DO PROFESSIONAL ECOLOGISTS SAY ABOUT OBAMA'S ELECTION?
November 16, 2008
Society of America (ESA), the world's largest society of professional
ecologists, which includes college teachers and research ecologists, has
released a special postelection edition of the ESA Policy News Update.
The update provides perspectives on the possible environmental focus and
initiatives of the new president and his administration.
Barack Obama has consistently highlighted the importance and immediacy
of government action on energy and the environment." Following the
election he identified climate change as one of "the greatest challenges
facing Americans." Obama has made clear that he recognizes that improving
energy and environmental programs must be done in concert with overcoming
the economic crisis facing America and the world. The ESA update identifies
several areas that will be addressed in order to achieve an acceptable
balance between economic and environmental health.
is to pass legislation to "reduce carbon emissions to 80% below 1990
levels by 2050." Industries will be given strong economic incentives
to install cleaner technology. The proposed system, which is a complex
one requiring government oversight, has some shortcomings, but it is far
better than unregulated contamination. The unregulated approach may be
cheaper for the industry, but it is environmentally costly to the public
and not in the best interests of anyone beyond a few profit makers.
stimulus package is highly likely under programs that "would create
jobs by financing new energy policies and [infrastructure] development."
An initiative to reduce energy consumption in homes and offices by offering
tax incentives for insulating and protecting buildings from the weather
would be one approach. Proposals have been made to update the nation's
electric power transmission grid and to encourage effective mass-transit
systems. Also, promoting technology to take advantage of renewable energy
such as wind, solar, and geothermal will be in the forefront of new directions.
All sound like good investments to me, both economically and environmentally.
made by the new administration will have far-reaching effects on energy
policies and the environment. Obama's choice for chairman of the Council
on Environmental Quality, who will be the environmental policy adviser
to the president, will play a critical role in establishing the country's
environmental course. Changes in leadership at the EPA and the departments
of Interior and Energy will set new directions for these groups. Those
positions ought to be held by individuals who have no other agenda than
to promote the best interests of the country, and political objectives
should never trump scientific evidence. I doubt that Obama will appoint
to any of those positions someone who has strong personal and economic
ties to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Certainly, that hasn't worked
too well for us in the past.
of the change in administration and the new congressional makeup, the
ESA public affairs committee has indicated that the society plans to promote
four environmental areas in addition to having a strong stance on climate
change policies that reduce carbon emissions nationally and globally.
The areas of focus are science education, energy development, improvement
in both water quality and quantity, and endangered species. The new administration
in Washington is expected to shift current directions in these areas during
the course of addressing the need for economic changes.
of the Endangered Species Act during the past few years will be an area
addressed by the new president. According to the ESA update, Obama will
"throw out the Bush Administration proposal" of letting federal
agencies disregard scientific review when deciding whether government
projects would threaten endangered species. Strengthening the act can
only be good for the environment, and having science-based decision making
is difficult to argue with.
Whatever environmental policy changes the next administration makes, not
everyone is going to be happy. However, our long-term existence depends
on achieving a balance between economic growth and the environment. One
thing I would prefer not to hear is how putting an emphasis on the environment
will threaten the economy. We have listened to that mantra for many a
year. And few people would say the economy is in great shape right now.
So let's try the environmental approach for awhile. We just might end
up with a healthier environment and a stronger economy.
you have an environmental question or comment, email