The perspective of a southern environmental advocate

This article is excerpted from the Summer 2017 issue of Gulf Currents, GRN's bi-annual printed newsletter.

At a recent national gathering of environmental and conservation activists, it became very clear that my colleagues from the East, Mid-West, and West were extremely stressed and disheartened by the efforts of Congress and the White House to neutralize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and roll back environmental laws. Comparatively, most of my colleagues from the South, although disturbed, were not too phased by what was going on. Why would there be this difference in outlook?

The answer lies, I believe, in the fact that Southern states, under the leadership of either party, are already loath to regulate business or industry, particularly if there is a promise of jobs. Consequently, political pressure brought to bear on federal agencies has always made EPA's ability to intercede on behalf of the environment in Southern states difficult. We have rarely benefited from forward thinking, environmentally protective administrations or agencies. Instead we have heard the steady drumbeat of jobs versus the environment, economic development is paramount, and energy is king. Despite the challenges we face, we've been able to achieve real victories - to keep our water clean, protect our wetlands, and sustain our communities - through hard work, strategic advocacy and organizing coalitions across traditional political and ideological divides. For many of us the current administration is making environmental protection more difficult. But have faith, while the battles are becoming more challenging, the war to protect our environment and communities remains the same and we need to keep up the fight.

Cyn Sarthou

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