A greener battlefield

"Politics are almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics - many times."
Winston Churchill

Churchill's observation about the hazards of politics is particularly applicable to U.S. presidential elections. Every four years fierce verbal volleys are fired between the candidates. The combatants line themselves up and put their political lives on the line in their quest to become president. Given the volatility of American politics, the fate of any candidate is unpredictable.

During recent years, however, the political landscape where these recurring battles take place has changed. As part of a gradual shift that began during the 1970s, environmental protection has emerged as an important priority of the American public. Accordingly, candidates have begun to take positions on often controversial environmental issues.

Recent national polls indicate that concern about the quality of the environment is becoming an issue of greater importance to U.S. citizens. A Gallup poll conducted on April 3, 2000 indicates that a majority (96 percent) of those 1,004 adults surveyed is concerned about the environment and considers environmental problems to be "extremely serious" (17 percent), "very serious" (38 percent) and "somewhat serious" (39 percent). Only five percent of participants found that environmental problems were "not serious" and one percent had no opinion about the issue A more recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today national poll conducted on July 25, 2000 also shows that Americans are paying more attention to environmental issues. The 1,035 participants were asked the question, "Please tell how important the candidates' positions on the environment will be in influencing your vote for president," In response, 29 percent stated they were "extremely important," 42 percent said they were "very important," 25 percent said they were "somewhat important" and only four percent stated they were "not important." Clearly, the environment is taking its place along side issues such as the economy, education, health care and national defense as a key deciding factor in voters' selection of elected officials.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan public education organization dedicated to building the grassroots power of the environmental movement - has also conducted several national polls recently that show U.S. citizens' growing awareness of environmental issues. The results of their polls can be viewed at www.lcv.org.

"American voters care deeply about the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink, and they overwhelmingly support candidates who share those concerns," said Deb Callahan, president of the LCV Education Fund. "Voters not only favor candidates who support stronger environmental protections and enforcement, but they are also much more likely to oppose candidates who would turn back protections for our air, water and open space."

During this 2000 campaign, Governor George Bush, Vice President Al Gore and Ralph Nader have taken distinctively different approaches to dealing with a wide variety of environmental issues. Environmental Protection's staff posed specific questions to these three leading candidates on issues ranging from brownfield redevelopment to the appropriate 2001 funding level for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Turn to page 26 to see our special report "Ballot 2000" featuring the candidates' answers.

The candidates' responses to our questions show they each are aware that an important part of their arsenal in this year's presidential combat is a clearly articulated environmental policy. For many voters, the decision about which candidate should win the battle of the ballot box this November will be based in part on who they think can best deal with the mounting environmental problems our society faces.

Managers, take note

In your hectic role as a facility manager, do you dread shopping for outside environmental consultants because of past frustrating experiences? A new column "Manager's notebook" promises to help you with such headaches. Beginning this month, our new column (p. 80) will examine the changing relationships between company environmental staffs and external service providers. Our columnist Richard MacLean, the president of Competitive Environment Inc. located in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the director of the Center of Environmental Innovation, will share his insights on how to maintain control and get the results you want when dealing with consultants.

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This article appeared in Environmental Protection, Volume 11, Number 10, October 2000, Page 6.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of Environmental Protection.

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