Consider the environment at the polls

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September 26, 2008

12:15 AM

A lot of hype has been circulating around campus about environmental sustainability. From green fees to the trayless program at the Caf, you’ve probably heard about lots of actions you can take to be a part of the ever-growing environmental movement on campus. But there’s one simple action you can take that is often overlooked — get out and vote.

Vote in the presidential election. Vote in your local elections. Vote in any way you can for candidates with comprehensive and responsible energy and environmental policies.

This election year, the main issue is the economy. Healthcare, gas prices and the war in Iraq get their fair share of attention on the campaign trail as well. Young voters, many of whom are voting for a presidential candidate for the first time, need to demand that this election also focuses on our collective future. The environment is no longer a fringe political issue. It is inherently intertwined with issues of economics, social inequality and public health.

We can’t keep drilling for more oil and mining for more coal. We can’t keep destroying landscapes and ecosystems at an ever-accelerating pace. We can’t keep pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

If we don’t change our policies and practices now, we’ll have to pay for these mistakes in the future. Our current elected officials may not be around to deal with the consequences, but we will be. We have to demand that we begin to use energy more efficiently as a nation, that we generate our energy from clean and renewable resources, that we conserve our resources, and that we preserve our valuable ecosystems.

With last month’s unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, we have the opportunity to boost our economy by creating millions of green jobs and generating clean and renewable energy right here at home. We have the opportunity to alleviate social injustices and improve the health of and quality of life for families living in towns currently suffering from the localized impacts of coal plants, mining sites and other hazardous pollution. We have the opportunity to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and its accompanying conflicts and financial debt.

By switching to clean, renewable and domestic sources of energy, we can solve many of the problems upon which this election is focused. It’s a win-win situation all around, and every candidate in every election this fall needs to recognize that. But how? It’s easy — sign the Power Vote pledge.

Power Vote is a national nonpartisan effort to mobilize young voters for a clean and just energy future. Signing the pledge sends the message to all candidates and elected officials that we care about these issues and expect them to be a larger part of this election season. Go to powervote.org or look for opportunities to sign the pledge on campus in the coming weeks. Make sure you register to vote before Oct. 6, and if you’re voting absentee, remember to mail in the application by Oct. 28.

Carefully consider each candidate’s energy and environmental policies before making your final decision. Then, get out there and vote in November. And remember: Vote for your future.

Caroline Cress is a junior at the College.

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