Can we be Politically Holistic?

By: Amanda Benjamin, Environmental Justice Intern
July 21, 2011

Before this internship, I would not have considered myself an environmental advocate.  It’s not that I didn’t care about the environment; I recycled, I tried to conserve water and

Amanda downtown near Capitol Hill

The effects of climate change were always a real and dangerous threat to me.  I knew about environmental problems abroad: the lack of clean drinking water, environmental degradation, lost of habitat for animals and people alike.  And I knew that many of these problems are consequences of years of foreign encroachment and development.  Yea, I knew about it, but I didn’t know about it.  It’s one thing to read about it and even see pictures but when it seems distant it’s really easy to forget how it’s all connected.  As Americans, I think we have a tendency to just assume we’ll have clean drinking water whenever we turn on the faucet and the air outside will always be perfectly acceptable for breathing.  We don’t think about those things nor do we think about the laws that were put in place to make these amenities an expected reality.  Environmental laws are seldom thought of but having a clean and healthy environment is always expected.  We trust (sometimes blindly) that environmental laws will stay in place, our government will uphold and protect these laws, and so we don’t have to worry about it.

But if I’ve learned one thing this summer, I think it’s the significance of political awareness and the importance of holistic perspectives.  Because environmental issues are generally not at the forefront of people’s conscious it is much easier for legislation that harms the earth to slip by especially if the bills are designed to improve areas that are of higher priorities, like the economy.  This is why political awareness is so important.  The average everyday American knows the importance of environmental laws but if we don’t follow up with Congress and make sure that they are doing their part in respecting and protecting the environment, our home here on earth and our resources could be in danger for the sake of economic growth.

There’s two pieces of legislation that I have been following over the last few weeks that fit this example: HR 1505 and HR 2018.  HR 1505 (National Security and Federal Lands Procreation Act) would give the Department of Home Land Security complete control over public lands 100 miles from all U.S. borders, waiving environmental laws within those zones for the sake of “border security”.   Instead of addressing the root of the problems with illegal immigration and focusing on immigration reform, laws that were created to protect the environment such as the National Environmental Policy Act could be overturned, potentially creating permanent damage to the earth.  Similarly, HR 2018 (Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act) could also have devastating effects on God’s creation through water pollution.  Introduced as a way to create more jobs in this troubled economy by giving states more power over water standards, this bill would undermine the authority of the Clean Water Act which is vital for providing clean water for people, animals, and nature alike.

These two bills are dangerous and they already have support in Congress:  HR 2018 has already passed the House of Representatives and HR 1505 looks like it might pass the House as well.  Yet even though it is clear that these bills could be really damaging to the earth and actually have a negative effect on people as a result, not many people that I talk to know that these bills even exist.  We all have a voice.  And it is their job as members of Congress to listen to our concerns but if we don’t tell them what we care about, if we ourselves don’t even know that the issue exists, Congress cannot properly represent us.

Everything is interrelated. No one issue can be looked at in a vacuum because everything has some type of effect on everything else.  The economy and budget talks are the main topics on Capitol Hill right now but that does not mean we can forget about everything else.  Yes we need to reduce the budget deficit and yes we need to create more jobs, but no, we cannot do that at the expense of everything else.  We cannot comprise the poor, our health, and education nor can we comprise the environment for it.  They are all connected and a negative impact on one will have a negative impact on all the rest.

We need to look at our problems holistically. God didn’t create anything by itself.  God did not just create fish without water because fish need water to survive.  The lions need the gazelle, the gazelle needs the grass, and the grass needs the dirt.  God did not create humans all alone because we cannot survive without the resources of the earth and we cannot survive without each other.  God created the whole earth because the whole earth works to benefit and take care of the whole earth.  We need to look at the whole situation and ask our leaders to do the same.