April 23, 2003

Senator John Edwards meets UCLA and Reef Check (Daily Bruin, April 2003)

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Senator shares views at Earth Day
The Daily Bruin
April 23, 2003
By Andrew Edwards

A sidewalk display on Weyburn Avenue declares that “All Roads Lead to Westwood,” and Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, hopes UCLA is a stop on the path to the White House. Edwards, in California for campaign activities, made a brief visit to UCLA Tuesday afternoon, stopping by to chat with students and faculty at Earth Day celebrations held at Bruin Plaza.

Edwards, a first-term senator, is among a handful of prominent Democrats vying for a chance to challenge President George W. Bush in 2004.

In a short address, Edwards charged the president with pursuing poor environmental policies.

“It’s important that we all do the things necessary to protect our planet. … This administration is doing the opposite,” Edwards said.

This past January, Edwards unsuccessfully opposed air pollution regulations proposed by Bush, arguing they undermined clean air laws. Supporters of the new rules said easing regulations on industries would aid the economy.

During his remarks, Edwards announced a proposal for the government to provide funding for four biomass refineries – facilities that would use agricultural products to produce ethanol fuels.

With much of the country focused on the aftermath of war in Iraq and international terrorism, Edwards said he expects environmental concerns to resonate with voters during the race for the White House.

“I think the environment will be enormously important. … It’s a human health issue,” he said after his speech.

Research on new energy sources is connected to national security concerns, Edwards said, citing a need for the United States to develop domestic energy rather than relying on sources in the Middle East.

“You need to become less and less independent on oil,” he said.

In general, attendees to the Earth Day event gave Edwards a positive reception for his environmental stances.

Gregor Hodgson, director of Reef Check, a UCLA Institute of the Environment program that monitors coral reefs, called Edwards a “very strong environmental candidate.”

Edwards’ talk with students was not limited to environmental concerns. While discussing his support for a multilateral foreign policy, he was immediately asked why he supported war in Iraq without United Nations’ authorization.

Replying that he considered Iraq a “unique” situation, Edwards said, “I believed then and I believed now that the potential for Saddam Hussein to have nuclear capabilities and what he was doing to his own people, that he needed to be stopped.”

Later, he said the United States should work with international organizations to rebuild Iraq.

“We want the United Nations as involved as possible, we want the European Union involved, we want NATO involved,” he said, adding their participation would “add legitimacy” to U.S. efforts.

Raising awareness
Edwards was not alone in trying to garner Bruins’ attention – several student and oncampus groups set up tables in the plaza, hoping to gain support for their various causes.

“We have a bunch of issues … fair trade coffee, we have our Taco Bell boycott, on -campus worker issues,” said second-year anthropology student Nathan Lam, a member of the environmental coalition.

Greenpeace provided an exhibit on solar energy using a solar -paneled truck to power the entire event.

“It’s enough to power three single-family homes,” said Maureen Cane, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2002 with a degree in international development, and is a member of Greenpeace and the Sustainability Coalition.

In the middle of the multiple groups advocating environmental policies was an organization trying to get students to register to vote, though they had little success.

Sandra Perez, regional director for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which usually targets Latino/a voters in the general community, said students often register to vote but fail to cast a ballot during elections.

“They’re tremendously apathetic and they’re being ignored by the political parties,” Perez said.

Edwards, campaigning at UCLA, said the burden is on politicians to get students and other young Americans interested in politics.

“I think it’s our responsibility … to get young people involved,” he said.