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Teens, Pols Talk Environmental Policy At Earth Day Event

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BOSTON (CBS) — Since 1970, Earth Day has been a celebration of the environment and education about the need to protect it.

But is there an end in sight to the seemingly ever-present conflict between environmental priorities and economic ones?

An inter-generational Earth Day event was held in Boston Tuesday. WBZ’s Jon Keller says with some exceptions, current political leaders prefer to pretend there is no such conflict rather than confront it. But there’s hope in the form of a younger generation that prefers not to play pretend.

“The planet is running a fever. There are no emergency rooms for planets,” Congressman Ed Markey said.

The event was ostensibly designed to encourage dialogue between teenage Aquarium interns and the dignitaries like U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. But once the pols got rolling, the dialogue fell by the wayside. And when asked to address the issue that all too often kills green initiatives – how do you sort out conflicts between economic priorities and environmental ones? Most of the responses were boilerplate.

“History tells us there is no conflict. If you realize what we’ve been doing over the past forty years, the economy has boomed while our pollution has gone down,” said Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But tell that to local fishermen, embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Feds over fishing restrictions. When WBZ put the same question to the teen environmentalist, we got notably more nuanced answers.

“Definitely step out of your own shoes and your own privilege and look at what other people have and that kind of common ground will allow you to come to a compromise,” Aryana Blake said.

“I think the collaborative approach would be the best way to fix a lot of these problems,” Chris Villar said.

“When it comes to the environment, we ‘re so used to doing it one way over the course of time, then all of a sudden the federal government comes in with regulations and rules kind of overnight in some cases, and that hurts the industry. I think there has to be more communication with the industry,” Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Walsh comes out of a labor background where his job was to create work for his members by helping settle disputes between business and environmental interests. With disputes like the fishing debacle and the Keystone Pipeline battle proliferating, Walsh and the kids could be the face of better times ahead.

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