July 19, 1992
East Bay Regional Park District
2950 Peralta Oaks Court
Oakland, California 94605-5369
Re: "Quality of Life" Constitutional Amendment
Dear Ms Cobb:
I love your idea of a Constitutional Amendment! There is insufficient protection for the environment under current law and practice. However, I want to make sure that it will really do that. I am worried about the phrase "used responsibly for the benefit of the people". I think the phrase "for the benefit of the people" should be replaced by "for the preservation of all species". The world is already managed too much for the benefit of people (the human kind).
The problem that the amendment must solve is that there aren't enough rich environmentalists and environmental lawyers to stop all the harmful development projects that governments, businesses, and private citizens can conceive. Right now, the burden of proof is on the citizen, to keep track of every project and prove that the project is harmful. The amendment must reverse the burden of proof, so that the developer must prove that his/her project will not harm (or better, will improve) the environment, and so that the project cannot proceed until the steward of the environment says it can.
There are at least four groups of people who cannot protect themselves, and who therefore must be given priority and protected by the community: wildlife (all species of living organism, e.g. as described in the book Five Kingdoms, by Lynn Margulis and Karlene Schwartz)), native (aboriginal, indigenous) peoples, children, and the poor. In any decision that may affect the environment, wildlife must be taken care of first. Then native peoples, then children, and then the poor. Otherwise, these groups will be overlooked, or considered as an afterthought. That is the only way that they can be protected.
For example, we should immediately designate continuous wildlife corridors that cross the country from border to border, north-south and east-west, with no human access. All human facilities that must cross them should do so by tunnelling underneath. Children should be protected from second-hand cigarette smoke, even that of their parents. And so forth.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.