Column, 357 words

Neglecting Mother Nature

There's no clear sense of urgency regarding the environment in the United States today.

William A. Collins

Wealth and power
Bring this curse,
Air and water
Ever worse.

Whether a country’s capitalist or communist, a dictatorship or a democracy, it makes no difference to Mother Nature.

Regardless of the dominant economic philosophy or form of government, the environment is under attack across the globe. In 2013, the Earth’s main adversaries are corporations. They run the world’s mines, plantations, slaughterhouses, chemical industry, power plants, oil companies, and transportation powerhouses.

collins-climatechange-Nurse Kate

Nurse Kate/Flickr

Our planet’s forests are being whittled away, its fisheries depleted, its streams polluted or dried up, its water risky to drink, and its soil gradually poisoned. As soon as a government tries to do something about one of these travesties, another one crops up. Greed drives humanity’s creative impulse to squeeze ever more profits from nature.

Here in the United States, Mother Nature’s still reeling from the BP oil disaster that poisoned the Gulf Coast and suffering from the mining operations that slices the tops of mountains in Appalachia and dumps them into wrecked waterways. Then there’s the fracking boom, the pesticides poisoning our children and farmers, the toxic air clouding too much of Louisiana and Texas, and the ocean acidification along all our coasts.

Despite all this, there’s no clear sense of urgency in the United States today. Instead, many Americans seem to feel a comforting sensation that good old American inventiveness and know-how can handle whatever comes along.

In fact, a recent poll showed that Americans are less worried about the environment today than they were during the Nixon administration. Back in 1971, 63 percent of respondents said they believed it was “very important” to clean up our environmental act. In a poll conducted a few months back by HuffPost/YouGov, just 39 percent agreed with that sentiment.

Gallup’s pollsters, meanwhile, have found that Americans are getting a bit more concerned about climate change today, with one in three of us worrying “a great deal.” But we remain evenly divided on whether doing anything about it would be worth the potential economic tradeoffs involved.

Perhaps we simply fear the prospect of having to change our own comfy lifestyle.

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. otherwords.org