Our environment is so important. We only have one shot to protect it, cultivate it, and keep it safe for future generations. Because of human involvement, Earth’s ecosystems are changing at a daily rate, and it’s more important than ever to do all we can to protect the nature and its species around us. No matter the political party, the country, or the location, governments have to step up and work together to solve important environmental issues. Even more importantly, we the people need to be a bigger part of this effort now.
In the US, there has been an ongoing debate for decades about just how involved our government should get when it comes to the environment. While we argue about the politics involved in environmental policy, thousands of species are disappearing forever. Some people call for more government action, while others call for more individual action, but in the end, both are necessary to protect the environment. Let’s take a closer look at the problem.
Environmental Policies and Politics
The environment became a significant issue for the US government in the 1960s and 1970s. Environmental issues are shared by Congress, interest groups, and citizens alike, so why can’t we agree that something needs to be done? This is a complex question that has many aspects, from how our education system is set up to the fact that businesses provide monetary support for politicians. Since our country is full of a diverse group of people, and the government is split so much into regions, there is no way to have 100% support on any policy. As a result, government intervention for environmental protection tends to fluctuate, depending on the current political climate.
The role that the government plays in our conservation and environmental issues changes based on who’s in office at the time. Some presidents have pushed for more conservation efforts, while others support a more pro-development stance. Both citizens and business owners alike have a strong opinion on environmental issues, as they affect both groups of people. However, it can be hard to see how environmental protection will help us all in the long run, when we focus too much on current business profits.
In 2018, the shift has once again moved towards more environmental destruction, as the administration removes protection from national parks and opens more places for oil drilling and other types of destructive development. Hopefully these changes will be rectified soon, before it’s too late for the areas under fire.
Environmental Issues and the Groups They Create
As long as the environment has been a political issue, there have been long debates as to whose job it is to protect it. Up until the Nixon administration, environmental issues where mainly dealt with on a state and local level. Over the past several decades, the federal government has become increasingly involved in our environmental issues, but most policies are still carried out on a state level. With big corporations still spewing literal tons of pollution into the environment, it’s obvious that attempting environmental protection only on the local level is not enough to save the Earth.
Several groups have demanded more action from certain areas of government. These groups vary in size, tactic, and strategy. For example, the property rights groups maintain a strong stance of anti-federal government orientation, and prefer that the state and local government be the ones that determine environmental policy. Businesses and industries have a strong hold on how they want environmental issues handled, and are the ones who can lobby to politicians to work these polices in their favor.
In the face of such large opposition, the common citizen has little power for change, without grouping together in a larger movement. There are several groups to join and support that work for environmental protection, but they still struggle to combat the rich and powerful corporations. Our nation is fractured into opposing groups that are fighting over a problem that hurts us all. If we could band together in a more united way, more could be accomplished to protect our planet.
Science and Policies on Environmental Issues
With our current administration, it has become clear that scientific discovery and political policy do not mix well, to the detriment of our environment. Look at the idea of climate change. Even though the science is sound, the government refuses to see it as a problem to solve through policy, since the solutions don’t line up with a pro-industry mindset. Can science and government policy ever really mix? Let’s take a look at some past presidents and their different stances on environmental issues:
Bill Clinton penned the Kyoto Protocol, which called for mandatory guidelines and timetables in an effort to reduce the use of greenhouse gases, even though he knew this was an unpopular opinion in government at the time. Next came George W. Bush, who not only renounced the Kyoto Protocol, but only signed an environmental agreement with other nations after it was revised to let nations voluntarily reduce greenhouse gases rather than make it mandatory. Each administration is going to instigate changes. As we move forward, hopefully more focus will turn to environmentally-friendly policies before we’re in serious trouble. Fortunately, many countries in the rest of the world are pushing for change right now.
The Global Environment
No matter what the United States administration does, we all need to be consciously aware that our environment is a global issue. Pollutants carried by air and water do not know national boundaries. There are several issues that come along with this, from loss of species diversity to reduced food sources for us. These problems demand our attention, and the United States needs to be a leader in heading the policies that can tackle these environmental issues. As we move forward in this century, we can only hope that environmental policy gains as much merit and attention as economic and national security. Those in charge at the highest level of government have a responsibility to keep the environment safe for everyone, including our neighbors.
Looking Ahead at Environmental Issues
In the coming years, whether the administrations like it or not, climate change will continue to be an issue. Scientific research will continue to prove that the issue is worthy of our full attention. As we continue to push and pull at the delicate balance of our environment, testing just how far we can push it, we need to be aware that this Earth we live on is in need of care. Not only are we destroying countless species of plants and animals, but we are also diminishing our own ability to survive comfortably in our own habitat. Climate change is pushing in our shores, heating up our summers, and moving crops to different regions. Our government needs to enforce strong policies to protect our environment, rather than the policies that protect their pocketbooks. What good is a pile of cash for the politicians when the environment is uninhabitable for the masses?