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An Attempted Unbiased View of the Future of Environmental Policy in the United States

By Kevin Bolland

Southern California


This article is for everyone, not just voters in the US. The future of the presidency will be impactful to us all in one way or another. Please, if you are a registered, legal voter, get out and vote!


Introduction


Look, I gotta admit, I am very separated and detached from the "environment" as a whole on most days, and it truly does affect my judgements on many things. I may buy all of my groceries from a store. I may fall short of the mark when it comes to full sustainability because I am not a vegetarian and I am not a "zero waste" person because I am part of a big system that doesn't support that lifestyle under normal circumstances. I produce lots of waste... but I justify it by saying that at least I am cognizant of it. Thankfully, I am not personally impacted by most major sustainability problems like many of my readers are. But that doesn't mean that I don't care!


Lets face it, we are all controlled by politics in some way. Our taxes, our money, our careers, our property, our rights are all tied to politics.


Unfortunately, marketing campaigns, big businesses, shady negotiations, and other factors out of our control often create inequality for many people when they did nothing wrong.


It horrifies me to hear about family run agricultural operations being taken over by drug rings because families can't make enough money to make ends meet. It terrifies me to hear that there is still slavery of many kinds still active in our world in many places. It upsets me to hear about working conditions of the poor in places where industry has taken over at the expense of peoples lives. It saddens me when I hear and see the damage that is done to the rainforests to support "innovation" and "demand".


Netflix and other major streaming platforms have released documentaries about these types of struggles and many others. Documentaries like Rotten, Broken, Saving Capitalism, Blackfish, and many others will tug you away from your comfort zone and enrage you over facts and figures that are designed to illicit a response.


This has been the story told in America for many years. There have been many riots and strikes over working conditions and rights for people throughout history. There have been many news stories about corruption, scandals, and affairs before.


The presidential race this year is not exempt. In fact, with the uncertainty of coronavirus, fires on the west coast, hurricanes and other storms raging across the rest of the country, sea-level rise, and stay-at-home orders, mental health is also becoming a much larger concern.


Personally, I have been impacted by coronavirus in many ways. But not in the same way as others. That much is obvious. What isn't so obvious is that we all still have a lot in common. Even if we are divided by the current world circumstances.

Greenisms is a place that desires peace through sustainability. It is my hope that this article explains the current weight of the predicament we find ourselves in, in a light that does not favor or disrespect the individuals discussed herein.


Analysis


Honestly, we all live within the confines of a grand system. We simply categorized it into smaller and smaller parts to fit our imagination and mental capacity at the time. That grand system, or rather, some parts of it, are where I look for inspiration because it helps you scale in or out and see the big picture or the small picture at will.


Lately though, I feel that my United States readers, and other around the world, are hurt by the fact that we are stuck inside of this portion of the system known as politics. This system often feels beyond our control. Historically this system has been very stable, but is now threatened by individuals who disrespect its importance and complexity.


One such part of the political system I am going to discuss today is the future of Environmental Policy in the United States.


Like many of you, I watched the first debate, and like many others, was dismayed at the pure lack of control that appears to grip my entire nation.


I have found that over the past few years, we have failed to look past the individual person who stands at the podium. We have looked straight at an individual and have placed enormous amounts of responsibility on them. We have divided ourselves so much, that some people become too frustrated with the system to vote, or maybe even become violent.


In the case of the presidency, we demanded they carry the responsibility of leading the entire nation while half of the nation complains and moans about it the whole time. (not necessarily without reason. mind you.)


This is still the same case as before though.


In the past, presidents have come and gone, and much of my home town has remained the same to an extent. Progress always results in SOME change I guess, but is that so bad?


I guess it depends on what we're changing... That is the entire political argument right now. The amount of change you are comfortable with determines your place on the political scale; and to what purpose the changes orient will determine your sway, left or right.


At least, that is how I understand it.


I've heard statistics that say "only 40% of citizens vote", and things like "the system is broken". And you know, what?, I generally agree that the system needs some updates. But lets examine some real, hard facts to get our minds pumping a bit before we make any decisions about the who, what, when, where, why, and how.


Environmental Policy in the United States prior to 1970


Basically, before 1970, people knew that water was dirty and gross when we dumped waste into it, but we didn't realize to the extent at which we were doing damage. Along comes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) enacted in January of 1970, this policy was supposed to protect the people and the lands of the United States by creating pathways by which businesses can navigate new environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act. See, NEPA paved the way for many other countries to adopt environmental regulations because it created a budget for cutting-edge science, it created thresholds of significance by which we measure pollution, and it created a system within politics that allowed us to analyze "the whole of an action".


