Environmental Protection during Precarious Times

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Environmental Protection during Precarious Times

By Bryan Hayes

These are precarious times.

While we shelter at home life does not stop.  It may seem like it has stopped, since for many of us ours has, but much of life continues on as it always does even though it may be on a smaller, slower scale.  The headline of the day will dominate the news, because that is what we are experiencing right now, but right now there are so many stories that are also happening.

Behind the scenes, environmental protection is being rolled back, such as the 2012 ruling that increased fuel economy standards with an intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars by 5% annually.  The new Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles act will cut emissions by just 1.5%.  One side of the argument, the lower emission standards will allow for a more cost effective vehicle that will allow consumers to replace their older vehicles with newer ones that have a higher gas mileage and are safer.  On the other hand, the cost differentiation is not substantiated but more so there are states, most notably California, that have more stringent standards so there is a concern about standardization with states having their own criteria.

Whether you believe that the new national standards are justified, or not, one thing is for certain.  We all want the same thing. We all want (and need) clean air, not to mention clean water, although how we get there is decisively different.    

The roll backs of environmental standards, not merely from cars but overall, are a very tangible health consideration.  Clean air and water is essential for overall health and wellbeing, right? We can all agree on that point. Without those basic necessities, we get sick more often as well as have a weakened immune system making us more susceptible to viruses and disease.   

Nature is pretty remarkable in terms of self-regulating.  The pictures that have become popular of waterways looking so much cleaner without the normal foot traffic and skies looking so much clearer without the pollution paint a picture of what could be when we take the environment as a priority.  Without as many cars on the road, that will make a temporary difference in greenhouse gas emissions, but once we are no longer all staying home, we will once again go about our normal lives.

In the meantime, while we may think that life has stopped, it hasn’t.  

We all have the same objective, although how do we get there?  There are many roads to take, and we are not going to all want to go the same way.   Some will think the new fuel economy standards are in our best interest while others will not.

Whatever the viewpoint, understanding that life does not stop and that there are many initiatives like these that are being implemented every day, and while there may be one story that dominates the headlines, it is important to continue to follow what else is going on as much as what has consumed all of our life right now.   The immediate epidemic will one day be over, but there is a much wider health concern that is not going to go away. 

We may not think about the environment in terms of a health initiative, but it is a good time to start.  

Photo: Alan Fabricant