On November 5

Eco-concerns need to be a presidential priority

Sacramento native Shelly Lyser (right), her sister and her mom green-walked for Barack Obama in Nevada.

Sacramento native Shelly Lyser (right), her sister and her mom green-walked for Barack Obama in Nevada.

Photo By Sena Christian

Welcome to Green Town, a new column by Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess, which will rotate every other week with Green House, her bi-monthly musings on SN&R’s green building project.

The way I see it, I have two options for Wednesday, November 5: Celebrate and welcome the dawn of a new day, or retreat to my apartment and refuse to leave. Because it’s too demoralizing to consider the impending environmental nightmare if a certain “team of mavericks” become the next leaders of the United States, I’ll simply choose not to. Ah, the future is so much more glorious that way!

Environmental concerns haven’t exactly been at the forefront of this presidential campaign, with the exception of energy. No one, it seems, cares to talk about how John McCain voted 10 times in Congress against clean-water legislation or wants to discuss how the frightening anti-planet Earth and creationist views of his vice-presidential pick might influence his somewhat-moderate policies.

But some voters have made eco-concerns a priority. A friend of mine, Shelly Lyser, spent last summer riding her bike across the country, through the prairies of eastern Oregon and high plains of the Dakotas all the way to Niagara Falls, stopping intermittingly to work on organic farms along the way. This Sacramento native is a staunch environmentalist and hard-core Barack Obama fan, and a few weeks ago, she went to Nevada to canvass for his campaign. She prepped herself with information about Yucca Mountain, figuring residents might want to talk about this proposed dumping ground for nuclear waste, located in the south-central part of the state. McCain wants to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, although he got all NIMBY on us and said he wouldn’t want this waste traveling through Arizona. Obama attached a disclaimer to his support of nuclear energy: only if it’s clean and safe. That’s a big if.

“Obama has a more modern view of environmental issues,” Lyser explained. “He also has a sincere interest in helping people in poverty, as he’s demonstrated throughout his life. McCain has an outdated attachment to nuclear power and refuses to support any legislation that doesn’t include huge subsidies to that industry. Obama’s intelligence and even-handedness will make the presidency more open and receptive to the concerns of enviro groups.”

Nevadans, however, didn’t want to talk about Yucca Mountain. They wanted to talk about health care, taxes and Iraq. They wanted to talk about the economy and how it’s become so hard to get our basic needs met nowadays.

To me, that’s why we should be talking about the candidates’ environmental views, especially their commitment to building a green-collar workforce.

Sacramento region’s unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and our job loss is greater than the national average. Advocates of green-collar jobs estimate that investing $100 billion in two years in the clean-energy sector would generate 2 million jobs.

Obama has promised to form a green-jobs corps, creating 5 million new jobs for disadvantaged youth. Hey, if elected, Obama would owe young people; after all, they’re the ones who became his ground troops in rural communities in Ohio and in rough neighborhoods in north Philadelphia to drum up voter support and, more importantly, demonstrate real democracy in action. Not sure where McCain stands on the issue: He missed a key Senate vote that would have provided $5 billion for renewable energy, energy efficiency and green jobs.

To cultivate green jobs, we need to develop renewable energy. Obama has proposed investing $150 billion over 10 years in renewable energy. Unfortunately, he includes “clean coal” technology in this mix, which McCain also supports. Who knows: Maybe someday carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants will be safely sequestered and stored, but neither candidate has addressed the ecological devastation caused by coal extraction happening now, such as mountaintop removal mining. Again, we don’t know exactly where McCain stands on the issue, considering how last year he missed every single vote on renewable energy. We do know that in 2005, the Republican voted against legislation that required utilities to get 10 percent of power from renewable sources.

We could go on with where these two candidates stand on environmental issues; basically, though, it comes down to a choice. Not between two presidential candidates, necessarily, but about how you want the future of our natural landscapes, energy use, water quality, pollution levels, technological innovation, unemployment rates and economy to look. And, of course, it’s a choice of how you’d like to spend November 5.

As for me, I want to celebrate.