Triple bottom line.
Yes, we environmentalists love our lingo. One of the things that struck me about the environmental movement was that its language was greatly at odds with its message: while the people tend to be very liberal and accepting, and care very deeply about their world, the jargon they use and the references they make can be highly impenetrable. Even as someone who minored in environmental studies, I still occasionally struggle to keep up.
That’s why it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the movement’s most important issues–public health–has been overshadowed by faux-science, political banter and photos of lone polar bears.
This movement is not about trees. It is not about bears, or ice like you put in your soda, or warm beaches or cold winters.
It’s about the people who jog and eat salads because they are terrified of cancer but then unknowingly expose themselves to carcinogen-rich pesticide. Can’t jog in the woods without bug spray, right?
It’s about the babies who are 30% more likely to have congenital heart defects and who are 25% more likely to be born underweight when their mothers have the misfortune of living near gas wells.
Similarly, this is about how pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to the NIH, can lead to heart and lung diseases, asthma, cancer, and brain damage.
And lest we forget about one of our country’s major epidemics: this is about childhood obesity and how it relates to the endocrine disruptors found in car exhaust. Although, it should be noted that while obesity in and of itself does not cause health problems, it often can.
It’s about water catching fire and nail polish containing a terrifying cocktail of carcinogens dubbed “the toxic trio” and more intense storms that we just don’t have the resources to address but that will nevertheless cause significant accidents and injuries.
I’ll say it once and for all: most environmentalists don’t care too-too much about that polar bear stranded on a chunk of ice. We’re more concerned about the kids living in the inner-city who have asthma from air pollution and all the people who will struggle with proper nutrition once global climate change alters crop yields (our beloved coffee, wine and chocolate are already jeopardized).
We love to chant about “climate justice.” But when we say this term, what exactly do we mean? Well, we’re concerned about the poor and minority groups who will be disproportionately effected by the building of power plants and their lack of available resources to combat food shortages when they happen.
So please, let’s get this right. I’m a PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVIST whose focus is on environmental hazards. My fellow environmentalists are also PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVISTS.
And for the record, you don’t need to be a granola hippie to care about the environment, or to put your vote and dollars towards a greener future. You just have to be someone who gives a rat’s behind about other people.
Or, alternatively, you could just be a selfish jerk who doesn’t want cancer. We don’t discriminate.