The oceans, lakes, rivers, mountains, wetlands, forests, and prairies of the planet provide the economic and cultural basis that makes civilization possible. At a moment when the economic activity of the entire planet is estimated at about $75 trillion per year, we are reaping $145 trillion in value in the form of ecosystem services. These ecosystem services are the free contributions that nature provides to human civilization, including filtration of water, the creation of soil, medicines, food, fiber, and fuel, pollination, protection from storms, the breakdown of pollutants, and the stabilization of the planet. Consider one of Southwest Michigan’s iconic economic sectors: fruit growing. Insect pollinators contribute $14.6 billion per year to the U.S. economy, and we are rapidly approaching a point where that will disappear. Farmers in southwest China, a major fruit-producing region, have eradicated habitat and used pesticides with such disregard that natural pollination is no longer possible. Farmers there are now forced to pollinate each apple blossom by hand. Is this the world we want?
WHAT ARE THE THREATS AND WHY DO THEY EXIST?
Our current policies of nearly unrestrained exploitation of the natural world and corporate irresponsibility are rapidly destroying the very fabric of our nation. We are liquidating our public lands, poisoning the water, air, and food we need to survive, casually destroying entire ecosystems, and altering the climate in such a way that we are setting off a series of environmental disasters, the extent and complexity of which we can not even predict.
It is imperative that we move swiftly and boldly to protect the environment in our communities, our state, and the planet if we hope to have a future where our families will work, play, and prosper. Our environmental policies must protect the environments that surround us at home, and at work, in our cities and towns, in rural America, as well as those we venture through, such as our forests, prairies, wetlands, mountains, and deserts.
The problems before us are manifold. The science of climate change is conclusive. Climate change is real, humans are the primary cause, it is happening today, and it is the single most serious threat to human civilization. Biodiversity loss, access to clean water, and the ever-present threat of environmental toxins are some of the other most serious challenges to our planet and our health. By addressing these challenges we will improve our health, our economy, our national security, and solve some of the most glaring inequalities in our society.
We face an urgent need to address our energy use, our agricultural and industrial practices, our governmental policies, and the actions of corporations and individuals. Burning fossil fuels powers our economy but it also pollutes our air, water, and soil, destroys wildlife habitat, creates social inequalities, and encourages global militarism. We are spending $523 billion every year on the health and environmental costs created from burning fossil fuels. Yet, our Federal government continues to hand these corporations, the most profitable companies on the planet, $500 billion per year in subsidies. President Trump’s effort to “bring back coal” is especially troubling. Pollution from the burning of coal is directly attributable to nearly 170,000 asthma attacks and 200 premature deaths in Michigan alone. The most dangerous of all fossil fuels, the burning of coal, releases mercury, arsenic, and chromium into the air and the water. There is no such thing as “clean coal.”
Chemical-intensive, monocrop agriculture and the intensive raising of ruminants for meat are clear threats to our health and the planet that we must address. These practices produce a high percentage of greenhouse gases, deplete and pollute our drinking water and create dead zones in our marine fisheries, destroy soil fertility, and undermine the livelihoods of people all over the globe. Our current Federal policy of heavy subsidy payments to commodity crops that are overproduced and do little to feed the hungry are driving the perpetuation of this deadly system.
Our public lands, national parks, forests, rangelands, and monuments are environmental and cultural resources that belong to every American should not to be sold off to generate corporate profits. This administration has proved a poor steward of these resources by moving towards a policy of privatization and exploitation that will cause permanent destruction, reduce public access, and further the dizzying rate of habitat destruction that is putting entire ecosystems at risk of collapse.
Rather than soberly addressing the environmental challenges we face, the current administration is abdicating any responsibility for climate change, selling off public lands, increasing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, cutting the budgets of environmental programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and undermining efforts to create sustainable agriculture.
