Christine Gregoire enforces PNW identity: Former governor stresses environmental awareness on Earth Day

Former Governor Christine Gregoire came to speak at Pacific Lutheran University this past Earth Day, Tuesday. Gregoire’s speech primarily focused on the enviornment in Puget Sound and emphasized Puget Sound’s importance in the Pacific Northwest identity. Photo by Emily Jacka.
Former Governor Christine Gregoire came to speak at Pacific Lutheran University this past Earth Day, Tuesday. Gregoire’s speech primarily focused on the enviornment in Puget Sound and emphasized Puget Sound’s importance in the Pacific Northwest identity. Photo by Emily Jacka.

By Kelsey Hilmes, Guest Writer

Former Governor Christine Gregoire turns down most event invitations these days, but she made an exception for the sake of Puget Sound.

She addressed Pacific Lutheran University Tuesday with a talk called “We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us” at 7:30 p.m. in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Gregoire spoke for the Earth Day celebration at PLU after spending the day visiting campus and classes. Her talk focused on the ecological concerns facing Puget Sound and the necessity of taking individual responsibility to protect it.

She was introduced by U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of the 10th congressional district, who said Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound are the first two things people think of when they think of Western Washington.

“Anyone who was raised in Western Washington knows how important the Puget Sound is to us, because the truth of the matter is, it is fundamentally integral to our self-identity,” Heck said.

Puget Sound is the home to 68 state parks, eight national parks and is responsible for almost 90,000 tourism related jobs. Still, Puget Sound continues to be at risk.

The biggest problem locals face in protecting the Sound is the rain and storm water washing the toxins away and pouring into the Sound.

Gregoire argued the days of blaming big business for our environmental concerns are over. Environmental regulations for businesses around Puget Sound have been succeeding.

Instead, she said it was time for the 4.5 million people living around the Sound to start taking individual responsibility for the health of the estuary.

“Lifestyle change can be threatening and disruptive,” Gregoire said. “Sometimes it means asking people to change and spend money they don’t have.”

Even so, her suggestions focused on making simple changes. These included cutting back on home fertilizers and pesticides, being careful not to leak fuel when gassing a vehicle, building a rain garden and scooping pet poop and putting it in the trash.

She also suggested that consumer demand drives business decisions.

To illustrate her point, Gregoire used the example of the perfectly unblemished grocery store apple. Asking farmers to stop using toxic pesticides won’t do any good until people are willing to buy produce without perfect skin.

For students like junior Ruthie Kovenan, the call to action was a critical reminder to protect Puget Sound.

“I like to think of myself as an ecologically-conscious person, but in reality, I need a lot of work. We all do,” Kovenan said. “I feel like this lecture is a reminder to all of us, that we are a large part of the problem, but we can be a large part of the solution.”

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