Saturday, March 4, 2017

Reaching Out in an Anti-Environment Climate

Although today the American society seems deeply torn apart by cultural, geographic, racial and class differences, still there is more that unites us than divides us, and this includes few environmental views and concerns...

(Reprint of an article I originally published in Earthwise Aware)

Today the U.S. government decided against the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). It places at its head a man who is no less than the worst enemy of the agency. The new E.P.A. head is backed by the fossil fuel industry. He is a known anti-science and climate denier, who sued the agency 14 times. So today is a mourning day for us nature and wildlife conservationists, environmentalists, biologists, ecologists, educators, nature enthusiasts and generally ecologically-minded men and women.

Our job as conservationists is to study and understand our environment, to report facts and raise awareness about the benefits, issues, ethics and rules of conduct. Our objective is to minimize negative effects of human beings on nature and provide other species with means and alternatives for surviving us. We want it to be a win-win situation for all, both now and in the future, and not just for we humans, which –no matter how you look at it– would only be a short lived.

So today is a defeat, and one of many these days. But we will not remain silent in a time when organizations created to protect our environment, and our rights to clean water & air, are under a constant assault. We will not silently witness the malignant efforts to spread falsehoods regarding climate change for which there is absolutely no scientific ambiguity as to its reality other than in the minds of those who refuse facts. The only debate to have on that issue is about how to solve the problem.

I am focusing here on America. Then considering how we (Americans) are deeply torn apart by cultural, geographic, racial and class differences, is it even possible to reach consensus on something? Do we still share some values?

Well the good news is that there are views (important even) that we actually share. Despite what happens daily in the government, there’s still more that unites us than divides us the people! And among these shared views are a few critical ones in the domain of the environment and conservation.

According to Jeffrey Sachs [1] –American macroeconomist and author of The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity– Americans are environmentally conscious, even if their federal government is not. Supporting this statement, Sachs quotes surveys that show a continuing high importance accorded to the natural environment.

➭ In a 2009 Pew survey [2], 83% of Americans agreed that “there needs to be stricter environmental laws and regulations to protect the environment.”
➭ In June 2010, a USA Today/Gallup poll [3] found that 56% of Americans favor legislation to “regulate energy output from private companies in an attempt to reduce global warming.”
➭ An ABC News/Washington Post poll [4] similarly found that 71% of Americans agree that the federal government should “regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an attempt to reduce global warming.”
➭ In a January 2011 Rasmussen survey [5], 66% of the respondents said that renewable energy is a better long-term investment than fossil fuels.

Still according to Sachs, "Environmental protection and economic growth are generally accorded a roughly equal priority, though the young prioritize the environment and older Americans prioritize economic growth. If anything, the environment tends to edge out growth as the overall top priority."
At the same time of the publication of these polls, there was also the reality that Americans were worrying less than before about the environment. For instance global warming and maintenance of the nation's fresh water supply reached an all-time Gallup low that year [6].
I think I understand some of the discrepancy: The general American feeling is that the environment is in better condition than previously, although this belief may be influenced by both misinformation and the human proclivity for optimism in the face of alarming events.

Still keeping what we share in mind at all times during these troubled time could ease discussions. It can spark a dialog where we work together to bridge our differences, eliminate false-truths, learn and build a safer future for all, based on evidence-based knowledge rather than from uncontrolled emotions.

Together we can erode that wall of misunderstanding, pierce through it and emerge wiser and stronger than before. Nothing is impossible…


[1] The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity. Jeffrey Sachs (2011).
[2] Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2009. Pew Research Center (2009).
[3] USA Today/Gallup Poll. June 11-13, 2010.
[4] Most Americans Say Regulate Greenhouse Gases. Jon Cohen. WashingtonPost (2010).
[5] Support for Renewable Energy Resources Reaches Highest Level Yet. Rasmussen Reports (2011).
[6] Gallup: Environmental concerns hit 20-year low in U.S. Wendy Koch (2011).

[About this post Pic] I want to thank the unknown author of the photography that we used in this post. I could not find its provenance, yet it is a perfect symbol of what I wanted to convey here: coming 'through' with vigor and beauty. Thanks again!

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