Some people loved this idea. Others hated it. Some businesses profited from it, while others failed because of it. Trump's presidency has not changed that shift of environmental awareness from being adopted universally by the United States and many other countries as you will read on my blog.


Between 1970 and 2020


Environmental awareness, technology, policy, and advocacy between 1970 and 2020 improved at the same rate computers did, I would argue.


It blew up exponentially.


We learned many things about our ability to mitigate our impacts on the environment and started studying the impacts we knew we have had in the past to better understand and predict the future. We have learned how to analyze our developments in ways never thought of before.


Because of the sudden increased knowledge we have regarding our environment, we have discovered a sudden, pressing, urgent, and unavoidable need to correct a phenomenon known as "global climate change" that has been occurring in step with human development.


There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that close to 8 billion (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) people on earth have a significant impact on the environment that sustains us. It would be an uneducated point of view to suggest that humans have no impact on our environment. The proof is in the same place you're sitting, versus what would be there in that same spot without human intervention.


Some call the undesired emissions and results of our development "global climate change", others believe that its a hoax. Some call it political or scientific lies because the "facts" they are presented with threaten a special interest that may captivate them.


The fact is, you need to eat, breathe, and move around. You take up space. There are 8 billion other "you's" and we all need resources. Consuming those resources in an efficient way is absolutely essential to the future you and your family want. Because without food, water, clean air, and space, we all don't survive.


Climate change is that serious to some. When you consider rising sea levels, the potential for millions of people to be made homeless and trillions of dollars of infrastructure lost to the sea becomes more real.


I want to discuss the future of environmental policy in the United States as it relates to sustainability. Because I believe sustainability is more important than all of the issues I've mentioned so far.



Without further ado



Trump's Approach


As many of you likely know, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017.(1)(2) What do you think about that? Well, I can tell you a few things about it.


While (personally) I think that his method for doing so was very aggressive, unnecessary, and unprofessional, it nonetheless has made no significant difference in the methods by which we analyze environmental impacts in California because CA is regulated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (since Dec. of 1970 in fact).


The United States is honestly an extremely clean place when compared to the rest of the world. The Paris Climate Agreement had nothing to do with that though. The US has been getting cleaner on its own since 1970 like I said above. So Trump is neither responsible for his claims that we are cleaner than ever before, nor is he the soul player in making the withdraw happen. therefore, withdrawing appears to be a decision based on other factors than the environment itself. This is how most of his decisions are made though.


Let's look straight at the White House website for his plans for the future. While some news lines may say that he is bad for the environment, I wanted to analyze his actions personally. Maybe this will help you.


"Americans have long been told that our country is running out of energy, but we now know that is wrong. America’s energy revolution has produced affordable, reliable energy for consumers along with stable, high-paying jobs for small businesses—all while dropping carbon emissions to their lowest level in 25 years. American energy policy must balance environmental protection with economic growth in order to encourage innovation, discovery, and prosperity." (3)


Trump wants to take the road where better businesses, make better decisions, using the best (sustainable) technology we've ever had, which leads to more sustainable futures for everyone in the supply chain. (assuming social responsibility is practiced by the businesses)

However, we need to be careful here too. Any time either candidate says, "we'll create thousands of jobs" when speaking about any industry is vastly underestimating the complexity of these approval processes.


Just because a business moves forward with a project that will take (sometimes) 20 years, doesn't mean that the president is responsible for that growth. His claims that he is responsible for the best carbon levels in 25 years isn't a result of his administrations decisions for or against the environment. It's a result of the whole world, collectively working towards the same goal.


From where I sit, here on my comfy chair (likely made in a foreign country), in a comfy world that is held together by strings of wireless data, Trump doesn't actively hate the environment; he just thinks about it from a different perspective that we common folk do...


That follows with a reasonable mind though... His perspective is shaped by hundreds of advisors, who have analyzed hundreds of data points to reach a conclusion that they then tell the president about.


Do we even have any idea how many hard conversations he has each day? I mean, think about it, what is Trump talking about RIGHT NOW? It could be literally anything, but I'll bet that he has had a conversation very recently that has impacted you in some way.


I guess the point I want to make, is that Trump deregulating environmental conditions here, and around the world, doesn't mean that the world is going to fall apart. Other people step up to the plate to ensure that we are striving towards a sustainable future. I can also tell you that the United States Environmental Policy is already a model for the rest of the world. If US Environmental Policy is altered to allow for industrialization within our country, it may pave the way for a cleaner environment because we wont be shipping chairs all over the world.


Agriculture is another area where major industrialization may cost us in the near term, but the long term sustainability of it is a much more important goal.


Trump is about the big picture for the big players. Not the small picture for us individuals who care about individual parts of the environment. I may still be too much of an optimist, but I honestly think that Trump just wants to see changes that we can't specifically think of because we haven't been presented with the possibilities yet.


