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Carolyn Raffensperger has been advocating for the environment since 1982. She's currently executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and a tireless proponent of the Precautionary Principle when it comes to balancing economic and environmental impacts.

Raffensperger sees the environmental movement's best strategy to reverse the destruction of our planet as one of civil rights litigation. Governments, at their core, are here to keep safe the commons upon which all life depends: clean air, clean water, clean soil. She argues that our current policies are violating the “Rights of the Unborn” to a clean and healthy environment.

The Precautionary Principle sounds fancy, but you know by its more common names: Better safe than sorry; Look before you leap; and the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

Basically, policy grounded in the Precautionary Principle reverses the burden of proof. Right now, a corporation can pollute streams and land and air with impunity, unless some injured party can prove that the pollutants are damaging their health. And given the imbalance in resources between wealthy industrial interests and poor and marginalized communities poisoned by their chemicals, that proof is often impossible to come by. At least, before it's too late.

Right now, Raffensperger points out, the economy always gets the benefit of the doubt in any conflict with the environment. Growth is sacred, while trees and rivers are utilitarian. Polluter avoid financial responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people suffer.

What would our world be like, Raffensperger wonders, if we thought of ourselves as “Guardians of Future Generations”? How would we function as a society if our highest goal was to be considered “Beloved Ancestors” by those yet unborn?

In our conversation, we talk about the current mess, strategies to shift policies and perspectives, and the illusions that many of us still cling to, against all evidence (i.e., “tech will save us”).

This isn't a fun or easy conversation, but a hugely important one. I don't want to be part of the generation of whom future humans say, “How could they do this to us when they knew?”

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Links

Science and Environmental Health Network

Carolyn Raffensperger's TEDx Talk

Sarah Thomsen, River Dream song

Rewilding Iowa and Beyond – Facebook group

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Music

The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.

Gratitudes

Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Anthony Dissen – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Christine Nielsen – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Wayne Pedersen – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – RuthAnn Funderburk – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Martha Bergner – Susan Ahmad – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Kelly Michiya – DeAnne Norton – Bonnie Lynch of Plant Happy Oregon – Sabine Kurtzhals – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Tanya Lewis – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Valerie Pelletier – Peter W Evans – Colleen Harrison – Justine Divett – Joshua Sommermeyer – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Valarie Hummel – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Günter Schmid – Marjorie Lewis – Kelly Moulden – Tricia Adams – Ian Cramer – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Rachelle Kennedy – Diana Goldman – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – Hollie Butler – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – for your generous support of the podcast.

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