By Lynn Thorp, National Programs Director
On the first day back after the New Year, with 2011 and all the resolution making behind us, I wondered what would be in store for our work in 2012. If yesterday’s Washington Post is any indication, maybe we’ll find a renewed understanding of the critical need to protect public health and natural resources.
On the front page, above the fold, we learned that our nation’s public water systems and waste water systems need to upgrade and replace our water infrastructure to the tune of over $300 billion. That’s a tough reality to accept, but it’s true. Our systems are old and they’re crumbling. It’s time our water infrastructure got the same public attention that is paid to our roads. I really liked this sentence, because it’s a fact we don’t hear enough: “Although they are out of sight and out of mind except when they spring a leak, water and sewer systems are more vital to civilized society that any other aspect of infrastructure.” Meeting our infrastructure needs and acting like preventing contamination of drinking water is Job #1, rather than more Congressional attacks on water protection, is a debate I’d love to have in 2012.
Still on the front page was a piece, “Case Ignites Conservative Ire over EPA.” This story is about a controversy over development in a wetland in Idaho. “Wetlands” sound esoteric, but they’re essential for filtering pollution and preventing flooding. They’re as vital a part of our water infrastructure as our 19th century pipes. Unfortunately, the story framed wetlands protection as a conservative versus liberal issue. My hope for 2012 is that we stop calling those who oppose Clean Water Act programs “conservative.” There are plenty of people who consider themselves conservative, but understand the importance of protecting our water infrastructure.
I can’t think of another time I would have found 3 stories on the front page relating to our work, but this morning’s read also included Joel Achenbach’s thoughtful piece “At the Helm of ‘Spaceship Earth’: A New Brand of Environmentalist Calls for Man to Take Charge.” The ideas are thought-provoking. I don’t know yet what I think about engineering our way out of our health and resource challenges, but I hope 2012 is a year for thinking outside the box and recognizing that we have created existential problems but that we can reap huge benefits from solving them. We can start today – send a note to the President about fixing the Clean Water Act.