Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The United States Constitution

Dear friends of love, life, and green living,

I'm really excited to share with you my American Legion oratorical speech for their scholarship contests on the United States constitution!!! I wrote 8-10 minute speeches, two years in a row, and presented it to a crowd where it was also evaluated by judges. The contests were nerve wrecking but worth it in the end as I gained public speaking skills, networking connections and I now know the constitution back and forth! We also had assigned topics on four different amendments in which we prepared a 3-5 minute speech and spoke about court cases, historical figures and the true meaning of the amendment. I won a total of six awards since last year and a lot of scholarship money. Included here is part of my 2010-2011 speech. My 2009-2010 speech sent me to regionals and was titled "The Constituted Rights of Vegan Food for Vegan Inmates." SHIFT THE POWER!

Environmental Disasters Affect More Than You Think

The United States constitution protects the rights and lifestyles of the people. A person in this country has the right to do what he or she pleases as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. These rights are entitlements granted to us by the constitution. Although the constitution does not list economic or social rights, through out the years congress has adopted many laws on these subjects to better benefit the people.

I'll further explain our rights and responsibilities as citizens by first describing our interaction with the environment and the significant role it in our lives. We depend on the environment's resources to fuel our everyday uses and to provide us with our basic necessities like food, water and shelter. When over consumption or depletion occurs, people become more aware of how urgent it is to restore previous conditions. In the early sixties, the public recognized the need for environmental legislation. Before environmental rights were established, air and water pollution was not regulated environmental accidents were very common. These environmental issues concerned many citizens and brought forth the drafting of legislation towards ecological protection.

Environmental disasters not only affect our health but they affect our economy and ecosystems. There were no laws in the early sixties that made individuals responsible for industrial pollution and water contamination but these environmental issues highly affected the health of many citizens. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, chemical pollutants released in the air increase health affects such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, lung cancer and heart disease. The sixties were a time of ecological consciousness and although many laws towards environmental protection were later passed, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 made an even greater impact. The EPA served the purpose of enforcing air and water pollution laws as well as setting further regulations to benefit human health. This federal agency is proof of the government taking action to protect the people.

The preamble of the constitution has two clauses that can apply to our responsibilities as citizens towards environmental protection. They are to promote general welfare and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity. This indicates that the states and individuals must work on behalf of the common good rather than for their own interests. For example pollution regulations must be obeyed to ensure better air and water quality for everyone. The posterity clause indicates that they hoped the constitution would bless succeeding generations. Former president, Lyndon B. Johnson, stated "The American people have a right to air that they and their children can breathe without fear." It is important that as a country we make our decisions while keeping the environment in mind so future generations can benefit.

By creating the EPA in 1970, Congress had recognized that environmental worries should not be ignored. Although the constitution makes no direct mention of control over air or water pollution, federal regulations have been placed to further protect these rights. The 9th amendment states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This amendment protects rights not specified in the constitution like safe air and water quality. These are monitored by the EPA to ensure states are meeting specified environmental regulations.

Although congress has passed many laws to better protect the environment and people, there is still no legislation ensuring public safety from companies that pose a potential environmental threat. For example, the BP Oil spill affected surrounding ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico as well as our country's economy and the health of many citizens. Although it was an environmental accident, this disaster could have been prevented with proper legislation. According to the Huffington Post, it cost $12.5 billion to clean up the spill. This disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem killed many fish. The Huffington post also stated that 12,000 jobs were lost in Louisana alone. These include fisherman, drilling companies and the tourism industry. Pollution released from the spill was impossible to regulate therefore the pollution levels exceeded the air
quality standards and served as a threat to the health of Americans.

As I mentioned earlier, a person in this country has the right to do what he or she pleases as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. Environmental accidents put our nation's economy at risk as well as our health and many ecosystems. The 14th amendment states "no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property." We depend on the environment to provide us with food, water, shelter and natural resources to fuel our country. Although some environmental disasters may be accidental, we can be further protected with strict legislation.

The 9th and 14th amendments support our rights to safe air and water quality. It is clear that our lifestyles are directly affected by environment crises. I believe that congress should enforce an environmental law that protects our civil rights to life, liberty and property. Legislation should be drafted that requires any company that poses an environmental threat to have secure back up plans in case an accident were to occur. After these plans are made they should be set and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency after making an ecological risk assessment. An ecological risk assessment is an evaluation of the potential adverse effects that human activities have on an ecosystem. This legislation would aim to prevent future human caused accidents that may affect the environment, economy and health of the people.

Former president, Theodore Roosevelt, once stated "to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children." Due to the public's interest towards a cleaner environment the EPA was created in 1970. Standards carried out by the EPA showed a shift in American public policy toward federal regulation to prevent pollution and improve human health. This shows how policymakers can greatly impact our country with green legislation. As citizens, our rights include safe air and water which are vital to our health, natural resources to provide our necessities and the conservation of ecosystems for future generations. Along with these rights granted to us, it is also our duty to obey the very same environmental laws that ensure that these freedoms of life, liberty and property are protected.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo stated "The protection and improvement of our environment is more than an investment in our quality of life but it can also benefit our economy for years to come." Environmental legislation increases the implementation of standards to better protect environmental and human health. I believe that congress can better protect the peoples' rights by drafting legislation that would aim to prevent future human caused accidents that serve as a threat to the environment, economy and health of the people. Environmental disasters affect more than you think and should not be ignored. Strict legislation against companies that pose an environmental threat will ensure that the people's rights are being met.

Thank you.

I will have to interrupt the seriousness of this post by sharing some pictures from other past public speaking events. Here they are if you're interested!

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