“People shouldn’t be forced to make a choice between feeding family and saving the planet” – Jon Scott, on why the clean water act is so important
In this episode of EnvironMental Podcast, we spoke with Jon Scott. He is the director of corporate relations and legacy gifts for Clean Water Action.
The Clean Water Act is 50 Years Old
David Zwick founded Clean Water Action in 1972 after he was hired for an action project in the 1960s that looked at the state of the water in the USA. He found that the water situation was atrocious. He even wrote a book about it called Water Wasteland that helped to mobilize public opinion and build pressure for congress to act.
The primary focus of Clean Water Action was, and still is today, bringing people together to demand policy for water that is fishable, swimable, drinkable for all citizens. They started with a small number of well-informed public interest advocates to bring their expertise, science and the facts to bear and have a powerful impact that shaped congress to pass the Clean Water Act in 1972. And they won!
The Clean Water Act (CWA) allowed the EPA to develop and implement pollution control programs, like wastewater standards. It also allowed the EPA to develop national water quality criteria, and it made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters without a permit. (We talked with Environmental Scientist, Haley Stratton, about gaining permits for pollution and what that entails in this episode.)
But that was just the beginning. Over the past 50 years, Clean Water Action has done everything from door to door education campaigns to building grassroots community organizations to creating various funded projects throughout the United States – all to ensure that the CWA is upheld throughout the USA. They have trained tens of thousands of organizers and they have knocked on more than 60 MILLION doors.
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Single Use Plastic and Clean Water
Clean Water Action is a pioneer in the sustainability conversation. They have been working with political agencies for as long as they have been in existence, so they have the network and contacts to focus on other deeply important projects too. This is important, because it’s easy to put problems into silos. But issues in the sustainable transition aren’t that simple – everything is connected. And everything is very much connected to water!
One example of this is the microplastics problem. They are in our oceans, they’re in our food and drinking water, heck – microplastics are in our bodies! Research is still being done on the harm microplastics have on the human body, but for aquatic life in particular, plastic in their environment has proven to be fatal.
Is the single-use plastic problem the individual or from industry in the larger picture?
Of course, the solution lies in both individual consumption and in limiting industrial use. As activists, we find it easy to be frustrated at the propaganda that the responsibility is solely on the individual for choosing single use plastic. Especially in the past, when we had no idea of the harm and no alternative, regenerative options. And as business owners we understand that demand for single-use products hasn’t slowed down.
The real way to make a dent in single-use plastics (and single-use generally) is with a concentrated effort. We have to put aside resentment and blame for how we got here. And we have to start building toward more action, more interest, and more community.
The Status Quo Doesn’t Cut it Anymore: How to Fix Democracy
Yep, we went there on this call. Clean Water Action is larger than a single grassroots operation. It’s a political entity dedicated to bringing real transparency and equity to politics in the USA. Jon identified 5 ways we can start to fix democracy!
One: Educating About Action
Remember that the CWA was passed because David and his team literally knocked on doors and talked to people. They didn’t demand the vote. They taught people about the impact their small part can have!
Two: Grassroots Organizing
Grassroots organizers are creative. Homegrown action and working together to make a local difference can have a global impact.
Three: Bring Communities Together
Bringing communities together through a common idea is vital to fixing the broken democratic system. Communities are divided right now over the simplest things, but in the end, most people want the same things. Something as simple as clean water, or the right to a clean and safe environment are causes that most people can get on board with.
Four: Hold Politicians & Polluters Accountable
This is a big one. Global governments are literally subsidizing pollution and have been for a long time. We have to continue demanding an end to this behavior or we simply won’t see long term change.
Five: Corporations Change Action
This is how individual action leads to corporate change. Yes, we can demand with our dollars, we can be pissed about long term successful propaganda campaigns, and we can boycott every plastic bottle company out there – but when it comes to it, corporations have to make the change of their own volition. And how do we do that? CONSTANT ACTION!