This simple, yet powerful quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead shows how important the environment is for life and society. It seems like governments and big corporations have gotten so caught up in making money that they forgot that this is the only earth we have, and were slowly destroying it.
The nation-state, partnered with large oil and gas companies are to blame for their negative influence on the environment due to economic growth being prioritized over environmental preservation, fracking, and lack of regulation, which lead to increased natural disasters and climate change that affect millions of people.
The destruction of our environment can be traced to the reoccurring decision by the nation-state to prioritize economic growth over the preservation of our environment.
Robbins states that, “ The major goal of government is to advance trade and do whatever it takes to maintain economic growth” (2018:218). Unfortunately, protecting the planet we live and thrive on is not an essential function of the nation-state.
However, in 1962, “voters demanded governmental action to ensure clean air and water” (Robbins, 2018:218). These demands lead to the, highly opposed, Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. One strategy that our government uses to deflect the responsibility for environmental protection is by, “Displacing regulatory power to unelected and largely remote governance institutions such as the WTO” (Robbins, 2018:218). The WTO stands for World Trade Organization and helps regulate trade between nations.
The US allowing the WTO to deal with issues in regard to the environment has been extremely one-sided.
Robbins states that, “ In every instance in which an environmental rule was challenged as a barrier to trade, the WTO Dispute Panel ruled in favor of trade and against the environment. This one-sided policy against the environment can be blamed on the nation-state’s attempt to allow economic growth without getting blamed for the peril of the environment. This standoff policy by the government leads to a lack of regulation for big oil and gas companies.
The WTO’s decision to always favor economic growth gives big oil companies like Exxon Mobile and Chevron the freedom to do as they please. One of the freedoms they take advantage of is the minimal regulation of fracking wells in the US. “Hydraulic fracking literally involves the smashing of rock with millions of gallons of water- along with sand and an undisclosed assortment of chemicals in order to bring gas to the surface” (Hoffman, 2012). This is a controversial technique used to extract oil from deep deposits from below the ground.
This type of mining is heavily opposed by residence that live near these fracking wells. However, “The EPA does not regulate hydraulic fracturing under its groundwater protection laws (Safe Water Drinking Act) because of an amendment to the 2005 Energy Policy Act” (Stone, 2011). This amendment was named, “The Halliburton Loophole” (Stone, 2011). This loophole allows big oil and gas companies to act quite recklessly, which has lead to a lot of negative effects in regard to the environment, especially climate change. In Weld County, Colorado, “NOAA scientists found Gas wells to be equal to the carbon emissions of 1-3 million cars” (Hoffman, 2012).
The population of Weld County is only 285,174, which means the emission by these fracking wells acts as an extra 10 cars for each citizen. This type of added carbon emission, alongside growing industrial rates, is detrimental for our environment. Many people, and corporations, believe Climate change is a myth, or some sort of hoax. However, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that, “The temperature of the Earth is rising, that rise is caused by human activities, and that the cause is the emission of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels-oil, gas, and coal” (Robbins, 2018:214).
The IPCC is run by the United Nations, so they report facts based on data, but it there are still people who refuse this claim that humans are the cause of Climate Change. The reason for this is a tactic used by big oil corporations called manufacturing consent. Robbins states that manufacturing consent is, “the efforts of governments and corporations to manipulate the manner in which policies and events are represented by the mass media and, consequently interpreted by citizens” (2018:115).
Corporations tend to heavily fund research studies and public relations campaigns to have misleading titles in order to think Climate Change is still being debated. If people still think climate change is being debated then they should look at the natural disasters happening all around the world that have one thing in common: Climate Change. Natural disasters all over the world have been occurring more and more frequently with a rise of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
“The Earths average temperature has increased by 1.4 percent since the early 20th century” (Robbins, 2018:214). This doesn’t seem like too bad, and some oil companies will even state this but label it as normal fluctuation. However, they tend to leave out the second part that, “Anything beyond a 2 degree centigrade increase will lead to dangerous climate change which can lead to food shortages, desertification, and coastal flooding” (Robbins, 2018:214). This is quite scary to think about, especially with the rate of consumption increasing and the nation-state still leaving big oil companies regulation free.
These natural disasters are already starting to hit countries like Afghanistan and Uganda. Climate change is the cause of a drought in eastern Afghanistan, and when it was finally broken by a 2010 Monsoon it, “Flooded 20 percent of Pakistan, killing 2,000 people and destroying 2.4 million hectares of crops” (Robbins, 2018:216). The drought, “Ultimately lead to the rise of the Taliban” (Robbins, 2018:216). However, the media didn’t report any of this because people would demand action. Instead, the government manufactured consent to go to war in the Middle East over their oil. Overall, the rise of natural disasters all over the world can definitively linked with Climate Change.
Instead of taking action, governments around the world allow big oil companies to drill and use techniques, like hydraulic fracking, that are harmful to our ozone. The nation-state needs to start regulating these companies and start putting the health of our planet and its citizens ahead of economic growth. Some of these regulations could include a carbon cap tax, which would allow a certain amount of carbon emission but start heavily taxing them if they were to go over that cap.