Wake up: The environment is a personal issue

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, reading in newspapers that the public ranks the environment as a low order of concern.

Let me tell you when the environment is the No. 1 concern: When you discover your cancer could have been caused by contaminants in drinking water or that your child’s learning disability was due to overexposure to mercury.

Most public opinion polls don’t ask the question this way: If you had a serious illness and knew your breast or prostate cancer was due to decisions by legislators on the environment, would you be more or less inclined to cast your vote for the environment?

In that case, every single voter in America is an environmentalist.These days, in Florida, if you are a real-estate agent near coastal estuaries, or a homeowner where sinkholes are popping up around you, if you work near a beach where algae blooms made your eyes water or make you feel like puking, you should vote the environment. Right?

What if your child had asthma? The worst hours of my life were spent walking the hallway with my infant son hacking and wheezing on my shoulder — wondering if he would breathe through the night — this feeling of helplessness, of powerlessness, all traced to the harm we do the environment and to ourselves.

Ah, you ask: Where’s the proof?

On a “1 percent chance” that a threat will be realized, the United States is charging in a trillion-dollar investment to hunt for terrorists like needles in a haystack. So much for proof.

Why do naysayers on the environment demand more evidence than polar ice caps melting in Greenland, or the effect of endocrine disrupters on life in its developmental stages, or poorly regulated chemicals in new construction materials that can trigger severe respiratory illness?

Better to run, now, like a bat out of hell to vote out politicians and Legislatures that support special-interests fudging data, controlling government agencies or writing legislation to their own benefit.

You can always wait to vote for the environment until you or someone you love gets a terminal illness.

You can always wait until you are curious enough to do a little research and discover there are too many causes to attribute cancer to a single reason, and then dig deeper and discover how little funding there is from government to search for causes traceable to the environment. And then you can further find that the government charged with protecting your health, safety and welfare has erected barriers that allow no one in or out except those with the special pass to rotate between government agencies and jobs with special interests.

I try to breathe calmly when I read news reports that say, “Environmentalists seek relevance in campaign.”

Is the link between poorly regulated pesticides and Parkinson’s relevant to you? Or is it relevant to you that Florida doesn’t have enough agency staff to keep up with development in coastal wetlands — even when there is evidence that sea-level rise will make the equity in those investments vanish like sand poured on a beach by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

If that is too abstract, imagine yourself cradling a child whose skull has gone soft from leukemia or an infant deformed by toxics ingested by mom or dad, and imagine that the people you elect to federal office are in the process, right now, of tearing down our most important laws protecting your health, the diversity of species, the clean air and clean water you need to survive.

They go from place to place with public meetings and catch-phrases like “cooperative conservation” to drum up public support for policies that are putting your health and environment at accelerating risk.

In the Florida Legislature, they claim to support sustainable energy while moving forward to allow new, polluting coal-fired power plants with old technology.

Asked that way, not only am I going to vote for the political candidate who fully funds research to find problems before they explode in our faces, I’m going to vote out of office every politician who allowed my drinking-water supply to be contaminated or my springs, rivers and aquifers to be ruined.

Imagine, for a moment, that what you see on the impaired surface of our waters is a perfect reflection of our government.

And vote accordingly. Above all else, do vote.

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