It is essential to establish that the purpose of government is to "promote the general welfare," as the Constitution says. Just as the aim of public health is to create conditions in which people can be healthy, the purpose of government is to create conditions in which people can lead healthy, satisfying lives.
When government defines its sole purpose as economic growth, then there is no reason (or opportunity) to use something like the precautionary principle to protect public health and the environment. The precautionary principle compels us to take action to prevent harm in the face of scientific uncertainty. At SEHN, we began looking for frameworks under which government's concern for public health, well-being, and democracy could come to the fore.
We found some beginning answers to these questions in the public trust doctrine which is defined as “The principle that certain natural and cultural resources are preserved for public use, and that the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources for the public's use.”
We have been gathering puzzle pieces like the public trust doctrine to craft a challenge to the Powell memo, to oppose the policies that allow "economic growth" to override protections for the environment and human well-being. The economy already produces about $50,000 per person annually in the U.S.; we don't need more growth, we need a government that aims to promote human well-being, fairly, for everyone. This requires fundamentally redefining the role of government and changing what people expect of their government.
This is where you come in. We need your support to bring together the resources to make this happen.
You might ask if SEHN is the right organization for something this big and audacious. Fair question. There are two reasons why SEHN is ideally suited to accept this assignment. The first is that we were created by many of the big environmental groups to solve what seemed like an intractable problem 25 years ago: the misuse of science in environmental and public health policy. Within 3 years we had convened the Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary Principle and began consulting with governments to implement precaution. We were made to solve these intractable problems.
The second reason we are the right organization for this is that we have a unique niche in the larger environmental movement’s efforts. Given the political climate, many of our colleagues are keeping their thumbs in the levees and preventing a total dismantling of environmental regulations. Others are working with all devotion to ensure one person one vote and to get out the vote. SEHN is perfectly situated to take on this work to complement that of our colleagues.