It’s more important than ever to protect the earth

By: 

Jan Koch, Leader Columnist

“Earth Day. Let’s never call it a day.”

This was the slogan on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 1995. International alliances brought 184 countries around the world to observe Earth Day in 2000.

Gaylord Nelson was a leading figure in the fight against environmental degradation in the 20th century. In Wisconsin he became known at the “conservation governor.” In 1962, he took his fight for conservation to the U.S. Senate. Through his efforts, the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. It started out as a teach-in for schools across the country and continues to inspire individuals to do something to preserve our environment ever since.

During the “Environmental Decade” some of the most important environmental protection legislation of our time was passed. The Clean Water Acts, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, The Federal Pesticides Act, The Clean Air Act, the Environmental Education Act, the National Hiking Trails and the National Scenic Trails acts were all a part of the legislative reforms which were enacted due to Nelson’s initiatives.

Contrast this progressive governor with Wisconsin’s ex-governor who slashed environmental standards during the past eight years. Passed was pro-polluter legislation, the weakening of the inspections of Big Ag, the trashing of the DNR staff, and the firing of science experts.

There was no shortage of companies thinking they could make a profit by using Wisconsin’s water and natural resources. But were the long-term consequences of these efforts worth the short-term economic gains?

Our clean drinking water is the most precious of our natural resources but Wisconsin has developed a drinking water crisis.

High capacity wells on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are pumping vast quantities of water into very small areas. The almost 300 dairy CAFOs have put massive amounts of animal waste on the surrounding cropland as fertilizer. This animal waste is seeping into ground water causing contamination.

Sulfide mining companies, such as the Back Forty Mine on the banks of the Menominee River, can also pollute our water. The bar was lowered in 2017 when the law was repealed that required companies to prove they would not be harming the environment.

In addition, if the Foxconn deal is not scaled back, the company will be able to pump up to 7 million gallons of water per day, returning only 4 million back to Lake Michigan daily. There is also the possibility water surrounding the facility could be polluted if harsh chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.

The next time a big company or industry asks Wisconsin to roll back water protections for their profits, we need to ask how this decision might harm our environment. In an effort to protect our most precious resource, Gov. Tony Evers has committed to making 2019 the “year of clean drinking water” in Wisconsin. His budget also includes funding for activities such as staffing and cost-sharing for county land conservation and studying state forestry practices.

We need to make the right choices today. Our children and grandchildren’s health and prosperity depend on it. We should be making every day Earth Day.

Jan Koch is a Shawano resident and the chairwoman for the Shawano County Democratic Party.