Who is to Blame for Earth’s Death?

Natalia Pszeniczny, Grade 10

Introduction

Environmental deterioration has been a huge topic of discussion between scientists and politicians. When dealing with such a delicate topic, it is important to consider all angles: democratic, environmental, personal, and economic. The issues presented with climate change vary in complexity. Many people are concerned that the increasingly rigid environmental restrictions will prevent their companies from expanding to their full potential. They argue that the “green” laws suppress their economic growth. The increasingly widespread laws may also negatively impact the national economy. There is also much question regarding who or what power will make the final verdict. Some believe that the decision should be democratic, while others believe that the population is not educated enough and the conclusion should be dictated by specialists. Are these changes worth the risk? This leads to the idea that specifying and maintaining the limit of said laws will be very strenuous and in some cases, impossible.

Detrimental Impacts on Economy and Freedom

A major source of issues when dealing with these environmental laws is free enterprise. Personal and company freedom is always being questioned when such laws are being made. Many businesses believe that the laws are too restrictive and prohibit them from expanding to their full potential. For example, the Clean Air Act of 1970 was created to decrease the amount of pollutants in the air due to a drastic increase in public health concern linked with dense smog covering cities (1). The pollutants in the air become issues because they result in depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects the Earth’s inhabitants from the harmful UV rays of the sun. The pollutants also cause acid rain, a phenomenon where the pH of rain decreases, damaging aquatic habitats and property. The reason businesses feel the Clean Air Act hinders their freedom is because they cannot fabricate as much product as they want to. Since there are restrictions on the release of pollutants, the companies are confined to making less product, hence, decreasing profit. This also leads to the idea that since the companies are making less money, then they are paying less tax; therefore the government obtains less money, leading to less money being used on food stamps, government employee salaries, the military, and decreasing the national debt.

Examining the Expenses and Practicality

A major point of interest when dealing with energy sources is the cost. The major change from nonrenewable to renewable energy can be very expensive and many wonder if the change is worth the price. The feasibility to switch to green products and energy production methods is always in question because some companies may not survive the drastic expense to change their energy outputs and sources. Some may argue that the change is attainable because it will better the environment, while others may say that it takes away freedom from free enterprise. Refashioning every company to renewable energy sources would cost an estimated 4.5 trillion dollars (2). This price includes converting nonrenewable energy plants to wind, solar, hydroelectricity, biomass, and geothermal energy plants. This is not such a high price considering the project could be completed over a decade. Specifically, the 2020 U.S. budget was 4.8 trillion dollars, so if the cost was spread over ten years, it would only be 10% of the total budget per year (assuming the budget remains similar) (3). This isn’t an astronomical price to pay for a difference that will last generations. Income taxes make up half of the national budget, so by increasing those taxes by a small percentage, the expense could be reached even faster.

Effectuation of the Final Decision of Change

Since the expenses and alterations are so significant, it takes a very powerful party to decide to authorize the plans. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with the government on creating new laws seeking to protect the health of all living things by conserving the environment (4). The EPA has the authority to mandate pollutant release restrictions and use fines as a form of reinforcement. Although the EPA does not use a direct democracy to make changes, they do use an electronic democracy, where people can express their opinions and interact with other people at their own convenience (5). While this method does seem easy, it is exclusive; only people with access to such technology can contribute opinions. This method also creates a time difficulty because gathering the data via a website may take years, and any online data is susceptible to tampering.

Specifying Limitations on Laws and their Viability

When generating new environmental laws, it is important to clearly define the ramifications because they can cause confusion leading to unlawful disobedience. The limitations can be interpreted differently, and some people can use this to their advantage, There are certain methods implemented to maintain a strict limit in order to prevent confusion. Specifically, the Clean Water Act (CWA) states that the discharge of pollutants into a body of water is illegal, unless the person has a permit. The CWA made the limitation simple because the specific permit can only be obtained from one company, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) (6). This system is very useful in keeping order, increasing obedience, and maintaining a balance between companies and the environment.

Conclusion

Environmental laws are continuously changing depending on the severity of the issue. The environment is a vital asset to humanity and we must protect it. Although the cost to switch to renewable energy is great, the benefits outweigh the expenses. Caring for the environment is necessary for the advancement of society. The strides mankind takes towards preserving the Earth must happen quickly because the damage may be permanent. Assessing the damage is essential in establishing a better political system to create fair voting that will include companies, environmentalists, and the general public. The people in power have to be environmentally educated and trusted enough to make vital decisions, as well as specify and enforce strict limits. The factors causing the Earth’s deterioration cannot be disregarded.

Citations:
(1): EPA, The Clean Air Act in a Nutshell: How It Works, epa.gov, (2013)
(2): Yale University, Shifting the U.S. to 100 Percent Renewables Would Cost 4.5 Trillion, Analysis Finds, e360.yale, (2019)
(3): K. Amadeo, U.S. Federal Budget Breakdown, thebalance.com, (2020)
(4): W. Kenton, Environmental Protection Agency- EPA, investopedia.com, (2019)
(5): EPA, Public Participation Guide: Electronic Democracy, epa.gov, (2017)
(6): EPA, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), epa.gov, (2020)

All figures belong to the author.

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