Pacia Purcell: Environment and Society

“‘Dirty’ Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDC [Lesser Developed Countries]?” World Bank Chief Economist Lawrence Summers, December 1991

This was suggested in sarcasm, but I’m sure the owners of the dirty industries think that it is a wonderful idea. Moving to an area where they can pollute more for less equals more production and more money. They give no cares to the people living in these lesser developed countries, nor to those Americans that they employ in the United States. Lastly, the thing they probably care about the least is the effect that they are having on the environment with all of their pollution. The environment doesn’t work for them and they cannot use it to make money, only lose money through fines for over-polluting.

This is where pollution trades come in. Countries are lawfully allowed to produce a certain amount of pollution, but if they exceed that amount they are charged a fine. However, not all countries, especially those underdeveloped ones, do not use the majority of their pollution allowance and for some reason other countries who have reached their pollution limit are able to buy the the remaining amount of pollution allowance that the other country is not using. This is not reducing the amount of pollution we as humans are producing each year. But of course this system is not truly meant to help the environment, but instead help to stimulate the economy and appease environmental activists.

The Risks and Hazards chapter brings up a point about the people most affected by pollution, saying those who live near to landfills and other hazardous sites are the most affected. These people also tend to be of a lower economic class. However, many of the houses existed before businesses or government agencies built these hazardous sites. By building these sites in such close conjunction with residential areas, these business and agencies are deciding that the money they will make is greater than the risk it these sites will bring to those living near. The chapter also mentions several health problems that have been shown to develop in people living near such sites. Why is the decision of where to build these sites not more regulated, so as to reduce the risk? Probably because such restrictions would cost more money, and that’s what the government and the majority of businesses are all about, more money. These people in close proximity to these sites mean nothing, because they aren’t making the owners of these sites any money.

Most people are only interested in the environment or being “environmentally friendly” if it can save them money. People only care about how many miles to the gallon their car gets because they don’t want to spend money on gas rather than because they actually care about the impact they have on the environment by the greenhouse gas pollution they are contributing by driving their cars. The same applies for many other environmentally friendly things such as green energy, recycling, and planting trees. These people fail to see the bigger picture. Money is not everything. We are definitively altering our planet, which we rely on for nearly everything. Although we can only guess at what are impacts look like for the future of the planet, we know that they are not good. People need to wake up and take a look at how they are living their lives. Could you live better? More sustainably? How are my impacts affecting other currently and how will they affect those in the future? People need to come together and decide to that they can live a better and healthier lifestyles, for the planet, for others, and for themselves.

In the chapter about trees an interesting point about what the world would look like if we extended rights to trees is brought up. We extend protective rights obviously to humans, but also to animals that are falling towards extinction or have some meaning to humans, but yet we extend no rights to trees. Why not? Are they not one of the most important environmental aspects that the planet presents to us? They, along with other plants, are the sole providers of oxygen, which we as humans and the precious animals we protect need to continue living. Yet, we allow for them to be cut down and killed of without a single worry, except for the amount of money that the timber will bring us and the money that can be made from utilizing agriculture on the cleared land. We should look at our basic needs and the needs of those species that we care about (and those we don’t) and realize that without trees the lives we live would be impossible, because we would be dead without them. To many people I’m sure that the thought of giving trees rights, sounds absurd, but it is no more absurd than not giving them rights.

The very last chapter about french fries discusses the declining health of humans due to the food that is made available for us to eat. Through the years of fast food new information has been presented about the negative effects these foods have on the human body. However, despite these negative effects, lots of fast food places still exist and are thriving. This makes absolutely no sense. Why put something into your body that you know is damaging you? Why not instead put something in your body that you know is beneficial. Not only do people not care about the environment, they don’t care about themselves either, or their children for that matter. People choose to feed their children this poison. I understand the argument of people being busy and needing something convenient or cheap, however I think there are several better options that meet both of those requirements. For myself, I would rather not eat at all than eat at the majority of fast food joints. After working at fast food places myself and being able to read what really goes into the food, it makes me sick to even think about. Things derived from gasoline and plastics went into some of the foods that I made. Not only the ingredients of the food is concerning, but also how the food is prepared and the regulations for how long is able to sit before it is served. Not that it is too long, but instead too short, causing so much food to go to waste. I eat leftovers all the time, why wouldn’t fast food chains do the same? Once again the problem with fast food comes down to money. It is cheaper to make food that is horrible for you and fast to make than to provide you with something worthy to be eaten.

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