Of the many issues voters and candidates are considering during this election cycle, the environment is a topic that has been seldom discussed during recent presidential debates. Many environmentalists argue that policies regarding nature are perhaps just as important, if not more important, than every other campaign issue. At least, this is the opinion of many organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. Even a major third party, the Green Party, puts the environment at the top of its list.
This year, the Green Party nominated Jill Stein, a Massachusetts physician who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1979, to be its candidate for President. Stein has run for many offices including twice for the governorship of Massachusetts.
Stein’s main proposal for this presidential election has been coined “the Green New Deal” in which the federal government would invest more heavily in green companies, technology and jobs.
In Stein’s Jan. 25 speech, of which the script and video are available at her campaign website http://www.jillstein.org, Stein estimates that the Green New Deal would create around 16 million American jobs. In the speech, Stein does not specifically describe how this estimate was reached or what statistical analysis supports this number, but she does describe how her administration would handle this program.
According to Stein, as part of the Green New Deal there would be a Green Transition Program which would focus on moving America away from oil, coal and natural gas consumption toward using more eco-friendly and sustainable technologies and energy sources. Companies that produce solar, wind and geothermal energy would receive more research funding while such funding would be cut for companies focused on traditional energy sources.
As part of Stein’s proposal there would also be a Full Employment Program which would seek to end unemployment by guaranteeing every American adult, who wants to work and is able to work, a living wage job. These jobs would be in both the private and public sectors. They would include energy, manufacturing, agriculture and transportation jobs as well as careers in education and healthcare. The aim of this jobs program would be to bolster the America’s infrastructure and economy.
“The Full Employment Program will directly create 16 million jobs through a community-based direct employment initiative that will be nationally funded, locally controlled, and democratically protected against conflicts of interest and pay-to-play influence peddling,” said Stein. “The program will directly create jobs in the public and the private sector. Instead of going to an unemployment office when you can’t find work, you can simply go to the local employment office to find a public sector job.”
Although Stein’s plan is bold and bases many of its ideas on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s once popular New Deal, she has not garnered enough support in polls to be included in a debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Inclusion in the debates consists of three main considerations: constitutional eligibility for the office of president; ballot access in enough states to mathematically be able to receive at least 270 electoral votes for the majority; and support from at least 15 percent of the public, based on results from five national public opinion poll organizations.
Regardless of how Stein does this election, there are many environmentally minded organizations that aim to change people’s attitudes toward the environment. The Sierra Club is probably the best known example, but it isn’t the only one.
Anastasia Economou, President of GEO or the Gonzaga Environmental Organization, says she isn’t very political, but she is passionate about the environment. Her focus is less on the election and more about what can be done here in Spokane to promote eco-friendly and healthy living.
“Probably on campus right now, the biggest issue is waste management—dealing with recycling, getting a 1-to-1 ratio for recycling and garbage cans, in addition to improving composting on campus,” said Economou.
Economou said that GEO has been successful in bringing about some positive changes to Gonzaga University, like increasing recycling on campus. For example, GEO bought the recycling cans that sit in front of the Crosby Center and Plant Services has now taken over their maintenance.
Currently, two groups within GEO are putting together packets for RAs and sustainability guides to educate students and faculty about sustainable choices like composting.
Economou said that some students from GEO are working with the Sierra Club on their Beyond Coal campaign, which addresses the environmental impact of coal trains in Washington. Another organization called Power Past Coal has launched a television advertisement against proposals to allow coal trains to pass through Spokane, carrying coal that will be exported to countries like China.
One of the ads can be seen below:
By Josh Smith