that instead of candy, Sweetums is promising jobs for all of America (Sweetums is representing industry in this analogy, FYI).
The EPA says: Let's reduce pollution.It's the law.
Sweetums: But it will cost jobs.
The President: Hmm... OK... we won't reduce pollution. It's probably worth the asthma.
Like Ben, we should all answer a resounding NO to this idea.
In case you're not familiar with what's going on, Obama's office quietly announced on Friday that they will delay stronger smog standards (these were planned well in advance and impact ozone emissions specifically). According to the National Resource Defense Council:
The stronger smog standards would have saved up to 4,300 lives and avoid as many as 2,200 heart attacks every year. They would have made breathing easier for the 24 million Americans living with asthma. And they also would have created up to $37 billion in health benefits annually.
The official rationale for this move is that the regulations would cause an "undue regulatory burden" on industry, which would cost jobs.
I am SO SICK of this false dichotimizing between the environment and jobs. It makes me want to scream (and I did, in all-caps at the beginning of this paragraph). There's a whole world of new green jobs that we are not opening up because we're protecting traditional industry from the tech revolution that is racing on ahead of it -- it's the worst kind of cronyism. Because exactly the kind of 21st Century industry and tech that would help us to get out of the recession is the kind we're not developing in the name of getting out of the recession. It's frakkin' Ouroboros devouring his own tail.
Like many environmental problems, the burden of this will be unduly borne by the poorest Americans. Asthma is more prevalent among those who live in poverty. The same with heart disease. And that means that we will all bear the health care burdens caused by this supposedly economic decision.
So it seems like the economic argument is a win for Mama Earth's side. Again, the NRDC:
The smog standards would generate $37 billion in value for a cost of about $20 billion by 2020.
Which means this is not truly a matter of the economy. It's about politics. If we don't act now, the smog standards are due to be re-evaluated in 2013 ... after the election.
But we shouldn't need to make a political argument or an economic one. This is about justice. How many jobs equal a fair trade for the lives that will be saved by a reduction in ozone emissions?
So what can you do? Here are three Light (that means low-effort on your part) Green things you can do:
1. Email the White House. Follow this link and there's a simple form you can use to tell the President that you are NOT OK with this decision.
2. Or, if you'd rather, use your phone to make a difference. Join the NRDC's phone campaign.
2. Donate to the NRDC. They are planning a legal challenge to this decision. It's simple and you can donate whatever you can spare.
It's fun to be an activist! Voting is important, but all of us who were re-invigorated by the last presidential election can expand our influence by adding a voice (and dollars if we have them - even though we probably won't be able to compete with industry when it comes to greenbacks - at least we've got right on our side).
*Photo courtesy of fanpop