Over the past several years, I’ve had to listen to conservatives talk about “job killing environmental regulations” and how we should be doing more exploitation of fossil fuels. As they put it during the 2008 campaign, “Drill baby, drill!” Yes, if only we would wave aside all those “greenies,” open up public land and offshore areas to drilling, build the Keystone XL pipeline, and get out of the hair of those who want to frack new areas, we would hit the promised land of cheap gas and energy independence. Life would be good, right?
Tag Archives: environment
One of the subjects I’ve devoted some time to here over the past few years has been the subject of regulations. As I pointed out earlier this year, there are reasons we have regulations. Most often, those reasons are remembered when … they aren’t followed, enforced, or not there to begin with. According to conservatives, regulations are “unnecessary” and the “free market” will behave properly or correct itself if left alone, all evidence from the past and present to the contrary.
One problems I have with conservatives is that they’ve turned the debate into defending the need for them in the first place. I’d rather have a much different conversation.
Recently the state environmental department announced plans to control an introduced species, which is on the verge of becoming seriously invasive. In the areas where it’s currently established itself, it caused serious damage wetland and aquatic plants, has displaced – and often attacks – native species, created public health hazards, and injuries to the public. Once confined to a relatively small area of the state in limited numbers, over the past few years it has spread to new areas, and numbers are increasing. The state plans to reduce this population in the wild to zero over the next ten years. Pretty open and shut, right? Not really, since all such plans have a “public comment period” attached to them, and there’s a good percentage of people against it.
I was recently reading a very good series on West Virginia over at Al Jazeera. It’s the thing that you used to see from our media, but no longer. It’s a rather disturbing picture of what happens when an area is almost totally dependent on one industry, and one that is an “extractive industry:” Coal. The reports focus on one county, McDowell, which in the past was one of the major producers of coal. Today? Well, it’s not a very nice place. But there’s some lessons in there as well.
I’ve been interested in history for a good part of my life. Besides taking history courses in school and reading on my own, there were also history lessons imbedded in many of my other classes. That’s why I understand that regulations are necessary. There were reasons we have antitrust acts. There were reasons why we regulate food, drugs, and cosmetics. There were reasons we have banking and financial regulations. There were reasons why we have environmental regulations. There were reasons we have building codes, fire regulations, occupational safety regulations, and a host of others. The reasons? Large numbers of very painful lessons that were taught before those regulations came to be.