Sunday, October 19, 2008

Should an Enviromentalist Vote?

Since U.S. election is looming, I decide to post this interesting article. There is a person who takes environmental study major. He decides not to vote because he doesn't agree with the system. So now the question is: should an environmentalist vote? The answer is yes. Even if the system still has many flaws, ignoring the system completely is not the wise thing to do. As an adult, one of our responsibilities is to vote, whatever our career is. The article below was taken from Ask Umbra and I think it is a good argument for our reflection.

Day-to-day work in towns and counties is carried out by hired staffers, but the agenda for their work is heavily (and sometimes completely) influenced by elected officials and political appointees. You can see this dynamic at work on the federal level as well -- in the Environmental Protection Agency, for example. With President Clinton at the helm, the EPA had one agenda; with George W. in the White House it's had quite another. Imagine a vote for or against a candidate who supports unfettered land development, or one who believes industry should police itself!

In Seattle, for another example, we are often called upon to vote for or against major transportation projects. The last time this happened, many of us voted against a proposition that would have authorized a giant highway expansion and some (but not enough) mass transit. The measure failed, thus sending legislators a message that citizens placed a high value on mass transit options. The non-voters (like your friend) might have had a message too, but no one could possibly get it. What are non-voters saying? "Whatever," basically.

State-level voting also makes an impact. As I'm sure you've seen, candidates often have major differences on environmental issues related to agriculture, watersheds, energy, transportation, and business vs. the environment. A state government not only makes policy within its boundaries, but can also choose (or refuse) to join with other states in environmental actions. You've read in Grist about states adopting California's auto standards, or about multi-state carbon cap-and-trade projects, or about Midwestern governors signing a greenhouse-gas reduction accord. City leaders can join hands, too, as we're seeing with the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, signed by 884 mayors to date. This happens because environmentally conscious elected officials have the say-so. The local and state actions push the federal government to respond (no matter how much it wishes to ignore things). The trickle-up-and-push effect of our vote has been our main influence on national environmental policy for many years.

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