TIME TO ACT
It is not necessary to pursue this path of environmental destruction. We have the technology and the resources to reverse course. We just need the political will. The least expensive way to supply an ever-increasing demand for energy is through energy conservation measures, followed by solar. Wind power has now reached price parity with natural gas, the cost for which has been driven to artificially low prices through Federal subsidies that have encouraged overproduction. An economy based on renewable sources of energy would save the average American family $1,000 per year because of the reduced cost of waste and another $1,700 in health care and energy costs. Americans living next to highways would benefit from the reduced noise and pollution when we switch to electric vehicles. The end of fossil fuel extraction will reduce the drive for military conflict and end much of the senseless habitat destruction that is driving the extinction crisis. This new economy will usher in more high-paying and safe jobs, evidenced by the current rate of job growth in renewable energy sector significantly outpacing other national employment statistics.
As your representative in Congress, I will be a vocal advocate for an environmental policy that benefits all Americans.
My environmental reform agenda will create millions of good-paying, secure jobs. Based on studies by the World Bank, renewable energy investment creates two to three times the number of jobs created with an equal investment in fossil fuels. The nature of renewable energy technology results in employment that is more geographically distributed while providing higher rates of pay and safer working conditions. Arguments that pit the environment against jobs are ideologically-driven and do not match the conditions of reality.
- My commitment to making education and worker retraining available to every American without a tuition barrier will smooth the transition to a renewable energy system and provide every worker in the fossil fuel industry with the opportunity to find a parallel job.
No American will be forced to work, live, or play in an environment contaminated by toxins.
- I will stand against any attacks on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Clean Water Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- I will support any efforts to restore the Clean Water Rule.
- I will work towards the creation of a program to test the drinking water in every public school in the U.S. to guarantee that it is free of lead and any other toxins.
Our public lands must be defended, critical habitats protected, and biodiversity supported.
- I will defend our public lands from privatization, mining, or exploitation of any type.
- I will support the dedication of funds to establish reserves where terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial habitats are intact and to restore native plant and animal communities in other critical and degraded ecosystems.
- I will stand against any efforts to weaken the Endangered Species and Lacey Acts and I will promote their use as well as any other available tools to end poaching and the exploitation of threatened and endangered species.
Climate change is a real threat to the existence of human civilization and it is the responsibility of every government on earth to take action. In Congress, I will take action to create a sustainable economy based on renewable energy technology.
- I will not support the categorization of any type of nuclear or fossil fuel as a renewable energy and biofuel, and I will only support the inclusion of biofuel in our energy matrix when it is supplied sustainably and does not remove land from the production of food.
- I will work to end every subsidy and permit for offshore drilling and oil and gas pipelines and oppose all mining and drilling project on public lands.
- I will support major Federal investments in infrastructure, but I will adamantly oppose any weakening of environmental reviews or permitting procedures or efforts to privatize Federal responsibilities. My infrastructure priorities are a renewable energy-based smart grid, a national network of public transportation including high-speed railroads, and making environmental justice a transparent and prominent component of every proposed project.
- I will work to reform the allocation of Federal agricultural subsidies and research dollars to support a transition away from mono-crop, chemical-intensive systems to diverse, sustainable agricultural practices.
- I will support legislation and programs intended to promote energy conservation and waste reduction.
A fee and dividend policy would provide an acceptable path to a more sustainable future and I would happily support any legislation that would implement such a system, But that is not enough. We need more dramatic and comprehensive answers to the crisis of climate change.
The most comprehensive piece of legislation submitted to Congress on the issue of climate change was HR 3671, introduced by Representative Gabbard in 2017. I fully support the Off Fossil Fuels For A Better Future Act. If passed, that piece of legislation would put us on a path to a fully renewable energy system by 2030 and would do it in a just manner that respects environmental justice concerns and provides workers in the fossil fuel industry with the training and opportunities needed to find high-paying, secure jobs in the new energy regime.
Taking bold action to protect our environment will be one of my highest priorities as your representative in Congress. We must move quickly if we are to protect our health, our economy, our national security, and the future of all human civilization