Posted by: greeningwashington | February 3, 2009

The Way I See It.

As a political scientist, I strongly believe that government has an invaluable part to play in the protection and sustainability of the environment. In this area, the market is limited in its ability to regulate pollution and waste due to a focus on short-term profits and the imperfections of human behavior. And while some “green” technology has emerged in recent years, I argue that it is an inherent response to (i) inflated oil prices and (ii) an economic concern with costs, both lacking a philosophical or moral foundation.

In concurrence with activists and political science scholars, I agree that government action Рat the national, state and local levels Рhas the potential to be long lasting and effective. Take the issue of regulation of emissions in California. Those opposed to environmental regulation aside, regulation on automobile standards is the most effective way to reduce these carbon emissions. However, in 2005 under the Bush Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to grant permission for these stricter standards, as provided for under the federal Clean Air Act, to the State of California along with 16 other states.

The subsequent question becomes why should government regulate emissions, the use of natural resources or limit pollution? The answers seem almost intuitive in nature: health concerns, limited resources, natural beauty, etc. According to the authors Norman Vig and Michael Kraft, two theories emerge. First, is the idea of public goods – goods that are indivisible such as clean air and scenic beauty- which the market simply cannot regulate independently of government. Secondly, the government acts to regulate common resources in order to prevent overuse and ensure conservation.

Personally, I consider myself a progressive conservationist, and have seriously considered going to law school to become an environmental litigator in order to promote conservation and enforce standards. In my community, I have taken direct action by planting trees, raising awareness about Earth Day, and facilitating large tree-planting service projects through the student-run organization, Replant.

It is not my intention to bore my readers with theories and political science jargon; however, theories and facts tend to lead to a stronger and more credible argument.

Until next time.

P.S. For anyone out there interested in environmental law.


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