October 14, 1996
Recent attacks on environmental protections have raised profound questions about the fulfillment of our solemn moral obligation to serve as responsible stewards of our natural heritage and to bequeath to future generations an improved, rather than a degraded, world. Furthermore, the nation has not engaged in a comprehensive effort to end environmental injustices, leaving some segments of the population significantly exposed to environmental health threats.
In the 1970s, Americans enacted into law a system of environmental protection that recognized the fragility of our ecological systems, the finite nature of our natural resources, and the responsibility of the private sector and government to protect the environment and public health of the nation. The laws and the agencies then established have significantly improved the quality of our air and the purity of our water supply, substantially reduced the release of certain dangerous pollutants into the environment, and protected numerous species from extinction. As a nation, we have come to learn that environmental protection is necessary for the protection of public health and for the long-term vitality of our economy.
It is imperative now, after having made important advances toward solving some of our nation’s most pressing environmental problems, that we to continue along the course of safeguarding the environment, public health, and natural heritage of our nation. Many challenges lie ahead. Among them are:
• ensuring that all people are protected from environmental pollutants and benefit from access to clean water, safe food, clean air, safe homes, and safe work environments;
ensuring that environmental protections adequately safeguard the health of populations now often exposed to significantly greater environmental risks than the population at large;
• the research and development of environmentally-friendly sources of energy and modes of transportation;
• implementing national and international plans to examine and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
• the development of innovative pollution control and abatement technologies and incentives for their use;
• the protection of endangered species and their habitats in the U.S. and abroad;