A former U.S. secretary of the interior speaking at Baker University on Wednesday called for the United States to provide aggressive leadership in addressing global environmental concerns.
Stewart Udall, who served as the country's 37th secretary of the interior throughout the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, said the United States possesses the "scientists, technology and understanding of the complexities of environmental problems" to lead the effort to solve those problems.
"The U.S. isn't stepping forward and providing leadership that it should in environmental issues," he said. "I believe environmental action of various kinds, here and abroad, creates tremendous opportunities for U.S. leadership."
Udall suggested the country could create jobs and benefit economically by channeling resources from the military to environmental needs.
"THE COLD War is over in the Soviet Union, it's over in Eastern Europe, but it's not over in Washington, D.C.," he said, scoffing at the argument that military industry must be maintained because of the thousands of people it employs. Environmental activism, he said, could provide new jobs if it was adequately funded.
He recommended "Earth in the Balance" by Sen. Al Gore, the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Udall said the book "is a brilliant argument that the United States will be better off economically if we observe the environmental revolution."
Udall said environmental issues will play a key role in the presidential campaign for the first time this year. "It's permeated our thinking," he said. "It's part of our planning in this country."
He answered questions from the audience following his speech. A youngster asked what advice he'd give children who want to help the environment.
"ONE OF the reasons I'm optimistic is we have a whole generation of people who understand environmental issues from the beginning," Udall said.
He urged children to start environmentally conscious practices at home and to get involved in community projects.
Udall formed Overview, an environmental consulting firm, in 1969. He practices environmental law in Washington, D.C., and frequently authors magazine articles.
His speech, "The Quiet Crisis," was part of Baker's R. Milford White Endowed Lecture Series.