Third Party & Independents Archives

Voting Reform and the Environment: What's the Connection?

The destruction of the environment is one of the biggest crises we face today. Without substantial economic reforms, we will surely overwhelm our planets ability to generate sufficient resources, support species diversity, and absorb the massive amounts of waste we dump into the environment.

So what does voting reform having to do with saving the planet?

In short everything.

I believe that corporate control of our elections and the undemocratic nature of our voting system are two of the biggest roadblocks to building a just and sustainable society. Only when we have a government that functions independently from moneyed-interests and fully represents all citizens can we begin the difficult process of implementing the economic reforms needed to ensure the survival of future generations.

Steps for improving the Environment of California

According to a recent Public Policy Institue of California survey, 6 in 10 Californians think that the government is not doing enough to protect the environment.

Of greatest concern to Californian's is the lack of leadership on global warming and energy issues. The PPIC survey shows there is real concern over the immediacy of global warming and its effects on California's future, and strong support for policies that address greenhouse gas emissions and funding the development of alternative energy.

As a candidate for Secretary of State, I feel there are at least four steps the state's chief election officer can take to improve environment policy. These included public outreach, supporting clean money legislation, instituting corporate charter reform, and serving as an ex officio member of the California State World Trade Commission.

  1. Public Outreach: It is important that our political leaders use the bully pulpit to educate the public about the environmental problems facing our nation today. Before we can get public buy-in for the kinds of economic programs needed to address the ongoing destruction of the ecosystem, Californians must understand the depth of the problem and how, if left unchecked, it will affect future generations.

    As Secretary of State I would use the power of my office to speak with community groups, unions, business organizations, and environmental groups on the need to work towards building a sustainable economic system.

    It is essential for citizens to understand that creating a sustainable society necessarily requires a shift away from a growth economy to a steady state economy where the aggregate throughput of natural recourses is within the limits of the ecosystem.

    If we are to stop the liquidation of our natural resources and the pollution of the planet, then our definition of economic progress must shift away from quantitative expansion (growth) to qualitative improvements (sustainable development). Such a path is only possible in an economic system that strives for a fair distribution of economical and natural resources for this and future generations.

  2. Clean Money Campaigns: I believe that getting corporate money out of politics is crucial for solving the current environment crisis. The best way to end corporate control of government is through public financing of elections.

    As Secretary of State I will work with the legislature to help pass a comprehensive clean money bill, educate the public on why we need public financing of elections, ensure that clean money campaign rules are strictly enforced, and identify funding sources to cover costs such as voluntary check-offs on income tax returns and fees on registered lobbyists.

  3. Corporate Charter Reform: The Secretary of State is responsible for chartering corporations and should work with the state to ensure that law-breaking corporations are held accountable for their actions. As the energy scandals of 2000 and 2001 show, companies that conspire to manipulate markets can wreck havoc on the environment and our economy.

    It is also important that we create economic incentives to encourage law abiding companies to do business in California. Good corporate citizenship is an essential part of any healthy society.

    As Secretary of State I will advocate for the use of social investment screens by state and county pension funds to promote corporate responsibility. I believe this is a sound way to support companies that are committed to environmental protection, treat their employees fairly, and give back to the communities where they are located.

    I would also work with legislators, business leaders, unions, legislators, and average citizens to develop a corporate code of conduct for California that includes a time table for periodic reviews of corporate charters. Corporations that pollute our environment, violate workers rights or safety laws, discriminate, or engage in political corruption should be put on probation or have their charter revoked if their crimes are serious enough.

  4. World Trade Commission: The Secretary of State serves as an ex officio member of the California State World Trade Commission, which is the primary agency responsible for coordinating activities to expand international trade for the State of California.

    I believe we need to put more emphasis on how California engages in the global economy. First, California should be setting an example for the rest of the country by implementing "Fair Trade" policies that persuade California companies doing business overseas to not violate sovereign environmental and labor laws. Second, we need to build partnerships with alternative energy companies in counties like Germany (Solar) and Spain (Wind) where the CO2 tax credits available under the Kyoto Treaty has allowed clean energy production to flourish. Finally, we need to adopt our own Kyoto Treaty to help create the incentives needed to promote more fuel efficient cars, better mass transit, and the development of a robust alternative energy industry in California.

The Big Picture: Moving to a Sustainable Economy

Our economy has grown so large that its demands are overwhelming our planets ability to generate resources and absorb waste. If you consider that our economy grows at about 3% per year then it is predicted to double in size every 23 years, grow 16 times in size in 100 year, 250 times in size in 200 years, and 4000 times in size in 300 years.

