Should we strengthen existing policies to avoid the harm to our air, water and land in the first place, or fund environmental restoration work, bit by bit, to fix the damage already done? I think most would say we have to do both. But if we’re doing both, then we need to do them equally. Previewing recent grant announcements for a variety of foundations (national and state-wide) seems to weigh heavily in favor of voluntary initiatives and restoration work aimed at bringing nature back after its been harmed. Texas has a choice though and should learn from the mistakes of the rust belt and the midwest.
I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio. The town that set the Cuyahoga River on fire multiple times. To me, this represents a catastrophic failure by elected officials to protect a natural resource even though the fires are credited with moving the Clean Water Act across the finish line.
Recently, I went back and rode a train with my two young boys along that same river pathway. The guided tour reflected on how far the city and our governments have come in protecting rivers and wild spaces, but ended with the fact that the Cuyahoga River is still heavily polluted. Forty years later that’s the legacy of industry–the destruction of a river.
In Texas, we’re just booming. Sure, we’ve seen some boom and busts before, but the current population estimates are mind blowing. Now is the time to recognize that elected officials can take small steps to ensure clean rivers, clean air, and clean land for future generations. Not protecting these natural assets won’t drive more jobs into this market, and some would argue neither will protecting them. But faced with a choice, I hope environmental philanthropists give equal dollars to those working to protect our air, water and land in the first place as well as working to reconstruct what was already harmed.