Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democratic presidential candidate, shares his environmental platform with host Steve Curwood.
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood and coming up: Growing future gardeners in the Garden State. But first, as part of our ongoing coverage of the upcoming presidential elections, we’re hosting a round of interviews with the Democratic candidates. And joining me today from the studios of WCPN in Cleveland, Ohio is the former mayor of that city. In 1977, at age 31, Dennis Kucinich was elected as the youngest mayor of any major U.S. city. He also served in the Ohio Senate and since 1997 has represented the Cleveland as a member of Congress. Dennis Kucinich, thanks for speaking with me today.
CURWOOD: Tell me, briefly, what are some of the key points of your environmental policies?
|(Photo: Robin Doyno)||
KUCINICH: Well, it starts with sustainability, and that we have to move from non-renewable energy resources of oil, coal, and nuclear towards renewable energy. Renewable energy beginning with wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, what’s called green hydrogen. And America needs to create a major investment so we can build the economy of the future, which will be built, I believe, on a renewable approach to energy which enhances a sustainable United States and a sustainable world.
CURWOOD: Let’s take a look at some of the major issues today. The U.S. has come under fire internationally for its agricultural subsidies. How would a Kucinich administration deal with this?
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to farmers throughout the Midwest, and we have some fundamental questions that we need to address. And that is with respect to the structure of our agricultural market. Family farmers have been squeezed out. There was a tremendous shake-out in small and mid-level farms in the mid 80s. And there is a great deal of monopolization that has occurred. Both vertical and horizontal monopolies exist in agriculture from seed to shelf. We need to break up the monopolies in agriculture, and we must provide for farmers to be able to get their price and get their products to market. We also, in line with sustainability in agriculture, need to connect farmers with markets within their own community. And we also have to provide farmers with the ability to save their seed, and move away from this kind of terminator seed technology, which tends to be another way of controlling markets.
CURWOOD: What about the question of subsidies, though. Right now the U.S. subsidizes U.S. agricultural exports to the extent in that many parts of the rest of the world – the developing world, that would ordinarily be able to sell their agricultural products – they can’t, because they simply can’t compete with the cut rate prices that we can offer because of those subsidies. What would you do about those subsidies?
KUCINICH: Well, first of all you have to understand that the way the market is right now, that most of the agricultural subsidies – not all, but most of the agricultural subsidies – end up benefiting ‘Big Ag.’ And I want to see the agricultural market change. And farmers have told me, look, we want to get our product to market, we want to get our price. People are looking for parity, they’re not looking for subsidy. And so I’m responding directly to what I’m hearing from farmers. Now with respect to America in the world economy, I think that there are times that it is appropriate for America to provide some assistance and price supports for certain key segments of our economy, including agriculture. And I don’t have an objection to that. What I do object to is when we have a condition where global corporations are essentially controlling not only the markets in this country, but global markets.
CURWOOD: Dennis Kucinich, I have encountered you a number of times at the climate change talks – negotiation sessions over the Kyoto Protocol, where you have been a Congressional representative. Let’s say you were president of the United States. What would you do about the Kyoto Protocol?
KUCINICH: Well, I’d sign it. And furthermore, America under my administration will move towards a 20 percent renewable energy portfolio by the year 2010. The same way that President Kennedy issued a clarion call early in his term for America to harness it’s technological and spiritual energies to put someone on the moon. We need that kind of challenge to our own society at this time to move towards renewable energy and towards a sustainable planet. Because we have to recognize that we have a responsibility toward the planet. You know, I’ve heard long attributed to Chief Seattle the quote that the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. Whether he said it or not, it’s true that we need to reconnect with our relationship with the Earth. We have an obligation to protect this planet. And my presidency will be about doing that, through enforcing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, signing the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty, as well as taking the broader view and signing the biological weapons convention and the chemical weapons convention as a means of also protecting our environment. We need to recognize, additionally, that war is also a form of ecocide, and that war itself does great damage to the environment.
CURWOOD: As a Congressman, you were endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, and I believe they give you a 90 percent lifetime voting record. I’m looking here, and it says that Senator John Kerry, one of your presidential opponents, has received a 96 percent record, and Senator Joe Lieberman 93 percent. It looks to me like the difference comes because you voted against funding the UN population growth measure. Why that vote?
KUCINICH: Well, I would say that if that vote came up again I would vote for it. And throughout my career I’ve had a strong support for a position that would be construed as being pro-life. But what I’ve seen is the direction Congress has taken on that issue in recent years. And long before I became a candidate for president, when the Stenberg v. Carhart case came before the Supreme Court, declaring that the Nebraska legislature did not sufficiently meet the test of Roe v. Wade in providing for the health of a woman or defining the procedure, and thereby imposed an undue burden on a woman, I decided that this was not an appropriate position for this country to be taking. And so what I did was to slowly begin to move in a direction that worked to make abortions less necessary through sex education and birth control, but only within the framework of protecting Row v. Wade. That’s where I am, and then of course it follows that any of the issues that have been caught up in the abortion issue, including issues of population control – I would certainly be supportive of anything that would be a reasonable effort to address the United Nations population funds concerns.
CURWOOD: Tell me, what about your candidacy makes you more attractive for somebody who’s concerned about the environment then say John Kerry or Howard Dean.
KUCINICH: I have a very strong record in challenging monopolies. Utilities monopolies who were indulging in practices of not sufficiently monitoring the burning of coal, and the utility monopolies who’ve created acid rain by burning coal in the Midwest and send out their acid rain to the Northeast. And so my ability and willingness to stand up, record of having done so in the past, my commitment to a world view which is holistic I think qualifies me for being President. And I would say that my understanding of the relationship between humanity and nature is critical here.
CURWOOD: Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is the U.S. representative from Cleveland, Ohio. Thanks for speaking with me today.
KUCINICH: I’ve very grateful for the opportunity, Steve. And I look forward to another discussion.
[MUSIC: Fela Kuti “V.I.P.” FELA ORIGINALS (MCA - 2000)]