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Letter from the Editor

How to Vote

Here is what a growing body of evidence reveals: Keeping sludge out of our drinking water, safeguarding our last primeval forests, removing mercury and lead from the air our children breathe, are not, after all, partisan issues. Numerous recent polls and studies attest to this lovely, refreshing fact. Republicans and Democrats, hunters and organic gardeners, ranchers and recyclers have all expressed their desire to bequeath a place of natural beauty and abundance to the next generation.

Further proof can be found in Elizabeth Royte's profile of Martha Marks. Born and bred in the GOP, Marks is the founder of Republicans for Environmental Protection (yes, you read that correctly). Marks's self-appointed mission is to persuade members of her party that issues like energy security, conservation, clean air, and global warming must be approached in a bipartisan manner if we are to see real, lasting progress.

New York State's pugnaciously effective attorney general, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, tells Elizabeth Kolbert in the course of a lively interview that one of his most successful legal campaigns against polluters benefited from the support of two key Republican governors, Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey and George Pataki of New York. The underlying message: You don't have to belong to a red state or a blue state. You can belong to a green state -- a State of Greenness. So this November, vote for the environment.

We can register our vote outside the polling booth, too, especially in the months beyond November. We can vote as consumers; we can vote with our dollars. After reading Mark Jacobson's harrowing account of Miskito Indian divers on Central America's Atlantic Coast ("Dying for Red Gold," page 14), you may want to think carefully about which items you order next time you're at the local Red Lobster restaurant. Your choice of dinner could affect not only the dwindling stocks of the spiny Caribbean lobster but also the health and well-being of desperate, ill-equipped divers who risk their lives plunging into fished-out waters to bring us the cheap gourmet meals we crave.

We urgently need to understand the connections between our lifestyle and the fate of others around the globe -- without sounding like the scolding parent who leans over a child's dinner plate and exclaims, "Eat your food. There are children starving in India." Well, there are. But how do we make choices in our everyday lives that truly benefit them, not out of an anguished guilt but rather an inspired sense of duty?

This issue of OnEarth offers plentiful evidence that each of our choices, large and small -- the food we eat, the tires we purchase, the officials we elect -- can, in the aggregate, alter our economic and political reality in fundamental ways. Best of all, in acting out of enlightened self-interest, we may make the happy discovery that we are also serving the common good. When we think, and act, in this way, everybody benefits. There are only winners. Now that's truly bipartisan.

Douglas S. Barasch

Hunting for Red Gold
A Hopi Thirst
Lonesome Lady

OnEarth. Fall 2004
Copyright 2004 by the Natural Resources Defense Council