Mother nature needs better protection

There are sharp differences in the candidates’positions on the green issues.

What makes you care about the health of our environment? Seeing loons and pristine waters in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area? Hunkering down in a duck blind at dawn as you wait to hear the calls of incoming waterfowl? Fishing in your favorite lake? Perhaps you’re concerned about asthma in children, or mercury and particulates in the air we breathe?

For me, the desire to work for healthier environments deepened during my grad work at the University’s Lake Itasca Biological Station. The intensive, field-oriented courses immersed me in the rich diversity of organisms and ecosystems in the Itasca region. Now, I’m really frightened about the future of environmental and public health in Minnesota.

There are sharp differences in the candidates’positions on the green issues.

When I compare President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry’s positions, this is what I see: Bush tried to support having more arsenic in drinking water, Kerry voted for reducing it. Bush proposes to allow raw sewage discharge during rainstorms, Kerry advocates a stronger Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. Bush wants to allow coal-fired power plants to emit more mercury into the air than the Clean Air Act currently permitts, Kerry cosponsored the Clean Power Act of 2003 to cut mercury and other emissions. Bush released a directive that endangers 20 million acres of wetlands, Kerry cosponsors legislation to restore Clean Water Act protection for wetlands.

The Bush administration has appointed industry representatives in many key positions. It replaces expert lead scientists with lead industry representatives on a health advisory committee, or places attorneys who fought against biodiversity in key governmental positions that should support it.

Where will this take us in the future, if Bush is re-elected? I fear this means less protection for our children from lead pollution, more laxity in enforcement of government regulations intended to protect the public health, and less and less protection for wetlands, clean water and pure air.

Judy Helgen has a doctoral degree from the University. Please send comments to [email protected]