Many of us are hoping right now that humanity recognizes its vast and ongoing destruction of its environment and decides to do something about it. Most expect government to be the method.
However, the record of governments helping the environment has been a spotty one — with one exception, which we’ll cover later. Generally, government makes a big noise but little impact.
Despite the fact that the government routinely refers to “deregulation” — the reduction of its control over businesses — as a guaranteed hazard to the economy, the government’s own impact on the environment is both large and disturbing:
Civil liability caps for oil spills and other industrial disasters, which reduce the willingness of large oil corporations to protect against such incidents.
The subsidization of oil, coal, refining, “bad nuclear,” even wasteful “green” energy encourages the disruption of ecosystems and increases the net rate of harmful pollution.
The displacement of consumer responsibility through the introduction of a ‘regulatory framework’ – where citizens assume that the government is responsible for the environment, and that they play no role in safeguarding it – ensures that nobody ever truly takes accountability for their environmental impact.
The subsidization of farming organizations that use wasteful methods – the use of phosphorous-based fertilizer instead of organic agriculture, and the use of irrigation instead of environment-based agriculture – growing crops that occur naturally in a region – leads to nutrient depletion, increased deforestation, decreased crop yields, increased monopolization of farming, increased desertification, depletion of water aquifers, and malnutrition for affected populations. It is fundamentally a sign of social maladaptation, when humans attempt to irrigate an infertile area, and has a dramatically negative environmental impact.
The military uses more oil than any organization on the planet. I don’t believe in human-caused global warming, but if you’re still buying the government’s line on that one, that likely also makes them the organization responsible for emitting more CO2 than any other, largely due to the government’s addiction to endless war. In terms of actual environmental impact, back in reality, their large consumption of oil results in an increased rate of oil spills, negatively affecting local ecosystems and possibly entire species-wide extinctions. Also, the use of chemical warfare agents, radioactive munitions, and even traditional munitions tend to produce negative effects on wildlife, including multigenerational birth defects and the rendering of large segments of land as uninhabitable, such as in the Chernobyl disaster.
Displacement of consumer responsibility in terms of ‘maintaining harmony with the nature’ by the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses, allows unscientific hunting yields to be instituted, and results more often than not in overfishing/overhunting and the associated extinction of animal populations.
The government is known to sponsor and protect “hydrofracking” companies, including a now well-publicized relationship between Dick Cheney and the “hydrofracking” industry, designed to use hydraulic techniques to release natural gas from the earth. This results in a high degree of pollution, and the court system has paid little attention to lawsuits regarding it.
The employment of millions of bureaucrats imposes a large requirement for oil at present, in terms of transportation alone, and the associated power resources for their offices. Many of these organizations have no positive impact on society at all, others have less positive impact than the money that’s used to fund them would be used towards in the private market.
Agricultural subsidization also encourages meat consumption, which reduces nutrient efficiency by imposing such a large toll on plant populations by overgrazing, with all the associated effects, including desertification. All high surpluses of high calorie foods in general also produce obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other associated diseases, in a population unable to restrain itself from food consumption, although this is not an “environmental” effect.
The construction of dams leads to aquifer depletion and the disruption of local ecosystems, and the government loves building dams.
Non-market based road construction leads to miscalculation resulting in an increased rate of ecosystem/migration disruption, roadkill, animal population depletion, etc.
The employment of an air force, police helicopters, highways, and also imposes stress on animals via noise alone, which is related to decreased health and lower reproduction rates for wildlife.
Any subsidization of a chemical company with an environmental impact, that would otherwise have not received funding, is the government’s fault (think Dow Chemical, DuPont, etc.).
The government’s response to the “Deepwater Horizon” oil spill also involved the widespread deployment of highly toxic “Corexit” dispersant, which:
Is known to cause mutation, birth defects, etc.
Has over 200 chemicals, most of which are treated as “proprietary” and not described to the public. Many of these chemicals are non-polar hydrocarbon solvents, which have the ability to actually dissolve cell membranes.
Wildlife in the region has been devastated by this response, and most workers in the area have reported serious health issues, while several described it publicly have died under mysterious circumstances.
The use and deployment of nuclear weapons is the single largest threat to the environment in existence, a threat that is made entirely by governments.
Far from being a savior of the environment, government represents a difficult proposition: creating a monster in order to wage war against the abuses of others.
Even more troubling is the idea that since government constitutes a single response that occurs across the board, if it fails, it fails in huge and destructive ways.
I mentioned earlier that there is one thing government can do and do well. That is conservation, or setting aside land for natural use only. That requires no additional bureaucrats or toxic chemicals.
But in the meantime, we should be wary of assuming that government is any kind of solution to our environmental woes.