Thursday, November 19, 2009

Natural Resources and Environmental Regulations by Cindy Downey

November 13, 2009
Warner Pacific ADP
There are differing views around the world about natural resources, and the ownership and stewardship that follows. This is true not only around the world, but even within the web of American society. When oil is discovered on property, does the landowner own this? If a river runs through someone’s property, is the water theirs to do with as they wish? The process of evaluating our resources is an ongoing one.
The essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Withgott, 2008, p. 59) shares Hardin’s view that “a resource held in common that is accessible to all and is unregulated will eventually become overused and degraded. Therefore, he argued, it is in our best interest to develop guidelines for the use of such common resources.” Our natural resources include both substances and energy sources needed to survive. (Withgott, 2008, pp. G-13) This thought process lead to a way of viewing our resources, in which we have a shared responsibility and oversight.
Our coal and oil fields are immediately considered when thinking of resources. However, resources include our waterways, wind power, and food supplies, to name only a few. We have seen depletion of our natural resources through decreases in animal populations. During the 1800s, the buffalo roamed freely across the nation. As the settlers increased their westward movement, the buffalo were hunted into almost extinction. This is also happening with types of tuna and whale, which are considered delicacies in other parts of the world. Even though something is a renewable resources (such as animals), without proper monitoring, they can become extinct or depleted.
I recently read a novel based in the early 1900s in Niagara Falls, Canada. This marked the change that the Niagara River experienced when dams were built on the river. While people on both sides of the border welcomed this additional energy, the damage that was done to the environment because of the dams was significant. This has also been a topic of discussion in Oregon, with the dams on the Columbia River. Although the energy created by the dams is needed, does this need outweigh the cost to the salmon and other animals affected by the change in the river?
Many individuals feel that government is interfering in the ownership of their property, by telling them what the land can be used for. One example of this is zoning requirements for farmland. Individuals purchased land numbers of years ago with the thought they would subdivide and sell small parcels of land at a profit. However, zoning requirements changed and this was not allowed. The expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary continues to be one that sparks much debate in our community and in communities around the nation.
The need for energy is one that continues to be a topic of discussion. As with the now dismantled Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, this was cutting-edge technology at the time it was created. With time, we found that disposing of the nuclear waste created a greater hazard than our need for the electricity created by the plant. Nonetheless, the need for energy has not decreased. As we look for new ways to harness energy, we have to look at the effects on nature. For example, wind power appears to be a resource that does not create waste. However, the windmills create deadly obstacles for the birds that occupy that airspace. As the Native American saying states “All things are connected,” this is a very true statement. We must consider the impacts of all decisions on our environment. This involves monitoring the situation now, and also into the future.
Sometimes we do not realize the impact on the environment until years down the line. For example, my father worked for a chrome shop during the 60s and 70s, and the company would simply dump the chrome by-products at the edge of the property for disposal. This was a common occurrence at the time, because the effects of the dumping were not immediately known. In the 1980s, this work site was deemed a serious toxic waste site, and the owners had to pay for the removal of all the dirt where the chrome had been buried. However, some of it had seeped into the ground water creating health problems for those living in the area. This was eventually cleaned up, but at an enormous expense.
As stewards of our environment it is important to know the risks of our actions, and to continue to monitor our carbon footprint on the earth. Even beyond monitoring, it is our responsibility to make the tough decisions to change our methods of operation if we can tell that they are creating problems. We must not only identify the problems, but work to bring solutions into place.

Merriam-Webster. (2009). Culture. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from
Withgott, J. &. (2008). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

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