Environmentalism and the Importance of Politics, Economics and Societal Values
In today’s modern industrial age, the issue of environmental protection has a profound importance on a global scale. Earth's one of a kind atmosphere is being rapidly damaged by humanity’s widespread recklessness in its industrialization and our other daily affairs. As a society, we need to take immediate action to conserve our essential natural resources and we cannot allow our technological and economic advancement to ruin our health and deplete the natural resources that our future generations will depend on. In Rachel Carson’s work, “A Fable for Tomorrow”, from Silent Spring, she vividly describes the cataclysm that comes with environmental damage, which stems from humanity’s carelessness with industrial and technological progress. In addition to her argument that we need to advance more environmentally friendly technology, we also need to enact more regulations because large corporations are not likely to voluntarily spend extra money on these new advancements.
In her writing, Carson talks about humankind’s deterioration of the environment by large-scale industry and since it was published in 1962 this obstacle has remained. Due to the increased population and continuation of many outdated manufacturing practices, we have yet to solve this problem. Carson describes the huge problem of radiation and chemical pollution as a result of our desire to have “control of nature”, which she says is an arrogant belief born of the absurd notion that “nature exists for the convenience of man” (Carson 3). Since her writing, there have been countless additional inventions of harmful pesticides, radiation technology and they spread through the food chain from plants to animals, including us humans. In addition to Carson’s argument that we need to develop more environmentally friendly technologies and call for social change, we also need to advocate for economic and political change regarding this issue. In the past, we have been successful at passing government-mandated environmental regulations that were effective in limiting pollution, but they have recently been and are currently being changed and they are going to provide less protection to the environment than what was previously in place.
Since the last election, the Trump administration has enacted policies that will create permanent harm to our ecosystem in hopes of expanding certain markets, specifically the power industry which includes the use of coal and other destructive fossil fuels. This is exceedingly problematic because this dismantles plans set by the Obama administration to reduce pollution. A notable example of this is the United States pulling out of the Paris Agreement, an international partnership to cooperate in lowering carbon emissions and deal with the ramifications of climate change. It has been announced that the government will cut funding to NASA’s Carbon Emission Monitoring System, which holds countries in the Paris Agreement accountable by monitoring if they are staying true to their word by lowering carbon emissions (Greshko, Parker, Clark, Stone). Funding projects like these should not be seen as a waste of money; it is an investment in our future. It is vitally important to do continuous research on environmental changes so we can know what to expect and how to adapt to our changing ecosystem.
Moreover, the Trump administration is repealing Obama era policy that limited the amount of coal used for fuel. The environmental changes that result from this type of pollution are detrimental to the quality of our air, water and food, and therefore harmful to our health. When Obama’s policy was enacted expert scientists from the EPA “calculated that they would prevent between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths per year by 2030” (Friedman). Repealing this government action will have serious ramifications on public health by allowing us to ingest toxic substances and as the condition of environmental pollution worsens, it is expected that these statistics will worsen as well.
The opposing viewpoint to the environmentalists is that deregulation is good for economic growth. It is believed that since corporations need to allocate money and resources to keep up with government regulation of environmental pollution, they cannot use those funds elsewhere, like to hire more workers or invest in the economy for example. Although this is a logically sound assumption, expert economists have studied this topic extensively and historically, “the evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it” (Appelbaum, Tankersley). It has been proven that there is not a very strong correlation between industrial pollution regulation and economic growth, but there is a link between growth and society’s confidence in the market. The recent increase in economic activity under Trump is largely due to the optimism in consumers and businesses that was caused by tax cuts and large government spending to promote economic activity.
Furthermore, an economy riddled with practices that ignore the well-being of the environment is simply unsustainable in the long term. The natural resources commonly used in large-scale manufacturing are products of the environment and many of them are irreplaceable. When our greenhouse gas emission changes the climate this decreases the amount of raw materials we have. This causes more competition for these resources, driving up prices in the future and causing problems for future generations of business people and consumers. Without government regulation, businesses do not have much of an incentive to decrease their carbon emissions, which is why regulation such as pollution taxes can be a good strategy for the government to discourage pollution.
On a more positive note, developed countries have the ingenuity and access to the resources to come up with creative solutions to this problem, we just need to find the motivation to do so. Rachel Carson discusses the success in the 1960’s of advancing technology such as pesticides that have less synthetic substances that cause much less harm to ecosystems (3). Today we have even more advanced technology and knowledge of our planet which puts us in a position to further these efforts. There will be a lot of potential for success in the field of environmental research and engineering if society places more value on the environment. We need to push for political change through voting and social change through efforts like raising awareness in the general public, especially in young people who have not yet chosen fields of work. We cannot allow our industrial and technological goals ruin our natural environment and our quality of life.
It is clear that Rachel Carson’s argument for social change on the topic of environmental protection still holds true today. To expand upon her call for change, we need to be conscious of the consequences of our actions and take legal action to prevent further harm to ourselves and our children. Investment in environmentally friendly technology is invaluable; it is not just wildlife protection, it is also the protection of mankind.
Appelbaum, Binyamin, and Jim Tankersley. “The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less
Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/us/politics/trump-businesses-regulation-economic-growth.html.
Friedman, Lisa. “Cost of New E.P.A. Coal Rules: Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year.” The New
York Times, The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/climate/epa-coal-pollution-deaths.html.
Greshko, Michael, et al. “A Running List of How President Trump Is Changing Environmental
Policy.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 21 Sept. 2018, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/.
About the Author:
Hi, my name is Julia Caputo and I am a research intern here at EWAAB. I have always been amazed by science and technology. I am a biomedical engineering student from Queens, New York and I am entering my third year at Stevens Institute of Technology. On campus, I am passionately involved in the Society of Women Engineers and Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity. I recently got my Emergency Medical Technician license and I hope to go to medical school.