For a cleaner, more prosperous world, ACC mobilizes conservatives around environmental issues, fostering collaboration in the pursuit of environmental conservation.
As a conservative, I believe it is the government’s job to promote the common good and general welfare of its citizens. Government is not simply just a means we use to protect our rights and property, but a vehicle that can be used to ensure that each and every individual is allowed and given the opportunity to live out his or her God-given purpose on this earth. At its core, environmental justice is the embodiment of that fundamental belief. What is more valuable than clean air and clean water? If what we breathe is deadly and what we drink is harmful, is the common good actually met? Are these not things that affect every citizen, irrespective of race, and economic background?
According to the EPA, “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” At its core, environmental justice is nothing more than ensuring that all citizens are allowed to breathe clean air and drink clean water and, when that is not the case, that those who are at a disadvantage have a chance to make their voice heard.
For many, the term “environmental justice” is synonymous with a liberal political ideology. For far too long, like much of the discussion on environmental policy, the left has been able to introduce its ideas without pushback or alternatives both because of conservatives’ delay and little media attention for those on the right engaging in the discussion. On no other issue is this more clear than environmental justice. One Google search of the term “environmental justice” will land you on a plethora of left-leaning “news” sites lambasting the pollution of big business and calling for greater government intervention with no mention of the incredible breakthroughs as a result of their sustainability efforts. As radical leftists propose policies at odds with most of the American people, conservatives have a unique opportunity to step up to the plate and present bold solutions to make our air and water cleaner.
Despite being hijacked by those who wish to divide us and carry out their own agenda, environmental justice should not be an effort to pit one race or economic class against another or to prioritize one community over another. In the simplest terms, environmental justice is about government reliability and the fair treatment of its citizens. We want a smart, smaller, more efficient government that is able to address the needs of each and every individual. No true conservative believes that simply because you are born into a specific economic class or zip code, that should then determine the level at which the government protects your basic rights and ensures justice. Environmental justice is at its best when the principle is used to ensure the equal treatment of citizens and communities.
This hits close to home for me personally. In my home state of Alabama, environmental justice has been part of a large discussion that has reached national headlines. About an hour north of me is Birmingham, Alabama. As a result of some of the industrial plants that once drew thousands to the city for work, there are high levels of arsenic, lead, and coal byproducts. Churches have had to leave their longtime homes and residents have reported increased illnesses and deaths as a result of the pollution issues in North Birmingham. The 35th Avenue Superfund site has led to multiple prosecutions of government officials for bribery and ethics violations and is government at its worst. This represents a prime case of the ineffective and bloated bureaucracy that has been produced out of Washington, D.C. More regulation is not the answer, but smart effective governance with input from the citizens of the community is; in other words, environmental justice.
Far too many people in this country believe they are being locked out of their potential as a result of the color of their skin. We can all agree that the idea that people are put at a disadvantage in our nation is an issue that must be addressed. If it is the government’s job to promote the common good and ensure justice and liberty for all, conservatives must stand on the side that calls for an effective government that does so.
That is what makes the American Climate Contract so important and needed as we face the issue of climate change head-on. The list of policy proposals, and the important framework laid by the American Conservation Coalition would begin to move our communities in the right direction. ACC cites bold legislation like the Carbon Capture Modernization Act and Trillion Trees Act which would lower our carbon emissions and improve the air quality in our neighborhoods as trees absorb more CO2 in the air. The American Lung Association has shown that poor communities and communities of color face great disparities when it comes to air pollution, leading to developmental issues in vital organs and a greater risk of health complications like asthma. Simply, the American Climate Contract supports proposals that would help communities all across the country move forward.
Fighting for an effective government does not mean fighting for big government. Ensuring justice does not mean we are tilting the scales in one direction or the other; it actually means the opposite. Conservatives are stepping up to the plate to put bold proposals on the table and help make people’s lives better. What is needed now is not more partisan bickering or overreaching policies that will put people out of work and destroy hard-working Americans’ jobs. What we need are effective and innovative ideas to lower our carbon emissions and tap into the potential of 21st century infrastructure and leading the world on solving the issue of climate change.
This is the third installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract. Read previous editions here.