Our Views: Ecological focus merits support in Janesville
The Sustainable Janesville Committee has done yeoman’s work on environmental concerns since the city council formed it in 2008.
Yet its recent unscientific survey had no value.
If you seek comments online instead of conducting a scientific, random survey, especially when the issue is as politically volatile as the environment, you’re bound to get polarized responses. That’s what this project generated. Those passionate about ecology provided feedback that supports committee initiatives. Also responding were those who can’t be convinced of global warming and who think “tree huggers” harbor some plot to pillage rights and private property.
Consider some of the negative comments:
-- Just another needless program.
-- The “initiatives” are just a masquerade for increased government control and loss of individual freedoms.
-- There is a danger that “sustainability” is a code word for political agendas.
Of 480 respondents, 200 said sustainable initiatives aren’t important—more than those who valued the programs.
Allison Rollette, committee chairwoman, believes some critical comments came from people who in 2012 convinced the city council to shoot down Janesville’s plans to join the state Department of Natural Resources’ Green Tier Legacy program.
Back then, conspiracy theorists crawled out of the woodwork from far and wide to howl. Among their claims: Green Tier will require everyone to ride bicycles. It will steal private property. It is tied to the unconstitutional Agenda 21, a U.N. initiative, and will give foreigners control over Wisconsin.
Instead, the city would have signed a contract with the state and agreed to pursue environmental excellence by enacting strategies and raising efficiencies. In return, the city would have enjoyed regulatory flexibility and other assistance. As a DNR official explained, the program doesn’t seize property. Instead, it shares information such as the best trees to plant to reduce stormwater runoff.
Nonetheless, critics convinced the council that Janesville should not join progressive communities such as Appleton, Bayfield, Fitchburg and Middleton in enacting Green Tier.
That’s too bad.
Look, in the 2013 state health rankings conducted by the UW Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rock County fell to a pitiful 62nd place among Wisconsin’s 72 counties—down from 58th in 2012. Among Rock County’s concerns are obesity and air quality.
While the city should go slowly and be sensible about use of tax dollars, the Sustainable Janesville Committee is right to push expansion of the bike trails that support exercise and healthier lifestyles. And while reducing air and water pollution in Janesville won’t curb global warming, it makes intuitive sense that those efforts can only improve the air we breathe and water we drink in our corner of the world.
The city need not invest big tax dollars in ecological efforts. Yet it should spend them when appropriate.