Once upon a time, during a major economic crisis in the United States, a charismatic presidential candidate who had attended Columbia and Harvard ran against a not-so-charismatic multimillionaire who had attended Stanford.
The former was seen as a headstrong, tax-and-spend, big-government advocate whose proposed social programs could exhaust the U.S. treasury. The latter was seen as a successful businessman who believed in a market-driven economy and that, by cutting inefficiency, waste and government intrusion, prudent management could steer the nation through the crisis.
That was 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression and the country wisely sided with the “big government advocate” under whom the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Social Security and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were established.
Millions of Americans were in dire straits and unable to meet the fundamental needs of food, clothing and shelter — much less health care. Though well-meaning, businessman Hoover didn’t seem to sense the grim immediacy of the situation for the typical family. In their unemployment, hunger, sickness, homelessness and thirst, the American people could not await the results of “prudent management” to rescue them. They were compelled, therefore, to choose the “for real” over the “ideal.”
Have we, in these 80 years since 1932, come again to the same place? Well, we are in a major economic crisis and have a presidential candidate who attended Columbia and Harvard running against another who attended Stanford. Moreover, their policies are very similar to those of their predecessors fourscore years ago.
Let’s hope that the American people recognize the grim immediacy of the situation and react accordingly.
While Nadia Issa’s desire to implement single-stream recycling for plastic water bottles at Boston Arts Academy is a well-intentioned one (“High schooler brings single-stream recycling to BPS,” Bay State Banner, July 5, 2012), wouldn’t it be even better to launch a campaign that encourages students to bring their own reusable water bottles and refill them at school?
Some schools have installed “water refilling stations” explicitly for that purpose. It would mean less plastic waste and less money spent on bottled water — which some say is of questionable quality anyway.
More important, when schools offer environmentally-friendly choices on campus, the adults in charge are sending an important message that they care about the future. Students learn new behaviors whose benefits often reach far beyond the classroom.
Schools needs more students like Nadia Issa, as well as leaders who can take environmental responsibility to the next level and make their schools models for zero-waste living.
Emily A. Fano
Environmental Writer/Sustainability Consultant