Environmentalism is a concern that should bridge party lines
Recently, the issues surrounding the climate crisis and the human population’s contribution to global warming have finally gained social and political grounding. Environmental policies and rhetoric are infiltrating the daily lives of even us college students, as the credibility of cultural products and communities is beginning to rest upon that element’s ability to sustain the earth. Green technology and the ability of neighborhoods to become LEED-certified are becoming important factors in assessing the legitimacy and respect of a given community in the intellectual world, as is the potential for such products as household cleaners and personal vehicles to contribute to the green cause.
The significance of being green aware — of understanding that the burden to save God’s green Earth falls upon us, humans, the Earth’s most powerful inhabitants — has finally crossed into the realm of politics. Recently, the Supreme Court stressed the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on global warming, adding that the U.S. can and has contributed to the movement’s damaging effects. The Court’s admitting of the fact that “a reduction in domestic emissions would slow the pace of global emissions increases,” as written by Justice John Paul Stevens in the majority opinion, signals the necessity of the powerful political body in advancing the U.S. fight against global warming and greenhouse gases. In many ways, I think it is necessary to have politics on our side to really cause change on a mass scale in our seemingly bureaucratic society. But when does political jargon overwhelm and hide the real issues at stake?
California, along with 11 other states, challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) non-stance on the issue of dangerous chemical tailpipe emissions. So far, the EPA has “offered a ‘laundry list’ of reasons not to regulate [tailpipe] emissions,” according to Stevens, as reported in an April 3 article titled “Court: Do something about global warming” on CNN.com ’s online Law Center.
In challenging the agency, California apparently expected to raise awareness of the U.S.’s contribution to global warming. Although such a proposition is incredibly important and should take next to no convincing of the general (and especially educated) population, the very act of challenging the EPA is what set off the Court’s dissenters and is what is making the issue of saving the environment more of a red-and-blue political fight than a humanitarian issue.
If we’re going to save the world, it has to happen now. What the CNN.com issue brings to light is the uneven mix that results from the contrast between real-life environmental issues and the ambiguous, intangible realm of political jargon. This also relates to an important point that lies at the heart of distinguishing the humanitarian from the political: We cannot let the issue of carbon dioxide emissions and their resulting climate crisis become a Democrat versus Republican issue.
Moreover, we as members of the human race need to be able to look past the political and legal red tape and delve into the heart of the issue. It is Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the justices holding a dissenting view on the Court’s position, who seems to be doing exactly the opposite, and as a consequence, is holding us back from solving the climate crisis. The article reported that he insisted on investigating the right or non-right of the states to question the EPA, and even said that his dissenting position “involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it, or the extent of the problem.”
How can he say this and be proud of his position? It seems to me wholly ignorant to still want to ignore the environmental issues at hand and focus on the nitty-gritty, conservative-versus-liberal Constitutional interpretation side of the issue when there is so much evidence about the dangerous U.S. contribution to global warming that is screaming at us to finally do something. The U.S. political bodies need to break free of the ever-constricting red tape and into the diminishing rainforests, into the depleted ozone layer, and onto the melting ice caps. This is not an issue to be solved on paper; this is an issue to be solved in a hands-on manner. We need political and legislative bodies to move issues along and make them public, but we cannot allow those bodies to halt important ethical investigations in favor of staying inside the red lines.
The issue of admitting our contribution to global warming and working to solve it is about the physical Earth. It is about the walk down Forbes Avenue to class, the hike you’ll take with your friends after May graduation, the trip to the grocery store. It’s about that breath of anxiety that sets in like a chill as you quicken your pace when late to class, it’s about getting the perfect grip to pull yourself up onto the next mountain boulder, it’s about feeling the weight of the thin, plastic grocery bags digging into your palms.
The climate crisis is not about 50-page reports or stuffy suits. The climate crisis is about face-to-face communication and connecting with the person next to you. We cannot get from one place to another without the natural balance between land and water, earth and air. Maintaining this sense of connectivity will take more than a handful of lobbyists and a well-planned campaign commercial, although these are necessary steps to take toward change in our increasingly bureaucratic world. While legislative backing can and should be a catalyst for widespread change, we (and Roberts) need to realize that saving the world is about saving the here and now, and respecting the connections we are still able to make with other people and other forms of life on the planet.
The Earth existed before the red tape, before the nine Supreme Court justices were installed, before a file cabinet housed at the EPA became filled with under-exposed, overly ornate environmental reports. And the Earth will exist after all of that — as long as we can look past political inequalities and legislative discrepancies and come together to incite legislative and judicial action to protect what is really outside, and what really needs help — the air, the land, the water, the walk to class, and the trip to Giant Eagle. Saving this way of living — saving this Earth — will take a healthy balance between legislative support and overwhelming political debate, similar to that of the delicate relationship between man and nature.
I applaud the Supreme Court for acknowledging this issue. I applaud the CNN.com article for underscoring the discrepancies between the humanistic and legislative efforts to deter carbon dioxide emissions. But the incongruity between the dissenting justices’ opinion about respecting man-made law over the delicacy of nature is alarming. The article further mentioned the dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia, who said that the Court does not have the right to force the EPA to create any standards on tailpipe emissions — or to do anything at all, presumably — “no matter how important the underlying policy issues at stake.”
It is time to hang up the law and really pay attention to what is at stake. It is the Earth. We are in it. It was here first, before the law, and its survival or demise will be decided based on our actions outside of the political jargon of the Supreme Court or the EPA or the state of California. If we don’t limit tailpipe emissions, global warming will in fact be largely the fault of the U.S., but aside from fault, we will lose the most powerful force that we have — nature.