Term Paper: Environmental Protection

Pages: 5 (1646 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Environmental protection [...] what environmental protection is, and why it is vital in today's global culture. Environmental protection can be classified as anything done to help protect the environment in any way possible, from buying a fuel-efficient vehicle to protesting the bulldozing of old-growth timber. It can be small, local measures, or vast, global measures all created to help preserve the ecology and environment of the planet. Environmental protection should be a part of everyone's life, because the current global warming issue illustrates just how fragile our planet can be.

What Exactly is Environmental Protection?

Environmental protection can take many forms. It can be administered by a large, governmental agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or it can consist of one person recycling their waste products and buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. It can mean pollution control, cleaner water, safer industrial operations, reforesting deforested areas, and creating alternative forms of energy. It helps maintain a healthy planet, and affects anything that eventually involves the world we live in. One environmental writer notes, "Often popular ideas that are grouped under the notion of environmental protection range from complex scientific theories about problems like acid rain to personal feelings for the rights of animals" (Petulla 6). Environmental protection means saving the environment and maintaining a healthy standard of living that we can pass down to future generations, instead of using up the planet's resources and leaving nothing for future generations. Therefore, biking to work to save energy is a form of environmental protection, and so is cleaning up a toxic waste dump, or cleaning up trash on the side of a highway.

Short History of Environmental Protection

The environment and economy are tied together - there is no way to separate the two. In early American history, pioneers used the natural resources, even abused them, and then moved on when they depleted them. Early gold rushes are an excellent example. The American West is littered with empty ghost towns and mine tunnels that are a living testament to the abuse of resources. When the gold was mined, the miners moved on to new territory, leaving the towns and mines empty.

Early environmental protection initially began in response to the filth that littered American streets long before sewers and septic systems were introduced. Thus public health and cleanliness were at the root of the first environmental protection laws that governed waste disposal and removal. Later, industry and an influx of people and horses added to the filth on the streets and in the air. Author Petulla continues, "Chicago's stockyards combined with eight railroads, a busy port, and heavy industry to assault its residents with smelly, cough-causing black smoke" (Petulla 21). By the mid-19th century, American cities were beginning to see a connection between industrial and personal waste and disease, and the first environmental reports can out, urging environmental cleanup for the welfare of the people. Thus, the first environmental protection attempts were based on public health and welfare.

This continued into the 20th century, when women's organizations took up the plea for cleaner cities and better public health. Author Petulla notes,

By 1910, hundreds of local women's organizations could mobilize hundreds of thousands of members on behalf of environmental legislation to protect the natural environment. Their day-to-day activities monitored the local environments in and around urban areas. The women's organizations' signal achievements established a solid tradition for environmental groups of the 1960s and 1970s (Petulla 25).

The 1960s saw a rebirth of environmental activism. Air quality in American cities began to degenerate, and industries had few regulations that stopped them from releasing chemicals and wastes into the air, into waterways, and in landfills. Federal intervention did not really begin until the 1970s, but several grassroots organizations also grew during the 60s and 70s that urged Americans to think more about protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution. Author Petulla notes many of these organizations began at the local level. He writes, "But, more significantly, Americans found out their democratic institutions gave them a way to organize into groups, at first local, and lobby for their own environmental interests" (Petulla 37). Thus, the environmental protection movement today is a blend of governmental agencies and regulations, and environmental interest groups lobbying for change.

Why Environmental Protection is so Important

Environmental protection is important to society because it helps ensure our survival. As history shows, humans have a long history of over-utilizing the environment and then simply moving along to "greener pastures." The slash and burn agricultural practices still taking place in the Amazon basin illustrate this mentality. Millions of acres of rain forest have been destroyed, and the jungle cannot rejuvenate itself. Yet, the practice continues. Another writer states, "Environmental protection is an important societal goal, but it will not be achieved if existing policies and institutional arrangements are left in place" (Adler 653). Many third-world countries do not understand the need for environmental protection, while others simply do not have the funds available to pay for environmental cleanup and protection.

In addition, many people simply do not see the need for environmental protection, despite all the predictions and warnings. Even in the United States, some states are far behind others in regulating business and industry. Another writer says, "There is growing evidence that some states lead in economic growth and environmental protection, while other states lag behind in both" (Graham). These states and individuals do not see or understand the great need for environmental protection, and so, they allow infractions and pollution that can ultimately harm everyone, not just the citizens of their states. A group of authors note, "One of the most serious threats to rivers, lakes, and estuaries, for example, is the nutrients flowing directly from huge new feeding operations for hogs, chickens, and turkeys, and indirectly from farm fields where animal wastes are spread as fertilizer" (Howes, John, and Minard). Thus, for some, industry is still a higher priority than the environment.

As the global warming crisis indicates, humans have a distinct impact on the planet's environment, so much so that they may change the overall weather and temperature of the Earth. This could lead to widespread flooding, changes in current ecosystems (from dry desert to rainy tropics, or rainy tropics to dry desert, for example), and could lead to widespread loss of life and eventual extinction of all life on the planet if temperatures continued to rise and change the environment so drastically. Global warming is just one area that indicates how important environmental protection is. Deforestation, the extinction of many plants and animals, overfishing of the world's oceans, and pollution to the air and water are many other areas that must be addressed to ensure the continued survival of the environment. Without it, humans cannot survive.

Why Some People are Opposed to Environmental Protection

Some people do not believe humankind can destroy entire ecological niches on the planet; they believe it will always "heal" itself in some way. Others do not believe that humans are causing environmental issues such as global warming. These people are opposed to most environmental protection efforts, because they see them as "liberal" posturing, causing expenditures that could be used in other areas. Many business owners, especially those engaged in harmful industries, such as chemicals and such, are opposed to environmental protection because they feel it takes away some of their profits and applies rules and regulations that are difficult to conform to. As another environmental author notes, "Environmental regulations are certainly costly. The relevant question is whether they produce much in return. After all, if the benefits outweigh the costs, it may not be worth quibbling over the price tag" (Adler 653). In addition, many people are opposed to government agencies controlling environmental policy, as they feel there are too… [END OF PREVIEW]

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