Cory Booker on Environment

Mayor of Newark; N.J. Senator; 2020 presidential contender (withdrawn)


I'm vegan, but I won't take away your hamburgers

Q: You're a vegan but you said you "don't want to preach to anybody about their diets." Your administration wouldn't have any programs to encourage healthy diets?

BOOKER: Oh my gosh. Let's go right at this because I hear about it all the time: "Booker wants to take away your hamburger."

Q: Well?

BOOKER: That is the kind of lies and fear-mongering that they spread out there, that somehow the Democrats want to get rid of hamburgers. Look, I am a vegan. I take my diet very seriously. I actually became a vegetarian when I was still a college football player. But this is the point: We live in a society right now, with the corporate consolidation that we're seeing, where the farming practices are becoming so perverse. And so let me tell you where we've got to go as a country. Freedom is one of the most sacred values--whatever you want to eat, go ahead and eat it. But I'm not going to be a president that's giving tax breaks to people who are destroying our environment.

Source: CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall marathon (10 Democrats) , Sep 4, 2019

Next-generation nuclear power is safe with little waste

Q: You support nuclear power, but you know there are inherent risks in that, and that's a possibility of disasters like Fukushima, like Chernobyl, like Three Mile Island. What would you do to help mitigate those dangers?

BOOKER: The disasters--from Chernobyl to Japan--trust me, when you live in a community as New Jersey does with nuclear plants--and my mom who lives in Nevada and all the righteous fights to protect what they plan to do at Yucca Mountain, I'm very aware of these things. And so I decided, I'm going to read everything I can about nuclear, I'm going to visit with nuclear scientists, and this is the exciting thing. Next generation nuclear, where the science is going, is to me, at first it sounded like science fiction. Where the science is going right now is "new nuclear": where you have no risk of the kind of meltdowns we're seeing, where they eat spent fuel rods. We actually can go to the kind of innovations that make nuclear safer or safe.

Source: CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall marathon (10 Democrats) , Sep 4, 2019

Deforestation of Amazon started long before current fires

Q: So many folks around the world watching horror recently as the Amazon burned in Brazil, and how illegal gold miners are ripping up the Peruvian Amazon. Your policy?

BOOKER: We may be noticing the fires but the crisis of the disappearing of rainforest on this planet have been happening every single day. More and more rainforest is being torn down, principally by the way for grazing lands and large international corporate animal agriculture and more. We have a crisis at a time that my plan calls for the planting of billions and billions of trees from urban areas that desperately need them to all throughout our nation. And by the way, they hear that number and they say, "oh, he's a big dreamer." We did it under FDR which was the last time we had the most massive period of reforestation from something that I'm going to reinvigorate, called the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Source: CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall marathon (10 Democrats) , Sep 4, 2019

Get politics out of Federal aid for natural disasters

Much of what I'm going to do is going to be about climate resiliency. Making investments making sure that communities are not as susceptible to flooding. Making sure that we're investing in emergency preparedness and not have the kind of backwards reality where every time there's a natural disaster, you have to work through Washington politics just to get the resources a community needs. I will set up permanent funds to make sure that politicians aren't making this decision.
Source: Climate Crisis Town Hall (CNN 2019 Democratic primary) , Sep 4, 2019

Support next-generation advanced nuclear reactors

Q: Do you think nuclear energy should be part of the US's decarbonizing toolbox? Do you support the construction of new nuclear energy plants?

Booker: "Nuclear energy should be part of the decarbonization toolbox. Currently in the US, nuclear energy provides 60% of all carbon-free electricity. Next-generation advanced nuclear reactors currently being developed have the potential to play an important role in helping us decarbonize at the speed and scale that scientists are telling us is necessary to avoid the worst impacts from climate change."

Q: Do you support increasing federal funding for clean-energy research? How much money?

Booker: "In order to accelerate the development of technologies that can help us quickly decarbonize, I believe we should at least double federal funding for clean energy research. One research area in particular that we should fund is battery storage, which has a critical role to play as we continue to add exponentially more wind and solar power."

Source: 2019 "Meet the Candidates" (NY Times.com) , Apr 18, 2019

Not a crusade, but addresses animal agriculture

Booker is the only open vegan in the race and has commented previously on the environmental problems of "billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture." Booker was the first vegetarian elected to the senate and has even made other members of Congress eat vegan food. Booker doesn't talk much about animal rights and has publicly framed his veganism as a "sustainability" issue. He has sponsored some worthy pieces of animal-protection legislation, but it's hardly a crusade.
Source: Current Affairs magazine, 2019 interview series , Apr 11, 2019

Rated 100% on all animal welfare ratings

Source: Vote-Smart 2013-2016 Animals and Wildlife group ratings , Dec 31, 2016

Vegetarian since 1992; vegan since 2014

I had been a vegetarian since 1992--a lifestyle choice that had started as an experiment. I realized that there was a lot about food I could never fully pin down. After poring over data on health, the environment, and how industrial agriculture treated animals, I thought I should try to go without meat. Did I need it? Was I the master of my desires, or had my desires mastered me? I decided to try being a vegetarian.

