Warner Pacific College
July 19, 2010
Natural Resources and Regulating Environmental Impact
For thousands of years, humans have treated the planet’s resources, both limited and unlimited, in the same fashion: using them with little concern for the generations to come, or for the impact on our surrounding environment. With population growth and affluence, the increased need for renewable and non-renewable resources has forced us to face some difficult decisions on what to leave future generations and how to manage waste. Intelligently managing the remaining resources, whether through regulations, a free-market economy or both, may be critical to the continued existence of our species and enjoying a good quality of life.
As the population of the world grows and becomes more affluent there is increased need for resources to provide for the needs and wants of everyone. The resources that are in demand may be continually renewable, or renewable over a period of time. There are some resources that are considered non-renewable because the forces that have created these materials have worked for many thousands of years. The continually renewable resources are areas that should be considered as primary choices because they will always be available. The ones that renew over a fairly short period of time should be used in moderation and continually replenished so that they will be there for future generations. We must carefully and intelligently manage the ones which cannot be renewed. We need to make some assessments to learn how much we currently use and project how much we will need in the foreseeable future. This can be done using data that is available and calculating the growth of the population and any projected growth in world prosperity that will increase the use of any given resource. Then we need to estimate how much of these resources there are still available. Geologists and specialists can make very educated estimates of these resources. With this data we can calculate and project how long the current use rates can continue until we run out. As we study alternative sources it can be calculated how supplementing with other, renewable resources will allow some of the non-renewable substances to last longer.
As stewards of the earth, man must be very cognizant of the fact that action taken will have some impact on the environment. Plowing the land, building a home, digging a well, harvesting vegetation – all will change the “natural” state of an area. There is an increasing awareness of the damage that some types of actions have on the landscape and the resources in that locality. In order to reduce the negative or harmful impact we are making on the planet, governments often create regulations.
There are advocates to these limitations as well as critics. Adhering to environmental regulations can be costly to a company. The company absorbs the cost of following regulation by passing the cost on to the consumer in the finished product. This makes the product cost more and therefore may put the product out of some people’s price range. There are some instances where a company could not afford the price of following regulations, so they have been forced to close down their business. Some governments have policies in place which will encourage clean industries by giving subsidies to desirable companies (Withgott & Brennan, 2008)
Regulations have a many layered effect on culture. They protect the local environment, giving better health to local populations. They affect the price of things. They can have a divisive effect on public opinion. They cost tax money to set up, monitor and enforce. As citizens of a country and of our planet we can make our judgment about the value of regulations and the drawbacks of imposed regulations, and let our voices be heard as policy makers decide on what they will do with these issues.
Many scientific and sociological studies show that the poor suffer a disproportionate amount of impact from environmental damage and toxic by-products. Often the poor are less educated and do not realize the danger that some types of development or procuring of resources can cause. It has also been shown that they often do not know enough about the political process to find a way to advocate for themselves. If we are to consider ourselves an ethical nation we will take into account the impact of anything we do. This impact affects people, animal life, plant life and the landscape. This is not to discourage growth and progress, but to assure that progress in one area does not result in damage or harmful pollutants in another area.
Regulation can be costly to developers. Some of the regulations that are advocated by ecologists or the anxious public ask more than is reasonable and ignore some factors. Some regulation result in saved lives and better quality of life. It is hard to measure the value of these benefits. Everyone should consider the value of basic things like clean air, clean water, indoor plumbing and so many other things we almost take for granted. We want these to be perpetually available for now and for the future. There are other services and benefits that are of value to us. We can influence public policy to protect the things that we need and enjoy. We can do so with respect for all people. With intelligent management, our resources have the potential to bless our lives for many generations to come.
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2008). Environment; The science Behind the Stories. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.