[home]The United States of America – land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s rephrase that. The United States of America – land of solid waste and the home of outsourcing.
The U.S. is looked to as a leader in its economy, effective entrepreneurship and military. But the United States isn’t as clean as it appears on the outside. We’ve got big feet, and we’re leaving footprints all over the world in other ways than waging war. While it’s no secret that President Bush has not been a champion of environmental clean up and maintenance, what actions, or inactions have affected our environment in the last five years? [pullquotenegin]
Former president of Students Embracing Environmental Disciplines (SEED), Christine Lanser, Environmental Economy and Policy senior said, “Bush and a lot of other people are undervaluing the natural environment’s services. If we are not spending the money now there will be additional costs. Later the costs can more than triple than what it would cost in the first place. Maybe it will cost 10 billion now to prevent it, but it could cost two trillion later if we were to try to rebuild everything. It will cost more to replant something that has been wiped out.”
“(The Bush Administration) is the worst administration in history in protecting the environment. (It) uses language that hides what they are really doing. It’s like putting a smiley face on a bad thing,” said Elliott Negin, Washington’s Communications Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
While Negin said Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency commits violations of the law but are going unpunished, David Bidwell, a sociology graduate student who works in correlation with Environmental Science and Public Policy, feels the environment is not moving forward under Bush.
“To be honest, it’s pretty good in comparison to other countries. The Clean Water and Clean Air Acts have improved the environment a lot. There are standards and regulations that were originally not there. That’s what makes it so hard to judge problems now. The positives and negatives are incremental rather than sweeping changes that people can see. Most people are satisfied with their lifestyles (in the US).” The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and implemented restrictions on how much pollution was allowed into the air. The Bush Administration has proposed the Clear Skies Initiative that will roll back the restrictions of the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and implemented regulatory and non-regulatory devices to control the amounts of pollutants that entered waterways.
Maybe we aren’t surrounded by refuse in every step we take along a city road, and maybe we aren’t lacking a source of clean water, but does that mean we should go on living as though those problems don’t exist? Although many of the issues concerning the earth’s ecological systems seem thousands of miles away (like global warming\’s impact on water temperature and how it affects the sensitive, Australian coral reef ecosystems. You know. For example), let’s break down what’s really going on here on the home front –meaning the U.S. and even at MSU.
At MSU, concerns about water stem primarily from runoff caused by agriculture, homes, salt on the roadways, parking lots, etc. Point sources are sources of pollution that can be seen and measured easily. An example would be a drain pipe from a factory that is pouring pollutants directly into a river. Students continuously find a union in trash talking the Red Cedar, but some say there is no call for such negativity.
“The Red Cedar is getting much better. Pollution sources are actually from off-campus. The sources for the large part have been curtailed. Ecoli counts have been down consistently,” said Terry Link, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability, who also assured that the river is better than it looks and the fish from the river are safe to eat.
“The condition of the water in the US is much better than it was on a lot of respects,” Bidwell said. “But now there are more nuances from non-point sources.”
Environmental activists have also begun taking concern about urban sprawl, a problem that can lead to flooding. “A lot of green space is being destroyed by homes and malls,” Bidwell said. “The more of the environment that is paved decreases the water quality as a whole. This means areas flood more quickly.\”
With Bush’s help in December of 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was close to passing a policy that would allow inadequately treated sewage into water sources that contained bacteria, viruses, and fecal matter. However, NRDC put a stop to the policy.
The Bush Administration is also effecting the environment through inaction. “The administration has refused to regulate the rocket fuel component called per chlorate,” Negin said. Per chlorate is a harmful chemical that contaminates drinking water in areas nearby military bases; places such as in the western part of the US that have high uses of rockets.
According to Negin, the Clean Water Act protects waterways by forcing pollution producing factories to limit the amount of pollutants they emit into water sources, and the Bush Administration has drastically weakened the policy. The White House has been lobbying to pass legislation that will loosen the regulations on and consequences of factories that emit pollutants into waterways.
“The Bush Administration changes one word in the regulation and turns it around.”
Hurricanes and tsunamis have become a front page trend this year, but their causes run deep. “Hurricanes are more intensive because of global warming,” premed sophomore Ronnie Risinger said after attending a climate change speaker series on campus. “They occur because of a preexisting disturbance. The ozone layer is getting thinner and thinner, and the sun is penetrating the earth more and more. The ocean is rising, and it will continue to.”
This is yet another area where the US government refuses to intervene. “(Bush) is clearly taking inaction towards global climate change,” Link said. “Making things worse than better seems to be the general trend.”
“The key thing with global warming is that it is happening,” Bidwell said. “People want to make a debate about it and throw out science. Effects in terms of climate change, people are adapting to the change. Frost coming at different times of the year, planting and harvesting can change. But it is hard for people to change their behaviors now because it is difficult to ask them to make sacrifices based on something that isn’t a direct threat to them. There are concerns as changes come because wealthy, technologically advanced nations can do a lot better at adjusting than those without that technology.”