Within a couple of months I was astounded by the results. Active as I was, when I went vegetarian my body felt supercharged. I felt energy like I hadn't ever had before. My sleep improved, my recovery after workouts improved, and I felt lighter, stronger and more capable. I never looked back. 22 years later, after more reading, study and self-examination, I decided to try another experiment for the same reasons: from the day after Election Day 2014 until the end of that year, I would try being a vegan. It, too, would become an experiment that would stick.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.124-5 , Feb 16, 2016

Passaic River poisoned because it was cheaper for business

One American chemical company, Diamond Alkali, started producing Agent Orange in a factory along the Passaic River in Newark--and reportedly dumped "bad" batches of Agent Orange directly into the river. At the same time, the chemicals at the factory site leached into the earth below the factory. Installing catch basins and properly disposing of the chemicals would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the business costs; pouring them into the river was the cheaper route for the company- even if far more expensive for the commons.

In 1983 the EPA confirmed what was already know - that the extreme levels of contaminants at the Diamond Alkali plant and in the lower Passaic River posed a grave threat to human life. The EPA added the site to its National Priorities List of Superfund sites around the country, making it eligible for taxpayer-funded cleanup.

This was my environmental awakening [about externalizing pollution costs].

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.197 , Feb 16, 2016

Dumping pollutants into rivers externalizes costs

In 1983 the EPA confirmed what was already known--that the extreme levels of contaminants at the Diamond Alkali plant and in the lower Passaic River posed a grave threat to human life. The EPA added the site to its National Priorities List of Superfund sites around the country, making it eligible for taxpayer-funded cleanup.

The destruction of the Passaic River is an example of the perversion of the free market. In theory, goods & services are to be priced according to the actual costs of production with an addition of incremental cost for profit. What actually happened in Newark and communities around the country--and continues to happen today--is that key costs of production were shifted onto society while the profits were kept by the enterprise. With their costs externalized, the enterprise's profits increase. In the case of the Passaic River, and in the cases of so many other national treasures, these externalized costs are paid for over and over again by one generation after another.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.197 , Feb 16, 2016

Trees reduce erosion & increase property values

In our efforts to green our city, we ended up having many discussions about trees. Before these conversations, trees to me were often sources of constituent complaints--fallen branches that needed to be cleared, dead trees that needed to be removed, roots that were pushing up sidewalks. But Newark's activists and leaders educated me on the benefits they provide, and soon we set out to find every way possible to plant more of them. Trees cool a city, provide oxygen, and help clean and filter the air of particulate matter, helping to combat respiratory problems. Trees help reduce storm water runoff, reducing erosion and the pollution that is carried into waterways. They even increase property values, adding beauty and character to a block.
Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.203-4 , Feb 16, 2016

Green space; green housing; green jobs

In the Sustainability Action Plan, we:
  • Raised funds for and executed the largest parks and green-space expansion in Newark in over a century;
  • Created a program that trained Newark youth in home weatherization and then placed them in jobs that paid a living wage to do the work in our neighborhoods;
  • Built over 400 units of green affordable housing;
  • Secured $1.5 million for a major campaign to expand Newark's tree canopy to reduce the urban heat island effect;
  • Pushed successfully for an agreement among state, Port Authority, and private sector leaders to install a new "baghouse filter" on the Covanta Energy facility that will reduce emissions of particulate matter by almost 200 tons per year;
  • Partnered to begin clean up of the Passaic River, one of the nation's most serious Superfund sites;
  • Created acres of urban farms that now provide fresh produce to underserved neighborhoods.
    Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com , Nov 3, 2013

    2003: Neighborhood development instead of new sports arena

    Booker was highly critical of James's focus on big projects. The biggest plan was to build a sports arena in downtown Newark. This arena was initially planned to host NJ Nets basketball games, in addition to NJ Devils hockey. James made the arena the centerpiece of his 2002 mayoral campaign.

    Cory Booker was an ardent critic of the arena and of most of James's development projects in 2002. He argued that James focused on downtown development at the expense of neighborhood development. He also thought that the arena project was wasteful.

    When Booker was elected mayor in 2006, he tried to enjoin the ground-breaking for the arena. His request was denied, so he was stuck with having to make the best of what he perceived to be a bad situation. Booker's economic development office worked to try to make the arena as much of an economic boon as possible.

    Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.130-1 , May 7, 2012

    Vegetarian because of environmental impact of eating meat

    Booker tears into a takeout container of scrambled egg whites with peppers and onions. He's been a vegetarian since Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar. As Booker describes it in his soothing, storyteller's tenor, "I decided to take to heart Socrates' admonishment about the unexamined life"--the one that says such a life isn't worth living. "And I started reading everything I could. And the more I read, from the environmental impact of eating meat to the health issues to Gandhi, the more I realized that eating the extreme amounts that I really enjoyed was not resonant with my spirit, with my values. So I tried to go cold turkey, and my body just took off--I felt so good. I'm not one of those judgmental vegetarians who says everybody should do this, but for me it works, and it works very well." In a city not known for its salad bars, Booker is an anomaly
    Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

    GreenSpaces: public-private partnership for city parks

    Citizen activists [work with] businesspeople, social entrepreneurs, and government officials [to break] through bureaucratic rules to improve services while cutting costs and promoting individual freedom.

    I'm inspired by stories [about public-private collaborations] because through similar alliances we're transforming life for the people of Newark. Our public-private partnership, GreenSpaces, has brought public parks within reach of thousands of our citizens for the first time in decades.

    Source: Foreword to "Citizen You," by Jonathan Tisch, pp. ix-x , Apr 26, 2010

    Work with Urban Environmental Institute on solar technology

    We are creating job opportunities for Newark residents in the New Green economy. We attracted two new solar companies to our City. Another illustration of our job creation efforts is our City's newly constructed motors garage on Wilson Avenue. This facility, built using local contractors and local resident labor, contains new solar technology installed by the Urban Environmental Institute, a program employing and training our Newark youth in the growing industry of solar installation.
    Source: 2010 State of the City Address at Newark Symphony Hall , Feb 9, 2010

    Save our environment while creating jobs and wealth

    From energy audits on City facilities, to distributing thousands of compact florescent light bulbs, to green businesses, tax incentives for green construction, job training programs for a new green economy, with Innovation Fuels, a biodiesel fuel production facility in Newark and other green business coming, Newark is saving money, saving energy, saving our environment all while creating jobs and wealth in our City.
    Source: 2009 State of the City Address at Newark Symphony Hall , Feb 9, 2009

    Require labeling genetically engineered food.

    Booker signed Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act

    Congressional Summary:

    Discussion of pro/con (Huffington Post 4/25/2013):

    Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans--over 90%--supports mandatory labeling of foods with GE ingredients. 64 other countries already require such labels. However, strong opposition from the agriculture and biotech industries has scuttled proposals for GMO (Genetically-Modified Organisms) labeling laws in the past. The most recent and high-profile of these failed attempts at a GMO labeling requirement was California's Proposition 37, which was narrowly defeated after opponents spent $50 million lobbying against it. "Unfortunately, advocates of mandatory GMO labeling are working an agenda to vilify biotechnology and scare consumers away from safe and healthful food products," a Biotechnology Industry Organization spokeswoman wrote.

    Argument in opposition (Food Democracy Now 5/26/2012):

    Exactly 20 years ago today, the first Bush administration declared genetically engineered foods to be "substantially equivalent" to foods that farmers had traditionally bred for thousands of years. With this single policy, the US government radically altered the food supply, introducing novel genes into our food that had never before been consumed by humans. Corporate executives at Monsanto colluded with elected officials to make sure that their new "products" were placed onto the market as quickly as possible. Two decades later, Americans are still denied the basic right to know what's in their food because of this infamous policy.

    Source: S.809/HR1699 14_S0809 on Apr 24, 2013

    Endorsed Endorsed by LCV; supports conservation efforts.

    Booker is endorsed by by the League of Conservation Voters

    The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities.

    Source: 2014 LCV Action Fund Senate Endorsement website 14-LCV+ on Aug 11, 2014

    Other candidates on Environment: Cory Booker on other issues:
    2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
    V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
    Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
    Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
    Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
    Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
    Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
    Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
    Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

    2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
    Rep.Justin Amash (Libertarian-MI)
    CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
    Gov.Lincoln Chafee (L-RI)
    Howie Hawkins (Green-NY)
    Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
    Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
    V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
    Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
    CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
    Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
    Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
    V.C.Arvin Vohra (Libertarian-MD)
    Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
    Gov.Bill Weld (L-NY,R-MA)
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    External Links about Cory Booker:

    2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
    State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
    Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
    Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
    Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
    Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NYC)
    Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
    Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
    Sen.Mike Gravel (D-AK)
    Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
    Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
    Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
    Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
    Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
    Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
    Rep.Tim Ryan (D-CA)
    Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
    CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
    Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
    Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
    CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)

    Page last updated: Feb 23, 2020