I thought I would share thoughts about the role politics have played in my work to preserve and protect the environment over a 45-year timeframe. These thoughts are drawn from my recent book, Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier.
“Politics are scorned, thought to be nasty and corrupt. Politics are endlessly derided by pundits and readily dismissed by many who consider themselves to be above the fray. Yet politics are as fundamental to the human condition as a pod of orcas coursing the waterways of the San Juan Islands, a flock of Canadian geese making their winter migration south, or the pattern of water charging down a stream. Politics are the business of human beings interacting.
Scorn politics, heap insult after insult upon the political institutions and their players and demean them all you will, but politics undeniably affect our lives personally and collectively in the most fundamental ways. Like it or not, politics determine to no small extent the safety of the products we buy, how we design and build our communities, our access to and the quality of health care we receive, how many of us will fare during our retirement years.”
In my own case, it was politics that produced the law that created the funds to buy equipment for our recycling center in 1975. It was politics that established our first community gardens. It was politics that limited the size of Santa Barbara. It was politics that protected agriculture in the Carpinteria Valley. It was politics that determined what the Santa Barbara waterfront was to become and whether or not the Gaviota Coast was to be covered with homes. And it was politics that set California on a course to recycle percent of its waste by 2000.”
As the world’s leaders gather to try once again to agree to take the necessary actions to stem the threat of climate change, it will be politics at every level of the human enterprise that will determine our fate.