Environmental Justice for All

Part XI: A Manifesto for the United States of America

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.

We are all victims of a deteriorating environment and rapid climate change that spares no one from its effects. Already, tens of millions of people have been turned into climate refugees while hundreds of thousands die annually from air pollution, heat waves, drought-based food shortages, epidemics, storms and other lethal impacts of climate change and reliance on fossil fuels. But Blacks, Indigenous peoples, other minorities and the poor in the US suffer disproportionately from contaminated and polluted environments from which the wealthy can protect themselves.

Environmental justice is inseparable from social justice. Living in a clean and healthy environment gives us all the strength and stamina to fully realize our rights and fight racism, oppression and injustice, which creates a better society for us all. The COVID-19 lockdown demonstrated how quickly our planet can recover when pollution drops dramatically. The same is true for social justice when the causes of injustice are removed. The proposals offered in the previous ten installments of this manifesto are capable of dramatically reducing the social pollution of racism, exploitation and repression. Environmental justice is a part of this plan.

Following are some specific proposals, mostly taken from the Green Party USA:

1. We must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean, renewable energy. It is possible to do this by 2030, and much of the international will has been demonstrated in the 1992 Kyoto Protocol as well as the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement from which the U.S. withdrew in 2017. The U.S. must reaffirm its commitment to the Agreement and work for stronger measures.
2. We must invest heavily in subsidized and convenient public transport that makes it attractive and inexpensive for everyone to use, and especially for disadvantaged populations.
3. Let us switch to sustainable, regenerative nonpolluting agriculture and husbandry and close all large factory farms.
4. There was a time when the Food and Drug Administration could be trusted to diligently assure that food products were nutritious and wholesome and that food production and distribution consistently met high standards. These standards have today been compromised for the sake of corporate profit. We have deregulated our standards of health and safety in much the same way that we have deregulated our economy for the benefit of large corporations and billionaires. We must re-empower the FDA by placing it under a cabinet level Department of Consumer Protection and Advocacy and assuring that its administration is run by officials who have the strongest possible consumer advocacy credentials and are not selected from the industries that they will be regulating. [See Manifesto Part VII: An Economic Order By and For the People.]
5. We must provide tax incentives and government research programs to promote sustainable energy and energy-efficiency retrofitting, and “complete streets” that promote safe bike and pedestrian traffic, regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture and clean manufacturing.
6. There is no reason for our energy system to be in private hands. They belong to us all. Let’s enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. We must treat energy as a human right.
7. Let us redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Let us also build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled energy.
8. Let us end the most destructive kinds of energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. We must halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Let us phase out nuclear power and end all subsidies for nuclear power plants and fossil fuels, and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.
9. We must provide grants, low interest loans and other incentives to grow green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
10. Let us prioritize green research by redirecting research funds from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward research in wind, solar and geothermal energies. We will invest in research in sustainable, nontoxic materials and closed-loop cycles that eliminate waste and pollution, as well as organic agriculture, permaculture and sustainable forestry.

The possibilities of these reforms are illustrated by the case of Denmark, which now gets more than 50% of its energy from renewable sources. Virtually all combustible waste is used as energy, making it a resource rather than a burden. Industries, households, cities, agriculture and nearly all forms of activity in Denmark conserve energy and provide fuel to generate power. In addition, non-combustible sources of energy, such as solar, geothermal and wind energy are used as essentially free resources. As a result, energy costs in Denmark are very low, which increases the productivity of its industries as well as the standard of living of its people. At the same time, the quality of Denmark’s air, water and natural areas are clean and teeming with life.

By contrast, the US is still heavily dependent upon fossil fuels and pollution-generating sources of energy. This is because the system is inefficient and mismanaged, but highly profitable for the corporations and oligarchs that own the fuels and their delivery systems. It is time to throw out this corrupt system and build one that benefits the people.

Paul Larudee is a retired academic and current administrator of a nonprofit human rights and humanitarian aid organization. Read other articles by Paul.