Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Sustainability & ME: Changing values in a changing climate

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Posted on April 11, 2017 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By: Abram Marr, Contributor 

All governmental administrations have their faults. We sometimes see that we are not properly represented, and sometimes the administration contradicts itself. Currently the official webpage of the White House states that “protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority.” Despite this very clear and public statement, it seems that the present administration’s definition of “high priority” is quite different from the actual definition. Trump signed measures recently that attempt to roll back policies that protect our access to clean drinking water. One of these policies was the Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.

To understand WOTUS we should start with a brief history lesson. The Clean Water Act of 1972 established a basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. It was enacted following public outrage when the Cuyahoga River burst into flames due to accumulated industrial waste. WOTUS was enacted in 2015 to clarify which water sources fall under EPA protection. This policy put 60 percent of the streams and wetlands in the country under EPA jurisdiction. Normal farming and ranching activities were not affected by this rule. Trump’s administration is actively trying to dismantle environmental regulations and cut funding and staff from the EPA substantially.

Trump has directed this rule be struck down to allow for growth of the economy despite the fact GDP has been rising steadily since 2010. This is assuming that GDP is a satisfactory measure of progress, but one could argue that it is not, due to the fact that there are still massive problems regarding the distribution of wealth, access to healthcare and education. It is becoming increasingly evident that our administration values the economic growth of our currency over the one finite currency of the world on which everyone relies: our natural resources and the invaluable ecosystem services our Earth provides. The administration values GDP over public health, even though 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances are emitted annually. Toxins are routinely found in infants due to toxic breast milk, and Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water.

The last two January’s have been two of the warmest on record and there has been a consistent and rapid rise in temperature since 1960 primarily due to emissions caused by humans. While the sun’s energy output can be a driver for climate change, it does not explain the drastic changes to our climate for a variety of reasons that are outlined extensively on NASA’s website.  Our climate is changing rapidly, and we need to come together and work to save our planet and our species regardless of any administration’s agenda. According to the Yale Climate Opinion Map (2016), 82 percent of American’s want to fund research into renewable energy sources and 75 percent want to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Yet we still see pipelines being expanded. This type of action is not an adequate representation of what constituents desire.

We the people can make change, and it starts in our own communities. Fight to protect the environment. Fight for the rights of the people around you. Strive to be altruistic, and do good strictly for the purpose of doing good. E.O. Wilson, in his book The Meaning of Human Existence, stated that “within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals.” Wilson was referring to the intricacies of evolution, but this principle can be applied to the current situation we find ourselves in. Selfish individuals have risen to power, yes. But we as a collective group of altruists can still fight for the collective good, something that is beyond the scope of our own lives. Our planet needs us now more than ever. Will you do your part?