Green voters on the coming election


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    Bill and Karla Chambers on their Stahlbush Island Farms, 5,000 acres of certified organic and sustainable row crops. Karla is outspokenly pro-business and believes in limited government.

    - Mitchell Hartman

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    The pumpkin field at Stahlbush Island Farms

    - Mitchell Hartman

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    Rows of marion vines surrounded by a tree crop at Stahlbush Island Farms.

    - Mitchell Hartman

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    Sunset over sprinklers at Stahlbush Island farms

    - Mitchell Hartman

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The presidential debate later this week is going to focus on domestic policy. So it's fair to assume we'll hear a good deal about the economy and the two candidates' proposed fixes for it. The financial crisis has implications for everyone, of course, including the environmentally-minded electorate. In today's installment of election series Interested Parties, Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman explores what green voters want from the government next time around.


Mitchell Hartman:
Toilet paper as a sustainability issue, I could sort of imagine -- 100 percent recycled or virgin? But toilet paper-yes or no--that I didn't anticipate. Until I met some of the organizers of Enviromom.com.

Christy Kuziensky: We had a mom at one point who was trying not to use toilet paper.

Christy Kuziensky read about this mom on the Web site. Christy has a 5-year-old and does environmental planning for small businesses.

Kuziensky: Not many people want to go there, so it was great to hear that she was making the effort.

Hartman: Has anyone else tried that?

Kuziensky: No, no, no way.

These women are eager to push the envelope in other ways--from promoting bike-commuting, to buying renewable energy. They meet to talk at a suburban community center from time to time about their problems trying to "go more green." Heather Hawkins is co-founder of the Web site and a stay at home mother of two.

Heather Hawkins: We want to get people talking and we want to get people thinking about the choices that they're making in their lives. About the products that they're buying, what impact the creation and transport of those products are having on the environment.

Jen Blatner is a community organizer on conservation issues. She believes in a combination of forceful environmental regulations and personal action. And she's convinced the sweeping changes needed to save the planet for her young son, will come from the bottom up.

Jen Blatner: Our conversations really go beyond the political. You know, there's only so much the politicians can do, and then the rest is up to us.

Which is just the sentiment I expected to hear when I went to see Karla Chambers. She's the outspokenly pro-business owner of Stahlbush Island Farms.

Karla Chambers: We grow and process over 16 fruits and vegetables. We're probably best-known for our pumpkin, our squash, our butternut squash, super-sweet corn.

Chambers is a fourth-generation farmer. And she's raising 5,000 acres of certified organic and sustainable row crops. She believes in limited government.

Chambers: I like to see government take on a role where they can help incentivize direction and change. But not be the primary driver, I don't view government as the primary driver of the economy or job creation. That should be left to the private sector.

Chambers likes government policies that provide a framework for business and consumers--like the FDA's organic standards and "country-of-origin" labeling. They've sure helped her business grow. But she's skeptical of any heavy-handed federal intervention that picks winners or losers. Like, the government's promotion of corn ethanol, which she says has taken a chunk of farmland the size of Iowa out of food production.

Chambers: I think sustainability, especially in our natural resource sector, is really a national security issue. And we should be thinking of it much the way we think about our dependency on foreign oil. We need to really be thoughtful about our food supply.

From Karla Chambers' bustling farm, I can draw a direct line to this natural-foods store where I met Kim Gordon. A few aisles down, cans of Stahlbush Island Farm pumpkin pie puree were stacked on the shelves.

Gordon, an environmental designer, was shopping with her husband and little baby. She's a transplant to Oregon from Alabama.

Kim Gordon: You know, we're avid composters, avid recyclers, just avid environmentalists in general. That's probably the most important issue for me.

Gordon says she wants the next administration to do everything it can to convert the economy to renewable energy and legalize industrial hemp production. She says creating a path to a sustainable future in the long-term, means implementing sweeping changes now, while there's still time.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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