Given the increase in resource usage and pollution resulting from our ever expanding economy, we need leadership that is willing to tackle our environmental problems head-on and will work to balance economic concerns with the need for creating sustainable communities.

There are many ways of reducing the economic stakes in environmental destruction. But this means taking seriously issues of social and economic inequality as well as environmental destruction. Only by committing ourselves to what is now called "environmental justice" (combining environmental concerns and social justice) can the environmental movement avoid being cut off from those classes of individuals who are most resistant to environmentalism on the basis of social grounds. The alternative is to promote an environmental movement that is very successful in creating parks with Keep Out! signs, and yet which is complicit with the economic injustices in society.

For us to persist, the path of economic progress must shift away from quantitative expansion (growth) to qualitative improvements (sustainable development). Such a path is only possible in an economic system that strives for a fair distribution of economical and natural resources for this and future generations.

Posted by Forrest Hill at September 1, 2006 6:38 PM
Comments
Comment #178846
Forrest Hill wrote: So what does voting reform having to do with saving the planet? In short everything. I believe that corporate control of our elections and the undemocratic nature of our voting system are two of the biggest roadblocks to building a just and sustainable society.

You are absolutely correct.
Nothing, no reforms of any kind are possible until we first solve the most fundamental, core problem.

Government is FOR-SALE.
Corpocrisy, corporatism, and corporate welfare are rampant.
Government and corporations are in-league.

How are we going to do that?

Well, the funny thing is, we keep overlooking the one simple, logical, common-sense, no-brainer, safe, peaceful, non-partisan, fair, patriotic, inexpensive, honest, ethical, and responsible thing voters were supposed to do all along?

We have tried this party, and that party,
conservatives, moderates, liberals, neocons, Republocrats, Demopubs, DINOs, RINOs, etc, etc, etc., wallowing in the partisan warfare, power and corruption of one party control, living at the expense of everyone else, reducing waste and pork-barrel, asking government to provide for us from cradle to grave, etc., etc. etc.

So, after we have tried everything else, why not, finally, try the one simple, logical, common-sense, no-brainer, safe, peaceful, non-partisan, fair, patriotic, inexpensive, honest, ethical, and responsible thing voters were supposed to do all along?

Posted by: d.a.n at September 1, 2006 7:42 PM
Comment #178853

Once voters finally balance power between government and the people (in the way they were always supposed to, always), without merely shifting power, or stripping all power from government to accomplish anything, then perhaps some common-sense, no-brainer reforms will finally be passed. Maybe some progress will finally be achieved. It’s 2 steps forward and 1.999 steps backward, and we have been going backward for a long, long time.

The key is education.
That education can come in two forms.
The peaceful, smart way, or the hard, painful way. Take your pick. Either way, we will be educated. Pain and misery is a good teacher.

Posted by: d.a.n at September 1, 2006 7:57 PM
Comment #178991

Forrest, your opening sentence is not accurate for most Americans. You say: “The destruction of the environment is one of the biggest crises we face today.” Most Americans believe Iraq is the biggest crisis we face today. The sentence may have appeared more accurate if it read: ‘The destruction of the environment is one of the biggest crises unfolding in our years ahead.’ And it is because if will affect billions of people around the globe as well as 10’s of millions here in the U.S.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 3, 2006 9:54 AM
Comment #179147

Forrest Hill,
It is amazing how little attention this issue gets, if you consider how potentially disastrous things could become.

  • (1) The U.S. emits 28% of all CO2 emissions, world wide, and only has about 4.5% of the total world population (6.63 billion).

  • (2) China (1.3 billion) has quadruple the population of the U.S. (299 million), and China produces only 60% as much CO2 emissions as the U.S.

  • (3) Per capita (emissions per person), the U.S. (0.01968) is 7.37 times worse than China (0.00267).

  • (4) The entire European Union is only 62% of the U.S. CO2 emissions, alone.

What is going to happen as these other growing nations, such as China (starting construction, every 7 days on another power generation plant), and India are emitting as much CO2 as the U.S. ?

We could all be quibbling about this and that, oblivious to the possibility that our very existence may be threatened. We should have been doing something about this a long time ago, but we need to start doing something, now. Can we afford to gamble?

Posted by: d.a.n at September 4, 2006 1:05 PM
Post a comment