The Share Guide: In this column we focus on the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social justice, and the economy. What is your advice for those of us who were disappointed with the election results?
Dennis Kucinich: There is an economic imperative in working towards sustainability. It will help save our jobs and save the environment. The future economic growth of this country is bound up in whether or not we begin the transition away from non-renewable and non-sustainable sources of energy. We need to move towards the development of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, green hydrogen, biodiesel, and every other kind of alternative fuel. For example, there is tremendous potential for wind to be a major power source in the 21st century. With biodiesel, you could have farmers growing their way out of poverty by converting crops into energy. There is unlimited potential, but before we can harness the power of sustainable energy we have to harness the political power that exists in communities. That is the strength of our nation. It’s not simply a matter of a national initiative, although it would be quickened if we had support nationally. It’s a matter of what we can do in our own communities to begin to demonstrate our capacity towards building a sustainable future. The environment suffers and our health suffers with the current energy structure. It’s not simply that there is a misunderstanding about the nature of energy independence. The world is interconnected and our lack of attention to the damage to the global environment by nonsustainable sources of energy could doom the earth itself. This is what Rene Dubois was writing about years ago as well as Barry Commoner, Thomas Berry, Rachel Carson, and many more authors. They have pointed the way to the imperative of protecting the global habitat, which is our human habitat--but this relates to all creatures.
The Share Guide: So for those of us who were dismayed with the election results, rather than just giving up, you would suggest that we work locally?
Dennis Kucinich: Yes, we must. That’s were the immediate impact of our everyday choices lies. We need to create local energy initiatives and begin the savings that way. And the truth is that change in this country has always come from the grassroots up. We continue to be confronted with the recalcitrance of a government that is enthralled to special interests.
The Share Guide: Given the state of the world today, why do you think the environment is not a central issue in Washington? Two striking examples are the dwindling natural resources and increasing global warming.
Dennis Kucinich: Apparently this doesn’t register on a political level. We have to re-politicize the environmental movement, because it is a matter of social and economic justice. There is a responsibility we have as stewards of our planet.
The Share Guide: It seems to me that in Washington they are not connecting the dots, but they certainly have enough intelligence to do so and see the big picture.
Dennis Kucinich: The problem is that oil companies are making record profits. As long as they can keep growing, and we have a political system which supports that, and as long as we are invading other countries for their oil, we are going to continue to see this tragedy unfold. If there was ever a time for a holistic world view it’s now. We have to see the connections: between our addiction to oil and our addiction to war; between our captivity to oil and the fact that the global environment is being held hostage; between the deterioration of human health and the increased incidence of hydrocarbons and petrochemicals saturating our environment.
The Share Guide: So is it simply a matter of dollars first in front of the environment in Washington now?
Dennis Kucinich: Yes, but this is not a surprise; it’s that way with everything. You have the president about to privatize Social Security and why? For Wall Street. He is selling out Medicare for the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies. They haven’t come up with a real plan to meet the needs of 35 million Americans. Why? Because the insurance companies would be hurt. They take us into unnecessary wars not only for oil but to meet the expanding profit requirements of arms makers. We’re seeing a system that is breaking down, unable to meet people’s needs, but it’s not like we can’t do anything. We can make choices in our own lives as consumers. What we need is self-government. Self-government starts with us, as individual American citizens, yet we forget this obvious fact. Self-government begins with SELF—it’s our obligation to try to find ways so we can, in our own humble scope, make a difference on these issues.
The Share Guide: That’s a very good point. I am wondering why individuals don’t pay enough attention to the environment.
Dennis Kucinich: I think there’s been a gradual change in this, particularly in young people. There’s a growing environmental consciousness. Sometimes it gets submerged, but the meteorological phenomenon does get people’s attention. And as the cost of the war is driven home, it will occur to more people.
The Share Guide: So in order to build a strong national progressive movement, you recommend that we work locally and start with our own neighborhood?
Dennis Kucinich: Absolutely. That’s the best place to have immediate impact.
The Share Guide: We recently had a booth at the Green Festival, which is a prime example--there were a lot of fair trade products and green products and more every year.
Dennis Kucinich:The Democratic Party has to adapt green principles. I said this throughout my campaign for the presidency.
The Share Guide: Do you mean the Green Party specifically or do you mean environmental awareness in general?
Dennis Kucinich: I am saying that environmental awareness is essential, and the Green Party has contributed tremendously to improving environmental awareness.
The Share Guide: So we need to do more Green Festivals and bring more of that awareness into mainstream consciousness.
Dennis Kucinich: Yes.We can show people how things can be done locally and that’s where the future is. We can’t expect anything out of the current administration; it’s not going to happen. We can create alternatives locally and develop them and find people to invest. You’ve got to remember, it’s a business--people can make a lot of money developing alternative energy.
The Share Guide: Right, like the single-stream waste recyclers, the solar panel manufacturers, etc.
Dennis Kucinich: Absolutely. There’s all kinds of potential out there. And meanwhile President Bush wants to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve.
The Share Guide: Projects like that seem insane, because there’s less than a year’s supply of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve at our current rate of consumpsion.
Dennis Kucinich: They want to drill because it’s there. And as a statement of energy interests domination over the public interest. Every once in a while they have to flex their oily muscles.
The Share Guide: Well put. Lastly, congratulations on being re-elected to Congress for a fifth term. What are some of your goals during your next term?
Dennis Kucinich: To work to keep this discussion going, and keep developing the alternatives at a local and state level. And to promote the discussion inside the House of Representatives. I hope to have a bill ready soon that will be a broad based approach to developing alternative energy. The current administration is not particularly congenial to alternative energy or the environment. We need to put a marker in the debate, so we’re not just seeing no discussion at all. We might know the outcome but we still have to have that simple faith that tells us we can win a rigged game. So we have to stay with it. In addition to that, I am going to continue my work to create a cabinet level Department of Peace, to make non-violence a principle in our society. Certainly alternative energy is compatable with non-violence because the violence in Iraq right now can be laid squarely on the narrow shoulders of those who believe that no price is too high to pay to grab oil. I am also going to work for national health care, which is a non-violent issue as well. We are really talking about a holistic world view where we see all the connections between ourselves and other people.
For more information about Dennis Kucinich, visit www.kucinich.us
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