Saturday, February 9, 2008

Open Letter to Senator Barack Obama: environmental policy questions

Dear Senator Obama,

I am first and foremost a wife and mother of two boys under the age of two, but I am also working on a graduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Like Senator Obama, I have spent a large portion of my life serving as an advocate for the less fortunate in our country, although the majority of this focus has been in the realm of environmental protection and human health issues.

I am impressed to see that the senator has focused on the severe problems with air quality that are affecting much of our country as a result of his understanding of his daughter's own issues with asthma. In addition, I feel that our country currently has a serious issue with lead poisoning and children, especially those who are the least fortunate among us, and I appreciate that Senator Obama has also chosen to focus on this issue.

However, I have been unable to find any information on other environmental policies that Senator Obama may hold, which makes me wonder if these issues are just overshadowed by the current darling of the green movement (climate change) or whether they have been ignored by Senator Obama altogether. I would like to know two things before I feel confident in awarding Senator Obama with my vote:

1) As a biologist who has conducted a significant portion of her research in the neotropics, I feel that any future US president needs to aid developing countries in basic forest protection policies that focus on economics, not just land preservation. I feel this aid must be twofold, focusing on the creation of effective international public policy as well as financial incentives for developing nations, perhaps through debt forgiveness.

A major problem in the tropics is with subsistence farming and hunting in and along the edges of preserves. Not only would the US benefit from addressing this issue in terms of climate change (preserving forests as major carbon sinks), but also economically (by creating stronger governments in the developing world we may greatly decrease illegal immigration to the US, reducing dependence on the drug trade, etc.) and biologically (many migrating animals that spend part of their life in the US spend the remainder of their life in tropical Central America).
This is the type of complex issue that would need to be addressed to preserve the world's tropical forests, and I am wondering what types of policies Senator Obama would initiate to end the exploitation of these world treasures.

2) I would like to see incentives for crops (both food- and fuel-based) to be grown without the use of pesticides and for animals to be raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. This is, admittedly, a large and complex issue, but it is one I feel we can no longer ignore. We have so many pesticides in wide use within the US that have not been adequately tested to examine their effect on human health and wildlife. In addition, we have a severe problem with antibiotic resistance and the use of hormones that can have detrimental affects on the growth and development of young children. I feel that it is likely that our rates of childhood food allergies, cancers, and other health issues may be directly related to the way in which we grow food and raise animals. I feel that a future US president MUST address this issue in a way that focuses on the fields in which we grow our food as an ecosystem in which everything we add will go somewhere (such as community water supplies) and everything we remove must be replaced (such as protecting the quality of our soils by using sound agricultural practices to replace nutrients and prevent the removal of topsoil). We, as a nation, have not been good stewards of our most precious national resource: its land. I am wondering what programs Senator Obama would initiate to address these issues.

I greatly hope that this request will not go ignored, but that you will consider these questions and issues. I must admit that I have not had much hope that there would be a presidential candidate in my lifetime that would critically examine these issues, but Senator Obama seems that he might be a different type of candidate. Please feel free to contact me if I can clarify anything I've mentioned in any way. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


A Concerned Mom


1 comment:

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