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Whenever the environment becomes the focal point of discussion, special interest groups attempt to polarize the issues and demand that we take sides. Some businesses contend that if you are in favor of a proactive environmental policy, then you are anti-business. Some environmental activists contend that if you are in favor of capitalism and free enterprise economics, then you must not care about the environment. Only the extreme advocates have missed the point.

We all care about our environment, as well as our local economy. There is absolute reason to believe that all parties can collaborate on win-win policies that will create a new voice of 'Common Sense' Environmentalism.

We often hear of the potential threats of social indifference toward environmental issues. Local activists have fought tirelessly against rival interest groups from destroying the very fabric our great state and nation. Their spirit has been admirable, but their message has not yet penetrated the public conscience. Fortunately, there is hope in the future.

All Californians have environmental concerns. The problem is that politicians have not assumed the responsibility of creating greater awareness on the imminent ramifications of neglecting the environment versus long-term goals requiring gradual preparation. Local activists want Californians to set immediate priorities on all of these issues. Residents seek a more balanced assessment from all parties to present a truthful depiction of our environmental needs.

We must channel local activism in progressive ways, in order to create a more informed public statewide. Republicans and Democrats must unite in this cause to protect the health of our air and water, fish and livestock, agriculture, and of course every human being. At the same, we must protect our economic health by allowing businesses to help achieve our objectives.

The future of our state is calling for 'Common Sense' Environmentalism. We can balance the needs our health with the needs of the local economy without having to compromise on principle. Business is not a foe to the environment, and vice-versa. So, let us focus our attention on what each side can do to benefit the other.

We must reward businesses with economic incentives for achieving environmental standards while increasing transparency and disclosure for all levels of corporate cooperation. Businesses who wish to succeed under the 'Common Sense' plan will recognize the value in developing products and services that are economically and environmentally viable.

Whether we are protecting salmon from extinction, lowering our air and water pollution levels, promoting increased land preservation, examining the proliferation of pesticide usage, or protecting our coastline from offshore oil drilling, we must remind ourselves that our local economy and our environment are interdependent. Our natural resources give way to a healthier, more efficient economy. In return, environmentally efficient businesses can sustain local economies from which future generations may benefit.

Government can provide businesses with more progressive options:

· Tradable pollution permits. After issuing the initial permits and collecting the corresponding revenue, government requires limited involvement as issues will be managed locally. These permits ensure that only a specific level of pollution (i.e CO2 emissions) will be attained at the lowest cost to society. Also, we can establish flexibility for government to buy back pollution credits for meeting updated standards.

· Tax incentives for environmental responsibility. Government can greatly entice manufacturing plants to improve production standards that meet the ecological needs of local communities.

· Public assurance reports. Businesses can allow government agencies to rank quality-assurance standards for public goods and services. With the added value of solid public relations, companies will be motivated to work diligently toward reaching environmental health standards in order to receive favorable reviews from local municipalities.

The future of our environment requires flexibility in managing the circumstances of conducting business with the fundamental objectives of environmental organizations. Imposing excessive government regulations does not solve the problem. If we invite businesses to the negotiating table to determine which economic instruments and recommendations can best motivate their practices, then we will have achieved balance for all of us, consuming both business and environmental products/services.

Above all, we must recognize that the most effective messenger on environmental reform is not the state or federal government, rather the people whose collective voice reaches far beyond bureaucratic control.

We have the ability, under a well informed public, to rally support for the causes which we hold most dearly. It is both our inherent strength to protect this environment with unwavering duty toward future generations.

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You can reach Michael Wissot by contacting SymAction Communications