Myths and Facts on Environmental Protection Policy

In my post about the US government shutdown, I used issues such as increasing national defense and environmental protection to illustrate why the GOP isn’t the political party for smaller government it says it is. For instance, national defense only increases the size of the government, especially at a time of war yet it’s a policy most Republicans like. On the other hand, laws relating to environmental protection has helped Americans save money, yet Republicans hate it. However, as a government policy, environmental policy is one of the most understood thanks to media outlets like Fox News and other conservatives who basically try to trivialize it. Here is a list of the many opponents of environmental protection tend to say with my explanations on why they’re false.

1. Myth: Environmental conditions only affect the natural world and wildlife.

Perhaps the most infamous of them all. Of course, a conservative would say this to trivialize environmental issues as “special interests.” This is even more false than saying that all environmentalists are tree hugging hippies. If this was true, then we probably shouldn’t have much to worry about when there’s an environmental catastrophe. Of course, this is bullshit since the health of the natural environment has an impact on everything, especially people. Just because humans may be responsible for much of the world’s environmental problems, they also fall victim to them. Pollution has caused a variety of health problems through the years like respiratory illnesses, cancer, birth defects, infertility (including miscarriages and stillbirths), infections, heart disease, and the list goes on. Polluted drinking water can spell a crisis in public health in any community and droughts can lead to mass starvation (think of the Dust Bowl). And in some instances, an environmental disaster can lead to a destruction of a whole community as well as  bring social problems like economic collapse, mass poverty, homelessness, and other things. You can say that if you destroy the land, you also destroy the people.

2. Myth: Environmental policy is a burden to taxpayers and contributes to big government.

Like I said in my post about the government shutdown, this is absolutely false. In fact, this is another lie by Republicans who inflict the small government argument when it comes to policies they don’t like. Sure environmental policy may cost taxpayer money but it also helps save tax dollars by tackling problems that contribute to more government spending. For instance, pollution and environmental disasters contribute much more to big government than any funding to the EPA ever has.

High pollution levels can contribute to higher health care costs as well as more government spending on health care. This is especially true when you consider senior citizens and the poor since these two groups of people receive health care through medical assistance and are most susceptible to pollution related illnesses. Senior citizens are more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of pollution and over a longer period of time than younger generations. They are more likely to have grown up in a highly polluted area, had an environmentally hazardous job, have a history of smoking (and exposure to secondhand smoke), and to have someone in their family who died of a pollution related illness at an early age. It’s no wonder why senior citizens are so prone to respiratory illnesses like lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, and others.  Of course, some may say because senior citizens are more susceptible to illness in general, yet you can’t really dismiss the environmental factor either. As for the poor, they are more likely to be exposed to high levels of pollution because many live near environmentally hazardous establishments. These can consist of toxic waste dumps, power plants, or dirty industry centers that lower property values and aren’t nice places to live. Thus, residences near these places will always consist of people below the poverty line who can’t afford to live anywhere else, especially in cities. If you live in a rural area, then the chances of an environmentally hazardous establishment moving in are very high since many of your neighbors will welcome if there’s something in it for them, most of the population won’t be willing to sue (and if they do the chances of losing are high), and for those who do object, most won’t be able to do anything about it since no one’s going to pay attention. Oh, and many of the rural poor tend to whites who vote Republican and watch Fox News (Fucked News, as I call it). Nevertheless, high pollution and high poverty go hand in hand. Thus, pollution related illnesses are a burden to the healthcare industry, communities, the nation, and the taxpayer.

Another drain on taxpayers which the EPA helps prevent are environmental disasters since they are incredibly expensive to clean up and restore. Of course, polluting industries tend to be the main cause of these environmental disasters yet the job of clean up and restoration will always fall to the state and/or federal government for various reasons. For one, federal and state governments usually do the job better than anyone else and don’t need a court order to do so. Second, an environmental disaster precipitates a state of emergency in which environmental damage must be promptly acted upon before there’s serious long term consequences. Third, in an event of environmental catastrophe, most local communities don’t have the money and resources for the necessary action so responsibility will fall on a higher power. Finally, most corporations that cause environmental disasters will go out of their way in order to avoid responsibility for environmental damages such as fighting lawsuits (the case concerning the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill ended up at the Supreme Court but wasn’t settled since Alito had to recuse himself). So while environmental protection may cost taxpayers something, lack of environmental protection will cost taxpayers much more.

3. Myth: Environmental policy hurts the economy, hurts businesses, and kills jobs.

Republicans will use this myth all the time when it comes to rallying against environmental policy as if they are trying to justify that economic benefit is worth the environmental costs, especially in the area of dirty industry. However, how environmental protection policy actually affects the economy, is far more complicated. Of course, environmental protection is a popular scapegoat for conservatives when it comes to economic problems but there are many reasons why economies and businesses fail usually ranging from unfair competition, unethical business practices, bad economic policies, unsatisfied greed, or just simply plain ol’ fashioned bad decision making. And hardly any of them have anything to do with EPA regulations. Of course, EPA regulations may hurt smaller polluting businesses but most polluting companies can accommodate with environmental policy. However, for businesses, environmental protection is no fun since it means complying with more rules, may dip into profits, gets businesses to stop doing what’s more convenient and cost-effective to them, and compels them to be more environmentally responsible. It’s no wonder businesses don’t like environmental protection since they tend to be from a world in which success is based on short-term profit gains, fast growth, unrestrained corporate greed, and fierce competition, which is hardly a sustainable economic model.

Yet, what many pro-business people tend to ignore is that environmental protection doesn’t hurt economies as much as environmental destruction. The Lorax illustrates this to near perfection with the Oncler who builds his empire by destroying an entire forest to supply his factories. Of course, he becomes wealthy yet things fall apart for him once the last tree is cut down. His family abandons him, his factory goes to ruin, and the forest once filled with colorful trees is now a wasteland. Since the Oncler basically obtained his raw materials in a way that was most convenient to him in order to satisfy his own greed, he gets to see all he worked hard for all his life go down the drain. Of course, many corporate leaders don’t learn their lessons or suffer the consequences from all the environmental destruction they cause. Yet, many people do, those whose business is dependent upon environmental conditions and availability of natural resources. Environmental policies may not bring big profits but they might help a company stay in business since they may give reasons for businesses to adapt, encourage the development of green industry, ensure sustainability of resources and sustainable growth, and make businesses more competitive. As for consumers, more eco-friendly products might help them save money on certain products like at the pump for instance.