7 HEALTH & ENVIRONMENTAL ELECTION SUCCESSES IN 2016

2016 may have seemed like a dismal election for environmentalists and liberal thinking Americans but there were several health & environmental election successes in 2016 that we can ALL be thankful for including:

1. LARGEST GMO FREE ZONE APPROVED IN U.S.

Sonoma County in California pass Measure M to ban GMO crop cultivation (YES 55.9% to NO 44.1%).  This successful vote bridges the largest GMO Free Zone in the United States joining Sonoma with Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and Trinity Counties – 13,734 square miles!

The success of the vote came despite a concerted effort by the Biotech Industry to block Measure M funded by a committee named ‘No on M– Sponsored and Opposed by farmers, ranchers, and agricultural technology companies’.

Measure M, also known as The Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance prohibits the growing and raising of genetically modified organisms in Sonoma County to protect local farms, pastures, and cover crops from contamination by genetically modified plant pollen and ultimately, the consumer.

2. LANDSLIDE VICTORIES FOR SODA TAXES

In a major upset to the soda industry, all four cities that voted on soda taxes pass them in landslide victories!

San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California, voted to levy a penny-per-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks.  Boulder, Colorado, also said yes to a 2-cent-per-ounce excise tax on distributors.

“This is an astonishing repudiation of big soda. For too long, the big soda companies got away with putting profits over their customers’ health,” said Jim Krieger, the executive director of Healthy Food America.

Cities with existing soda taxes have seen significant declines in soda consumption which is believed to contribute to the improvement in overall health.  This is a tax on industry and the 55 billion tons of sugary, carbonated beverages that have been linked to the ever-growing Type 2 diabetes in children and adults.

Even if soda taxes don’t immediately change health, they do have other benefits.

They can raise awareness about the health harms of drinking what is essentially nutrient-bankrupt liquid sugar and shift social norms.  With less people drinking soda, it becomes less socially acceptable.  Marion Nestle, a New York University professor who wrote the book Soda Politics, states that “taxes generate a vast amount of media discussion of the effects of sugary drinks on health”.

With this election, beverage makers cannot ignore America’s changing view of soda.  Before Berkeley passed a soda tax in 2014, cities and states across the US had tried — and failed — 40 times to get their own in place.

3. FRACKING BAN PASSED

Voters in Monterey County, California’s fourth-largest oil-producing county, passed Measure Z to ban fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques.

The measure won with more than 55 percent of the vote, despite supporters being outspent 30 to 1 by oil companies, including Chevron and Aera Energy.  Measure Z also phases out toxic wastewater injection and prohibits new oil wells in the county.  Monterey is the sixth county in California to ban fracking.

“David beat Goliath in Monterey County’s stunning victory against oil industry pollution,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Despite spending millions, oil companies couldn’t suppress this grassroots campaign.  This triumph against fracking will inspire communities across California and the whole country to stand up to this toxic industry.”

Current production in the county’s San Ardo oilfield relies on cyclic steam injection, a process that uses massive amounts of water containing toxic chemicals and generates significant greenhouse gas pollution.  Measure Z bans this environmentally destructive type of extreme extraction.

Many wells in the county re-inject toxin-laden oil wastewater, contaminating the aquifers below.  Oil companies have been improperly injecting toxic oil wastewater into local aquifers that were supposed to be protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Measure Z will phase out wastewater injection to ensure that such disasters will not be repeated.

4. SOLAR ENERGY PROTECTED

Florida voters saw through a deceptive utility sponsored bill (Amendment 1) to enact a fee to citizens for using solar energy thus blocking industry efforts to thwart the state’s burgeoning solar energy business.

Utility-backed Amendment 1, disguised as a pro-solar bill, failed to reach the 60 percent yes vote needed to become law!

“Florida voters weren’t fooled by the misleading campaign that the utilities tried to perpetrate,” Tania Galloni, Earthjustice managing attorney for Florida, said.

A hard-fought grassroots campaign worked to educate voters on the deceptive nature of the proposed amendment to the Florida constitution. The amendment would have allowed utility companies to charge fees to solar customers and make it more difficult for private solar companies to work with homeowners.

Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told the Miami Herald, “We defeated one of the most egregious and underhanded attempts at voter manipulation in this state’s history.”

5. PLASTIC BAGS BANNED

In California, Proposition 67 passed to keep the legislatively-enacted statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

6. ANIMALS PROTECTED

Massachusetts voters enacted a landmark law that will protect farm animals from extreme confinement.  By 2022, the measure will prohibit the use of veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs and battery cages for egg-laying hens.

All three confine animals to spaces so small they can’t turn around or spread their wings, in the case of hens, and are inhumane.  The newly-passed Massachusetts law also makes it illegal to sell meat or eggs from animals kept in these conditions, including from those farmed outside the state.

Voters in Oregon overwhelmingly approved Measure 100 by a 70-to-30 margin.  This prohibits the sale of animal parts and products from 12 species, including rhino, cheetah, tiger, sea turtle, lion, elephant, whale, shark, pangolin, jaguar, ray, and leopard.

7. MARIJUANA REFORM APPROVED IN STATES ACROSS THE USA

Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day—indeed it’s safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).   Although, he also cautioned that the election of Donald Trump threatens the advances made on Election Day.

California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all made it legal for adults over 21 to smoke marijuana, a sweeping mandate that many expect will prompt a legislative domino effect throughout the country.

Marijuana has been found to be less addicting and better for your health than drinking alcoholic beverages as reported in Live Science.  It also produces a gigantic revenue source for the states that have legalized it.

Success or not?!  At least its approval now provides a natural sedative in these states to cope with the Trump presidency.

Thanks to all the voters and organizations that support these initiatives to bring to fruition health & environmental election successes in 2016!

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