Environmental groups set aims for progress in 21st century
Washington — The American environmental movement, spawned 15 years ago by swelling public awareness of the hazards of industrial pollution, is at a turning point. It is changing ``from an age of awakening to an age of sophistication,'' says Wilderness Society president William A. Turnage. To mark that progress, leaders from the nation's 10 biggest environmental organizations unveiled a report yesterday outlining the goals they say environmental movement should pursue into the 21st century.
The authors of the 60,000-word document say this is the first time they have collaborated on such a project. They say it raises the possibility of a more unified front in environmental lobbying.
The report notes several signs of change -- for instance, the emphasis on international efforts to address a number of perceived environmental ills, and the use of United States economic leverage to change environmental conditions overseas. Among the suggestions:
US funding of institutions such as the Agency for International Development should be contingent on a shift toward environmental restoration projects.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act should be amended to permit the export of hazardous chemicals only when the importing countries consent and are notified of the dangers.
US firms operating abroad should be required by the US government to adhere to environmental, health, and worker-safety standards like those at home.
A global foresight advisory board should be set up in the US to provide the foundation to chart the international environmental impact of US policies.
``John Muir said it a hundred years ago: `Everything is hooked to everything else,' '' says Mr. Turnage ``And that's what this document is all about.''
The report recommends several cost-saving measures that it cites as environmentally sound: economic incentives to encourage manufacturers to cut pollution; the elimination of the US synthetic-fuels program; and the abandonment of water projects approved within the last eight years but not yet begun.
It also reiterated many of the proposals that environmental groups have made for years. It calls, for example, for the adoption of energy conservation measures and increased use of wind and solar power. The report asks Congress to mandate a 50 percent cut in industrial sulfur-dioxide emissions in order to combat acid rain. And it endorses the concept of a ``mutually verifiable'' nuclear-weapons freeze.
Other suggestions: an overhaul of federal mining laws to protect lands from strip mining; a permanent soil-conservation reserve fund to reward farmers who take measures to prevent soil erosion; and a 5-cent-a-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax to raise $75 billion over the next 15 years for mass-transit capital improvements.
``We have a fighting chance for society to accomplish these goals over the next few decades,'' says Russell W. Peterson, Audubon Society president and coauthor of the report. ``But to expect them to do them all would be naive.''