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Letter to the Editor: Sustainability is important

Posted: Wed, Oct 31, 2012 9:38 AM

Andy Johnson of Decorah has submitted this letter to the editor:

"Sustainability is a term that hasn't been heard much in the national political debate. To some I suppose it means radical environmentalism. To me it is about kids.

I have three wonderful girls in our schools now. I remember as a kid thinking it a bit cheesy when my folks were asked "what do you grow on your farm", and their first answer would be "kids". Now my wife and I and our girls are back on that same farm, and I say exactly the same thing, and I mean it.

So many of us Democrats and Republicans are involved in building community, and working towards a better world for our kids. This is what sustainability is really about: living our lives and running our common affairs in ways that maintain a healthy society and healthy home place for future generations.

One part of this economic sustainability has been discussed extensively, and the national debt and annual budget deficit is truly frightening. We could probably argue til the cows come home over who's at fault, so I'll make just two points.

First, the bulk of our national debt since the 1970s (its lowest point since WWII) has accrued during Republican administrations. And second, though the debt has grown dramatically over the past four years, President Obama entered office with an annual budget deficit of 1.3 trillion sitting on his desk, the result of two wars, Bush tax cuts, and a recession: all inherited costs he did not create.

Both parties are certainly responsible for an unsustainable budget and high national debt, not only Republicans. But the myth that it is the fault of spendy Democrats is, well, just that myth.

An equally important aspect of sustainability is the health of our Home Place America, Home Place Winneshiek. This is about butterflies and bees and our wealth of wild life, sure (would you give your grandkids a world without it?) It's also about productive soils and clean water and breathable air. And it's about a climate that is already crossing key tipping points and creating instability around the world. Ecological sustainability is about avoiding ecological debt, which none of us want to pass on to our kids any more than we want to pass on economic debt.

Ecological sustainability used to be a fairly bipartisan issue, in fact two of our "greenest" presidents were Republicans. Teddy Roosevelt created more public lands (national parks, forests, preserves) for the common good than any president. And Richard Nixon supported more environmental legislation and regulation (Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Environmental Protection Agency) for the common good than any president.

But the parties have diverged since the 70s. Republicans reject all regulation as "job-killing" while promoting policies racking up a tremendous ecological debt that I believe jeopardizes our future. Democrats continue to work for common-sense solutions to support the health of our agricultural landscapes, the richness of life, and a stable climate.

I'll be voting Democrat local, state, and national for a more sustainable future for my girls.

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