Precaution in Berkeley

After “fierce opposition” from Berkeley City Council members, environmental and public health advocates have postponed a proposal for a city-wide precautionary principle ordinance.
The proposal, scheduled for March 18th, was shelved after councilman Gordon Wozniak and others charged that the principle was too vague. “How would you enforce it?” asks Wozniak, “there is harm associated with essentially every action.”
But councilman Kriss Worthington, who introduced the resolution on behalf of the Bay Area Working Group for the Precautionary Principle, says: “We’re not saying you shouldn’t cross the street because you might get run over. The precautionary principle is about making informed decisions and being cautious when hazards are seemingly present.”
Where science has only suggested links between diseases like cancer and environmental factors, the principle “enables you to say that the evidence is here,” says Kendra Klein at San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, “and we need to act now, rather than wait to prove a link while the body count rises.”
Worthington calls the retreat a “tactical move” to allow activists time to educate the city council and other Berkeley residents about the precautionary principle.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s precautionary principle policy, introduced on March 18, has been sent to the Board of Supervisors for review.

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