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T HE P OIN T- C OUN T ERP OIN T P UBL IC AT ION FOR A P RIL 6, 2 011

THE ENVIRONMENT* * This issue printed on paper made with 100% Post Consumer Waste.


COUNTERP OINT • RYA N DOUGHER T Y

Green the Environment A radical restructuring of the way we view nature is necessary to address deeply ingrained human consumption of the environment. In the mid-1500s, it was proposed that the Earth was in fact not the center of the universe, bringing about new conceptualizations of science and a shift in thought of humanity’s position and role in the world. Now another conceptual revolution is necessary: humankind is not the center of Earth’s universe, rather a small by-product in its unfolding. All life remains a mystery, yet through research humankind has been able to investigate amazing evolutionary processes —single cells adapt through random mutations to create unbelievably diverse beings: fungi,

animals, plants, archaea, and bacteria. None of these creatures are more important than another; each has its own capabilities, some more astounding and complex than others. Primarily for economic reasons, governmental regulation has been promoted as the best way to sustainably protect our natural world, but I am concerned this anthropocentric tendency undercuts the potential for a new and highly beneficial idealization of our natural environment. The current framing of our environmental philosophy is flawed because it bases the value of pro-environmental policies or actions on their perceived utility to humans. To pursue a healthier and happier existence, humankind must learn to coexist with all nonhuman entities in harmonious equality. By only protecting the organisms and processes in the biosphere that we directly benefit from, unforeseen consequences in

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interrupting nature’s codependent balances could lead to our extinction. But even this possibility is beside the point: ideology based on utility disregards the intrinsic rights of the natural world, which we have assumed control over and poorly attended to through large, negligent governmental institutions. Moreover, this ideology denies future opportunities to understand the complexity of life forms humans have yet to discover. It is naïve to think we can straightforwardly manipulate Earth’s delicate processes; one small change can cascade into a variety of unforeseeable effects. For example, through engineering and cultivating disease-resistant crops, many of their natural beneficial traits have been removed. Continue reading this article on-line at CONSIDERONLINE.ORG

Edited by Lexie Tourek & Matt Friedrichs Cover by Benjamin English © Consider Magazine 2011

Consider’s purpose is to encourage civil discourse on significant issues of campus, national, and world interest.

VOLUME 24 ISSUE 18 We hear all too often about our bad habits of consumption and materialism, especially in terms of how damaging they are to the environment. American culture, marked by SUVs, fast food, and remarkable energy use, is using up our precious resources at unsustainable rates. I argue, however, that our environmentally destructive actions are not innate sources of human pleasure, but that people intrinsically care about the environment. The scale and complexity of the issues we face makes it difficult for most of us to participate in environmental stewardship. The ultimate question is: how do we improve

The ideal path for improving our relationship with the environment is through government regulation and technological innovation.

our relationship with the environment and build the necessary environmentally friendly social structures? Some might argue that finding such a solution requires us to fundamentally rethink how we view nature. This belief is rooted in a blind adherence to radical movements and grounded in the assertion that our institutional policies and half-assed excitement over the “Go Green Movement” have failed and will continue to do so. I fundamentally take issue with this premise. I believe that we can develop government regulation and innovative technologies that successfully protect the environment and lead us to a more sustainable future. Government and technology have been and continue to be the customary modes in which environmental problems are addressed. I’ll admit that their record is not perfect—our government has not always

Continue reading this article at CONSIDERONLINE.ORG been there to protect the environment from our abuses, and technology often progresses in ways that encourage or allow more pollution instead of helping us to cut back. But, government intervention remains the most effective method for reducing our environmental impact. For example, the Clean Air Act (CAA), signed by President Nixon in 1970, mandates the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) protection and improvement of the nation’s air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. According to the EPA, the 1990 Amendments to the CAA are expected to generate $2 trillion of direct eco-friendly benefits by the year 2020, a figure substantially larger than the cost of its implementation, $65 billion.

Green the Government P OINT • TOMM Y HEL D


4-6-11 Environment