Earth Day: Johannes Epke, American Promise Counsel, on how his work in environmental law led him to the 28th Amendment Campaign. You can reach Johannes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever since my teens, my dream occupation has been to advocate for clean air and water. I did become an environmental lawyer, but it wasn’t until my 30s that this passion for healthy communities and the natural world drove me to seek solutions to underlying problems in democracy reform, political equality, and self-government.
The turning point was in 2013 when another environmental attorney tried to persuade me to drop a lawsuit against a toxic polluter. She told me that if I succeeded, it would be too restrictive on power plants, and the energy companies would “just go to D.C. and rewrite the law.”
It then occurred to me that I was operating under a ceiling that the energy companies had created -- if my arguments were too successful, the energy lobby would flex its true political power and roll the law back.
Natural resource extraction, energy, and other industries regulated by pollution laws have a financial duty to their shareholders to do everything in their ability to maximize profits. One “investment” that has become essential for these corporations is funding Super PACs to elect friendly politicians and hire lobbyists to weaken or repeal these laws.
Corporate spending in elections has skyrocketed since the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, and the only way to stem this deluge is to correct the Court with a constitutional amendment.
Diligent enforcement of our pollution laws is absolutely necessary for clean air and water, but we also need strong laws to enforce. If we want laws written to protect Americans from corporate abuse instead of laws written by polluters’ lobbyists, we must seize our right to self-government and representatives not beholden to corporate interests.
Earth Day reminds us of the urgency of the climate crisis, but it’s hard to imagine winning on climate change if we don’t dig the problem out by the root. We can either engage in magical thinking and wait for a solution, or we can get to work.
Thank you for stepping up and working together to win the 28th Amendment.