He is presented with data and possibilities all day in ways that would blow my mind. We just read what the systems we use want us to read most of the time. (speaking of which did you see that documentary The Social Dilemma?)


Biden's Approach


As far as I can tell, Biden is much more of a straight shooter when it comes to protecting the environment. He wants to throw money, resources, and public participation at it in a big way.


This also works! In fact, it would likely work faster and better than Trumps idea to maximize better business decision making processes. Biden wants to attack the problems more head on by directly addressing climate change through the implication of the Green New Deal.


What is the Green New Deal?(4)


Well, basically it aims for 100% clean energy produced domestically within the next 30 years. What would that require? Well, It doesn't matter what it would require, because its basically required.... sorry to all of my readers who disagree.


It also states that we need to spend money rallying the rest of the world to meet climate change reduction goals that are set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN. (this goes back on what Trump went out of his way to do)


It specifically targets polluters that operate in "vulnerable communities" and provides assistance to low-income neighborhoods.


and it rolls back tax incentives that Trump put into place. (not sure how this is progress because its stepping back rather than forward, but it depends on your definition of forward progress).


Biden appears to want to have the government control most of hte process from start to finish by controlling all of the money that would be thrown at the problems individually. No one really knows how much this would cost because we dont know how to do some of this mitigation yet. Its all about opportunity cost. if we do this, then we cant do other stuff.


Who wants everything?


Well, everyone does most of the time.


So who gets the short end of the stick? I would venture a guess that if you're happy to pay lots in taxes, then its not as big of a problem. right?



In general,

We return to the concept of balance between businesses making decisions on behalf of all, versus big government making decisions on the behalf of all. Who is right? it's not for me to say honestly.


From my perspective, albeit flawed in many ways, I see the republicans thinking that the solution can be to let businesses solve sustainability issues by decreasing government regulations and increasing incentive for companies that are making strides towards sustainability; like Tesla I guess.


While on the other side of the scale we have democrats that want to have major decisions made on their behalf by big government using organized systematic data. This is funded by making the wealthy give the government a higher percentage of taxes. But unfortunately it leaves the door open to corruption and often more radical change when the control is assumed by one group of people. It always upsets or further alienates the rest of the population who disagrees.


Conclusion


If I may, it doesn't appear to be either Trump or Biden that's getting in the way of major environmental reform. Companies focused on Sustainability are bigger than ever, sometimes earning billions in days due to media attention and investing.


Judging by the content on my sustainability disclosures and financial disclosures lists, there is major work to be done by almost every company to ensure a collective future free of the grip of climate change.


We need to realize that even the biggest and best of us need help sometimes.


Overall, I believe that its the complaining and the resistance to the system that impacts the environment the most. If we destroy what we have through carelessness and the "tragedy of the commons", then we harm what we've built together. It's truly a shame that we would rather fight about out leadership than preserve and invest in our future.


I'm not saying we all need to just let the president do whatever the hell he wants any time he wants, but I am saying we need to understand that he has a different perspective worth considering in depth. Every decision the president makes must be forged as if steel. Lives depend on it. and right now, neither man seems to have the composure I seek in my leader.

Let's be frank here. EVERYONE has a special interest. One or two main issues that are held on a high platform in their head and heart. These key issues are sparking passions that take to the streets in unprecedented volumes.


However, for the sake of saving our progress and building a sustainable, beautiful world, please let this article serve as a call to peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, and the other fruits of the spirit. Although that may be a separate controversial issue, it comes from a place that has remained largely consistent throughout human history. Lets give the Bible some credit as a historical resource too. If you don't agree with that, that is your prerogative. Lets leave it at that.


Just remember that we live in a complicated, messed up, and yet beautifully functional system that has existed with us in it for a very long time. We share the same goal. Protect our world and thrive.


I believe that with sustainability, communities will experience less crime and rates of abortions will drop because people are given a better chance for a bright future. I believe that sustainability will require a major change in many education systems that we have in place, but that the changes will be necessary for the sake of future generations. I believe that with sustainability, things will be run more efficiently and people will generally have what they need to thrive. I believe that sustainability will prevent the loss of jobs, lives, and infrastructure due to issues like global warming. I believe that by addressing sustainability we address every other major issue from a smarter angle than before. We need to take what we have learned over the past 60 years and apply it to our knowledge and policy regarding the future, for the sake of preserving future generations.



Thank you for reading,



Sources:


(1) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/02/15-ways-trump-administration-impacted-environment/


(2) https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord/


(3) https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/energy-environment/


(4) https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/



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A PLACE WHERE SCIENCE, RESEARCH, SUSTAINABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY COLLIDE.