We’ve got some bad news about the environment in Michigan and across the country, actually, a lot of bad news. In fact, it seems like almost every news story that comes out about our air, our water, and the large and growing threat of climate change, is bad.
Enbridge, the oil company responsible for Line 5, lost equipment at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac and has decided to clean up only half of it. The Trump administration EPA continues to steadily roll back rules that protect our health and safety. PFAS chemicals have poisoned sites across the state and our elected officials still haven’t taken decisive action to stop it.
It’s madness, or at least it seems to be on the surface—but when you consider the outsized voice our democracy gives to big corporations and wealthy donors, it makes perfect sense. Money talks—and, unfortunately, an awful lot of wealthy elites don’t really care how their actions impact our environment and public health as long as they can keep raking in profits.
Solving the climate crisis will be difficult, but it’s not rocket science. In a broad sense, we know what needs to happen to save ourselves from the devastating effects of burning fossil fuel. What we need are elected officials who are willing to do it.
At both the state and federal level, our elected officials can pass “polluter pay” laws to put big businesses on the hook for the damage they do to our environment, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic legislators have tried to do in Michigan. Under these statutes, corporations would no longer be able to poison our air and water without consequences.
They can set reasonable standards for safe drinking water and make sure our water sources are free of lead, mercury, and PFAS. While many of our elected officials have pushed for these protections, President Trump and his EPA have consistently undermined environmental protections.
They can invest in renewable energy that will boost our economy, create jobs, and provide energy without contributing to global warming. They can force utility companies like DTE to pursue plans focused on providing clean, affordable energy to the public. They can put us on the path to a brighter, more sustainable future.
Unfortunately, too many elected officials in this country care more about the interests of wealthy donors than the people they’re supposed to represent. It’s the same reason why Republicans do things like underfund public education in favor of corporate-run charter schools, pass tax breaks for the rich instead of funding road repairs, and let insurance companies and big pharma call the shots in our healthcare system.
That’s why the fight for transparent and accountable government is so important. More robust campaign finance laws, lobbying restrictions, open records laws, and financial disclosure requirements can help transform our political system from one controlled by wealthy special interests to one where the people’s needs come first.
In the fight for environmental justice, we can’t let fossil fuel lobbyists run the show. We need to rein in the influence of money in politics, and we need leaders who are truly committed to making life better for their constituents, protecting our health and safety, and saving our planet from the devastating effects of climate change—and we can’t afford to wait.