According to NRDC research, in September 2001, EPA told the industry\’s main lobby group, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), that existing law would cut power plants\’ soot-forming sulfur dioxide pollution from 11 million tons today to two million tons by 2012, and cut smog-forming nitrous oxide emmissions from five million tons today to 1.25 million tons by 2010. The Clear Skies Initiative, however, changed the law so that deadlines to meet health standards would be delayed and this would allow violations of emissions of soot and smog into the atmosphere for a longer time. The Administration\’s plan would allow nearly twice as much sulfur dioxide for about a decade longer than the current Clean Air Act permits. [coolingpic]
“Bush is trying to roll back the Clean Air Act with the Clear Skies Initiative,” Negin said. “He’s trying to weaken the Clean Air Act by allowing coal fired power plants to pollute more and for a longer time than the Clean Air Act allows.\”
During Bush\’s first presidential race, he supported mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. However, when he gained office, he turned completely around and refused to sign policies such as the Kyoto Protocol. Last July at the G8 summit the Bush administration’s delegation attempted to water down the global warming action plan, according to NRDC. “He admitted that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming but he continues to work against it,” Negin said. “In regards to oil, the United States has 5% of the world’s population, and we use 25% of the oil produced world wide every year.\”
He added, “If the administration is successful in rolling back safe guards it will affect people’s health. People will be sicker, breathing dirtier air and drinking dirtier water.”
While the issue of solid waste and the importance of recycling was a concern at the forefront during the 1980s and 90s, but have recently blown over, Bidwell said, “It continues to be a problem, but we’re not addressing it that much. It used to be a big deal, but then when things get really difficult, we don’t want to talk about it.”
Activists from the student organization Eco, like urban planning senior Ashley Miller, feel that comprehensive recycling is a big issue. “Our mission is to make students aware and to become a more sustainable campus,” Miller said. “Michigan State is the only Big 10 without comprehensive recycling in dorms and office buildings.” Eco displayed the shocking results of just how much plastic, glass and metal is wasted by the lack of a recycling facility by reporting that 250 pounds of recyclables are thrown into land fills each semester by MSU students and displaying all 250 pounds of them on October 26 by Wells Hall. [trashpic]
Other students are also fighting to sustain the environment. Resident Mentor and English senior Sarah Trudell started a comprehensive recycling program in Campbell Hall. “I think it’s ridiculous that in a university as big as this that we don’t recycle things like water bottles,” she said. She also pointed out little habitual things that bother her around campus. “I hate when people are in the caf and they use a plastic cup and straw for their Slushies when they could use a glass one.” She also mentioned that Brody complex doesn’t offer glass bowls for ice cream which causes a waste of Styrofoam.
Any student can use the three R’s they learned in elementary. Recycle, reuse, reduce. Many MSU students feel these are important words and take action on them. “I recycle because I think it’s important to reuse material we already have,” said Monica VanKlompenberg, animal science sophomore. She learned valuable lessons when she was in middle school and visited a rainforest and discovered that humans can’t continuously cut down trees because eventually there won’t be any left.
Danielle Scheetz, genetics sophomore said, “I think a lot of people are really into recycling, but they don’t know a lot about it.” She also feels that MSU should have comprehensive recycling on campus. “I think its silly that we don’t because the Big 10 schools typically follow each other and we tend to be very similar.”
Campbell Hall resident Elena Sias, nursing freshman, said that she currently recycles because “when the environment is clean, the animals live longer. We should care about everybody, not just humans.” She also thought that if there wasn’t recycling available in Campbell Hall she would probably not recycle out of pure inconvenience, which leads her to believe that MSU should have a comprehensive recycling program.
“We don’t have the luxury to just waste,” Miller added. “We have to use what we have. If we are called a land grant university, we should live up to our name.”
Wondering what you can do to help your environment?
1. Attend an ECO meeting at Wednesday nights 7:30 Illinois Room of the Union. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.msu.edu/~eco
2. Start a comprehensive recycling program in your residence hall. Contact the office of Housing within your residence hall. They can provide the bins and signs to get a program underway. Then locate the nearest recycling facility and make a schedule for students to bring the recyclables to the center each week.
3. Join Students Embracing Environmental Disciplines (SEED). Contact President of SEED, Sam Tourtellot at email@example.com for more information.
4. Visit the NRDC website and check out the Bush Record – a site devoted to updating people about Bush’s actions in regards to the environment: http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/
5. Write a letter to your senator expressing your concern about these issues. Or write directly to the White House: The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, D.C. 20500
6. For more information on these issues, Negin suggested reading Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.