First in new series – “OnCampus at Pace University;” Environmental Experts Call for Education, Innovation and Enforcement but Priorities Differ
“Do we want to live in a world where we can’t drink the water or breathe the air? There isn’t a choice between the environment and the economy.” – Robert Goldstein
“A strong economy is dependent on a clean, healthy environment.” – Glenn Prickett
“Lack of innovation to protect the environment can be a product of corporate culture.” – Andrew Revkin
“Water is not the new oil. There are alternative energy sources. There are no alternatives to water.”
– John Cronin
In a lively discussion that ranged from consensus to sharp debate, environmental experts gathered at the Pace University Pleasantville campus agreed that a clean environment and a healthy economy should not be mutually exclusive, but offered divergent views on how to close the gap.
In the first of a series of lectures called “OnCampus at Pace University,” held Tuesday, October 18, participants in a round-table discussion of “Hard Choices in Hard Times” offered a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of environmental decision-making in tough economic times.
Panelists included Glenn Prickett, chief external affairs officer, The Nature Conservancy, and Woodrow Wilson Fellow in residence at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies; John Cronin, senior fellow for environmental affairs at Pace University; award-winning New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin, who is also senior fellow for environmental understanding at Pace; and Robert J. Goldstein, a distinguished professor at the United States Military Academy and an adjunct professor of environmental law at Pace Law School.
The environment is not a choice
While the panelists agreed that Americans are concerned about the environment, but more concerned about jobs and dwindling property values, they were divided on how to reconcile the two.
As asked by Michelle Land, director of Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies and panel moderator, “In tough economic times, should government policies focus more on economic growth and less on the environment? Or, is this a false choice?”
Prickett believes a strong economy depends on a clean, healthy environment. “There is a disconnect between what voters think and what is happening in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Voters have voted to increase taxes to pay for environmental initiatives.” He said the lawmakers do not follow through. Prickett discussed Herman Cain’s proposed 999 tax shift as an example of an incentive for innovation. “If the cost of energy is raised, such as with a carbon tax, innovation will follow.”
Revkin pointed out that for environmental policies to be pushed through Washington, advocates need to find the crossover, the overlap, where Democrats and Republicans can agree. “There are a lot of Republicans who support energy initiatives,” he said.
Cronin quoted President Richard Nixon’s first state of the union address in 1970 where he suggested Americans can solve environmental problems by turning to “the same reservoir of inventive genius that created them in the first place.” Cronin proposed that the slow pace of innovation is hindering solutions to our largest environmental challenges. He observed that environmentalists should lobby corporations at least as energetically as they lobby government because solutions to issues such as water pollution and climate change require the talent of the private commercial sector.
Cronin spoke of disputes over issues like energy and water pitting the desire for economic development against perceived overregulation. “We often hear that water is the new oil,” said Cronin. “Water is not the new oil. There are alternative energy sources. There are no alternatives to water.”
Emphasizing the urgent need for technological innovations resulting in clean water for all, Cronin cited alarming statistics: Nineteen million Americans get sick every year from drinking water. “The Clean Water Act is a failure. The Act was supposed to result in the elimination of pollutants from drinking water. It’s now twenty-six years later and the Act has missed every target by a wide margin. What’s lacking is innovation.”
Speaking from experience with interviewing corporate representatives in his role as New York Times environmental reporter, Revkin said, “Lack of innovation to protect the environment can be a product of corporate culture.”
Goldstein said environmental regulation is a necessary and viable solution. “Do we want to live in a world where we can’t drink the water or breathe the air?” he asked. “There isn’t a choice between the environment and the economy.” He said that given the environmental landscape, there should be more laws but that the real issue is following through on the mandates. Goldstein cited the possibility of the EPA passing additional laws on emissions.
Goldstein believes that the American people support environmental laws and don’t want them to go away. “There needs to be prosecution for failure to follow through on environmental laws,” said Goldstein. “Like John Cronin making citizen arrests on the Hudson River.”
Land sees valuing nature as having great potential, “Economic growth and environmental protection would be mutually benefited by creating a system for valuing nature’s support of human needs.”
This was the first in a lecture series that Pace University has designed to create public discourse on crucial issues of our time.
About Pace University
For 105 years, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu
Cara Cea, 914-906-9680, firstname.lastname@example.org