A Look At the Election’s “Wins and Woes” for Wellness

berkeley-vs-big-soda_city-council.pngSpeculations on the results of Tuesday’s election range from hopeful, watchful ... to despondent. As Wellness Warriors we are ever hopeful, and we also see big opportunities for work that will need to be done as a result of Tuesday’s votes.

Wellness Wins:

A soda tax law passed in Berkeley, California, and a temporary ban on GMOs in Maui sent clear messages to Big Business that some communities—and even an entire island—care about the sustainability of our food system. Check out our post to learn more on these ballot initiatives.

Other gains in the food movement include some key elections. Jason Huffman and the ever brilliant Politico Morning Ag team highlight Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ed Markey (D-MA) as food-movement-savvy incumbents who easily held their Senate seats. Quoting Collin O’Neil of the Center for Food Safety:

With Booker's experience fighting hunger as the mayor of Newark, N.J., and Markey's work when he served in the House on pollinator issues, ‘... these are two Democratic leaders that are willing to address the critical issues facing the food movement ... and I expect we will see a lot more from them in the next congress."

Some important losses according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger included

Pennsylvanian Tom Corbett who—if he had become Governor—wanted to slash Food Stamps benefits. Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AK) had voted to cut SNAP as well.  Perhaps the biggest loss, though, was that of  Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) who was explicitly targeted by the emerging food policy advocacy powerhouse Food Policy Action (FPA). Celebrity chef and FPA front man, Tom Colicchio had this to say about their work:

This is a big win for food advocates and Florida families. Congressman Southerland has repeatedly made policy choices that are harmful to families and small farmers. Today, we proved that voters care about food issues, and they will hold their elected officials accountable on Election Day.”

While environmental issues did not get the strongest support (more on that below), one city in Texas, of all places, stood out as a voice against Big Energy. Citizens of Denton voted 59% to 41% in support of a ballot measure that bans fracking within the city limits. With similar initiatives passing in Athens, Ohio and San Benito and Mendocino Counties in California, we can be assured that the residents of Denton are not alone.

Wellness Woes:

Speaking of the environment, losses in water quality and climate change, and gains for coal, weigh heavy on on our minds. The New York Times shows that 83% of Republicans don’t think that climate change is a pressing issue. Yikes! Brad Plumer of Vox, referring to a recent Climate Policy report states the direness of the politicization of our climate:

The report's bottom line was that countries need to get moving today if they want to stop the planet from heating up drastically. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. And definitely not 10 years from now. But the bottom line of this election is that Congress isn't going to give much thought to climate change these next two years. Maybe not the two years after that. And it doesn't seem to be in the power of either committed billionaires or Mother Nature to get them to do so.”

John Light of Grist also lays out a pretty bleak synopsis of election outcomes for the environment in general:

But the news was overwhelmingly bad. Two of the green coalition’s other Senate targets, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, won. Rick Scott held onto his governorship in Florida. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., retained his seat in Congress. A push for a climate hawk majority in the Washington state legislature didn’t work out, despite $1.25 million from Steyer and $1.4 million raised by the group Washington Conservation Voters.

Mitch McConnell, a champion of environmental deregulation, is now in charge of the Senate, and climate-change deniers are going to lead important committees. Jim “Climate Change is a Hoax” Inhofe is in line to head the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has authority over things like the EPA’s budget.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for Mother Earth, though. Ken Cook, President of Environmental Working Group (EWG), is quick to point out that the Environmental movement is stronger than ever, and while it may not be fairly represented in Congress, we are still fired up to protect our natural resources. In a letter to EWG supporters:

You can count on EWG to stand up, strong and early, to any and all attempts to undermine laws and regulations on which you rely to protect the health of your family, especially the health of your children and the environment they'll inherit.”

Back over on the food front, one of the more pressing concerns for federal food policy is Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) seemingly inevitable ascension as Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee. With pressing decisions to be made on Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization, pollinator protection, and a host of other important Farm Bill tasks, his steering of the committee is something to watch EXTREMELY closely. Jason Huffman of Politico’s Morning Ag gives just one example:

Roberts had said that in the event of a Republican majority, he would be Senate Agriculture Committee chair—given that he won his own contest, of course. Roberts, once considered a "savior" of food stamp programs, attempted to cut $36 billion from the program last year, and would certainly advocate for similar policy as chairman.”

There is no question that we as Wellness Warriors still have plenty of work cut out for us. However, the gains listed above are indicators that this imperative work has an opportunity to make real change. As we move into the next political cycle, let’s keep these “wins” in mind for motivation and these setbacks as fuel for our fire to keep working adamantly for our right to health!

PHOTO: Berkeley vs. Big Soda


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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