Is the environment a human rights issue?
Carl Pope is Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Since Pope’s appointment in 1992, Sierra Club has added 150,000 new members, bringing the total membership to 700,000. Pope has a distinguished record of environmental activism and leadership.
Prior to his work with the Sierra Club, Pope served on the Boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Public Voice, National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause and Public Interest Economics, Inc. He is the co-author of Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress, and other books including Hazardous Waste in America and Sahib, an American Misadventure in India. Pope was educated at Harvard University and spent two years in the Peace Corps in India on graduation.
Carl Pope: First I don’t like the word “issue”, so that . . . that’s _________. Do I believe that if globally people’s basic rights were respected, the air would be cleaner, the water would be purer, there would be a lot fewer toxic chemicals in the food supply? Absolutely. If you enable people to protect themselves, that is a normal human instinct. I mean we get into these debates sometimes with people, we talk about how, “Oh we’re rugged individualists. And us rugged individualists we don’t want the government telling us what to do. And what are all these clean water regulations?”
And I sometimes have to remind people that in the Old West, when somebody poisoned the well they strung him up. We’re really very mild. We don’t string people up. We just retire them. But I think that there are parts of the world . . . And I have a great advantage. I go to work in the morning, I do not look under my car. I do not check to see if anybody has put a bomb there. I do not particularly . . . I assume my telephone is tapped, but I don’t particularly worry about the fact that my telephone is tapped. What I do is safe. I’m not at personal risk if I offend the President of the United States. In a lot of the world that’s not true. In a lot of the world doing what I do for a living is really dangerous. And that’s where defending human rights, defending the defenders of communities is such a critical thing to do. Because if ordinary people are at risk when they speak out for their families, then the bad kind of lobbyists are going run the show.
Recorded on: September 27, 2007
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