American Journal of Law & Medicine

Foreword: environmental policy: principles for the next generation of protection.

The 2004 election season is upon us and, with it, candidates are talking of new eras and unprecedented times. This election cycle gives us the opportunity to examine and debate our policies on the issues that might truly make or break our future: public health and environmental protection--clean air, clean water, clean communities, and global warming. It is important to recognize that the American public's goals in this regard have remained relatively constant. The American people value and vote for clean water and air, safe disposal of wastes, and the preservation of green spaces. (1) In poll after poll, some 80% of respondents indicate that they consider themselves environmentalists. (2) A basic commitment to environmental protection is widely shared across the spectrum of U.S. citizens. (3) Despite this strong public support, environmental protection has become a bitter battleground in recent years, as some in Washington have advocated the rollback of numerous important environmental laws. (4)

Thirty years ago, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so contaminated it caught fire, air pollution in some cities was so thick we could not distinguish one skyscraper from another, and environmental laws focused on the obvious enemies: large factories with belching smokestacks and pipes gushing wastes. (5) As a nation, we committed ourselves to cleaner air and water, and we have made real progress. …

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