As we welcome the deepening of spring (well maybe not this year... sheesh!), with flowers blooming, longer walks and a general uplifting of pleasantness to all, it’s hard not to feel connected to Mother Nature, especially on Sunday, April 22, Earth Day. It allows each of us to have a private celebratory moment to enjoy the earth upon which we live.
After that moment of satisfaction comes the next step and arguably the more difficult one. What do we do to support this movement — keeping our environment, our community and the world in a healthy state? It doesn’t have to be an act that anyone knows — your personal recycling efforts are one example — but it should be something tangible, measurable and done with concern for the greater good.
Earth Day and International Mother Earth Day not only remind me of my commitment to a safe and environmentally sound New Jersey, but they act as a catalyst for renewing my own efforts.
Taking a responsible position on environmental issues has always been at the top of my legislative concerns, and I have followed with action that I believe safeguards our environment. Some of my efforts on these important environmental issues include:
- Green Building: Green Building has become a buzz word in some construction circles. It should because “green standards” help to ensure that new buildings follow a code that respects and doesn’t harm the environment. I have introduced legislation that updates the wording and definition of “high performance green building” that meet the designation adopted by the Leadership in Energy Design Green Building Rating System (LEEDS). The LEEDS rating is important. Promoting this “gold standard” contributes to sustainability in real estate, and this updated definition would provide the leverage to influence new statewide construction.
- Saying “No” to Offshore Drilling: I’ve also championed a proposal that would prohibit offshore oil or natural gas exploration, development and production in state waters and prohibit the leasing of tidal or submerged lands in New Jersey waters for these same purposes. My intent with this bill is to keep waters and our shoreline safe and sustainable for future generations, and awaits Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.
- Limiting the Use of Plastics: I’ve worked with my young bosses from the Charles Street School in Palmyra on a bipartisan proposal to prohibit the sale of expanded polystyrene (plastics) food containers by public schools and public institutions of higher education. We often cannot recycle these types of containers, and they become an eyesore when not disposed of properly.
If you examine the initiatives I’ve introduced and supported, it would not be a stretch to ask an obvious question: “Does it make a difference?” If you look at it narrowly, it’s not easy to see where the efforts sometimes end in a meaningful way. Yet it makes a difference.
For example, the recognition of Earth Day has had a significant influence in environmental movements that we recognize today: the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
I should add that U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin founded Earth Day after a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1970. This movement would continue, and Denis Hayes (a principal organizer of Earth Day) took the movement international in 1990.
Let’s return to that fundamental question: Do these efforts truly make a difference? Today, 184 countries celebrate this special day through the Earth Day Network. Efforts to protect our environment have made a huge difference. I hope that on Earth Day, you too, as a citizen of this great state, make your own small contribution. That’s my take, what’s yours?