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Op-Ed: Twelve Questions for Presidential Hopefuls

SED’s Douglas Zook on bringing the environment into the campaign


After 20 debates and millions of print, broadcast, and online words from the candidates, and those speaking directly to the candidates — the press — we still do not hear many of the key issues of our time addressed. One would think that health care, jobs, the economy, and the war have nothing to do with a healthy environment, global warming, ecology, and our future existence. It is ironic and tragic that universal health-care proposals ignore the reality that a successful health-care system, of any kind, depends on building and maintaining a healthy Earth. In this election, health care and the environment remain woefully separated, and the latter even ignored.

As the November election draws closer, here are some fundamental questions that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain must be asked:

  • What specific, concrete actions would you recommend to the American people so that they, as individuals, can contribute to solving the energy crisis?
  • How will you make the United States a responsible leader in confronting global climate change?
  • How, and how soon, will you create alternative energy programs that reduce our dependency on petroleum?
  • Would you consider creating a new cabinet post focused solely on combating global warming and climate change?
  • Do you see global climate change on a par with terrorism as a national security threat?
  • Do you feel a responsibility to propose a new American Dream, based on the scientific reality that we have very limited resources on the planet — an honest message that living simpler and with sustainable agriculture and business practices is required?
  • Given that large forested areas are critical to maintaining global water distribution and for absorbing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, what specific measures will you work out both here and with other countries to help ensure the perpetuation of such ecosystems?
  • With the decline in fish species along the coastal United States — and indeed, over much of the globe — how will you help provide for new job training and other measures to coax fishermen away from the seas until fish stocks are able to rise to healthy levels again?
  • What are your plans for ensuring that schoolchildren receive ongoing exposure to learning about our dependence on the Earth’s resources?
  • Low-income people and people of color are often the primary victims of disrespect to the Earth through government and private policies. What measures would you propose to assist those disadvantaged residents who may become victims of severe hardship because of global climate change?
  • Each sport utility vehicle (SUV) contributes tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year and of course perpetuates greatly the need for petroleum searches and petroleum-based wars. Would you consider a tax or other penalties as well as incentives to help citizens move away from such damaging luxuries?
  • Given that the campaigns and the media have ignored these fundamental, far-reaching questions, how can you now convert inconvenience to courage and truth to reality?

Douglas Zook is an associate professor of curriculum and teaching, with a focus on science education and global ecology, in the School of Education. He can be reached at dzook@bu.edu.


4 Comments on Op-Ed: Twelve Questions for Presidential Hopefuls

  • Anonymous on 03.26.2008 at 8:54 am

    NASA updated its figures on global temperatures, correcting previous errors. The warmest year on record is 1934. Five of the 10 warmest years were before 1954. And temperatures have been flat since 1998, despite ever-increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere. In fact, the biggest 12-month drop in temperatures ever recorded is happening right now.

  • sdf on 03.26.2008 at 9:13 am


    These issues cannot be addressed out of context. The context is the runaway corporatization going on today around the world. Corporations are heavily invested in the military industrial complex and so powerful that there is very little left in the way of national sovereignty—and I am not just speaking of the U.S. To try to address issues of climate change without addressing the underlying financial machines that run roughshod over attempts at democracy is to fail to solve the problem.

    This problem is researched and presented very cogently by Naomi Klein in her book, “The Shock Doctrine,” which I think everyone should read to gain an understanding of the real forces behind the difficulties we are facing in this age.

  • Anonymous on 03.26.2008 at 12:37 pm

    What about questions from the other side of the story. Something like; Recent statistics have shown a cooling pattern in Earth’s average temperature over the past 8 years, virtually eliminating the warming that occurred the twenty years prior, how as president would you ensure that reducing CO2 emissions would be economically responsible? How would you provide incentive for private companies to produce cleaner more fuel efficient vehicles? How would you ease the climate of fear that is resulting from false reporting on global warming issues? How would you ensure that people hear the other side of the story and truly understand the issue so that real democracy can take place?

  • Anonymous on 03.27.2008 at 11:19 am

    Debunking Climate "Skeptics"

    Comments #1 and #3 are based on confusion and disinformation from denialists. There are several good sources of information available on the web; one is http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php (where you can find responses to all the above claims).

    1. The fact that 1998 was unusually hot does nothing to change the overall trend of temperature increases. It’s a simple misunderstanding of the basic science to suggest otherwise.

    2. 1934 is the warmest year only for the United States, which is a rather small part of the globe. This again does nothing to undermine the fact of global warming. Fluctuations are to be expected; it’s irrational to focus on them when one is trying to establish overall trends.

    Beware of denialists who cherry-pick facts to try to obscure a thoroughly convincing body of scientific evidence. It’s the same strategy that Big Tobacco used, that creationists use to deny evolution, that crazies use to deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS, etc. etc.

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