Lisa P. Jackson, Obama’s administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke at UW-Madison campus this week, and I pedaled down to campus to hear her.

Jackson’s visit to Madison could be considered something of a pilgrimage.  Her job and all the main environmental protection laws grew out of the Earth Day movement that Gaylord Nelson started in Wisconsin.  That Earth Day and the following ones led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act in quick succession.

Amazing progress in a very short amount of time.   The modern environmental movement went from its inauguration at Earth Day to to a suite of environmental laws in about six years.

People were energized.  The Teach-In that Gaylord Nelson proposed in 1969 resulted in 20 million people – one in every 10 Americans standing up of for their health and the environment.

Unfortunately, Jackson noted, our environment is under unprecedented attack.  Since the beginning of this calendar year, Republican leadership from the House of Representatives has orchestrated 170 votes against environmental protection.  That is almost a vote for every single day the chamber has been in session.

Legistlation that protects polluters is piling up.

Smog over eastern United States NOx from power plants and cars contributes to the formation of smog which can be seen from space. Atmospheric nitrogen is also a significant source of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, contributing an estimated 30 percent of total nitrogen. Photo Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Photo credit: NASA, MODIS Rapid Response Team

The United States has seen 200 percent growth in its Gross Domestic Product during the 40 years that EPA has been in existence.  Muzzling the EPA is not the way to make jobs – except perhaps for the health industry.

Jackson said, for those born after 1970, this will be the first time in your lives that the health and environmental protections you grew up with are not steadily improved but removed.

She said that cutting environmental regulations has not been shown to increase jobs.  It just increases corporate profit in traditional industries and making it harder for sustainable industries to get a toe hold because the playing field is uneven.

One good way to create more jobs, she said. is put people to work bringing power plants up to the standards they are supposed to be operating under.  The new EPA rulings expected by December are estimated to create 31,000 short term construction jobs and 9,000 long term jobs by modernizing power plants.  Those jobs come with health benefits as well.

We need to rise up again like we did in those early Earth Days.  Otherwise we are going to see government increasing protection for big polluters while rolling back protections for the rest of us, she said.

Jackson obviously feels that her hands are being tied, and she is out there stumping to try and resurrect the energy that drove the early environmental movement.  She bluntly concluded that if the populace does not send a clear message to legislators to protect the environment, things are going to get nasty.

There are so many other environmental issues that need dealing with:  the pipeline, nuclear waste disposal, animal feeding operations – and then there is the elephant in the room, global climate disruption.

I hope we can turn this EPA-bashing trend around.  The EPA was created to protect us.  Are we going to stand up for them and give them the clout they need to protect our environment?


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