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Opinion: “Inclusivity” must include Colorado’s environment

By most measures, Colorado has achieved a hallmark of human cultural “inclusivity” over the past few years. The capstone came last week when newspapers across the U.S. heralded Colorado’s “first openly gay governor” in the U.S., Jared Polis, who is also our first Jewish governor.

It appears that his cabinet appointments will also break new ground with cultural inclusivity as well as in the Democratic-controlled legislature, which set records for the cultural diversity of lawmakers elected in the 2018 blue-wave election.

I was here in 1992 when Amendment 2 was passed, making Colorado “The Hate State.” This new diversity and inclusivity has dramatically changed the complexion of politics in Colorado in the best possible way, and it is a giant and important step forward. 

Gary Wockner

Unfortunately, while cultural inclusivity may be at its highest in Colorado, environmental inclusivity may be at a historical low point. Here’s some examples:

  • Regional air quality is worsening in northern Colorado, and in parts of western Colorado, as oil and gas rigs, and the air pollution they cause, mushroom across the landscape.
  • Wildlife habitat is increasingly constrained by the burgeoning human population and its development pressure as well as oil and gas drilling.
  • Colorado’s already depleted rivers are facing an apocalypse of dams and diversions due to poor water conservation planning and deleterious aspects of the Colorado Water Plan.
  • Traffic congestion is turning our Front Range roads into near Los Angeles-like gridlock at rush hour.
  • Homeowners continue to be threatened, or worse, by the local, toxic, cancer-causing emissions from oil and gas drilling and fracking in suburban areas of the Front Range.
  • Wildlife management policies are worsening as predators are increasingly “culled” (killed) to make way for revenues and profits generated by hunting licenses for elk and deer.
  • Corporate welfare, and the explosive human population growth that follows it, seemed to be at an all-time high the past eight years.
  • Our federal and state public lands are increasingly assaulted by oil and gas drilling, as well as a new culprit further degrading these shared public resources — industrial tourism.
  • And finally, at the exact moment in history when the best climate change scientists in the world have declared a planetary emergency, Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb higher and higher.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Over the past few years, Colorado’s environmental movement has become increasingly culturally diversified to reflect our increasingly diverse human population.

Some environmental groups have started whole projects focusing on outreach to minority groups in Colorado, creating new voices and segments of the population that weigh in on political affairs impacting Colorado’s environment and public health. 

In the same timeframe, a larger new progressive movement is spreading across the U.S. focusing on “intersectionality,” which posits that the best way to make environmental change is to join forces and push forward the broad intersection of progressive values including immigrant rights, labor rights, LGBTQ rights, #MeToo rights, #BlackLivesMatter, etc., all in conjunction with a strengthening environmental movement.

Intersectionality believes that we are all stronger together, and that we need to fight for justice together to overcome the oppression of people and planet. This new movement is likewise a much-needed breath of fresh air in the environmental community — minority voices have historically been excluded from environmentalism as well as often suffered the worst of environmental justice degradation.

The “intersection” that Colorado’s new progressive movement and elected leadership now needs to work on is the intersection of Colorado’s human population with its environment. Every single person — regardless of race, creed or color — needs to breathe clean air, drink clean water and have wild and beautiful landscapes to recreate and rejuvenate in.

Colorado should be proud — we’ve achieved a high-point of human cultural inclusivity. It’s now time to seek rights and justice focusing on environmental inclusivity to make our state, and our planet, habitable for all of earth’s creatures.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D., is an environmental activist in Colorado. Twitter: @GaryWockner

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