PHS 100 Environmental Studies
Instructor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
June 28, 2010
The continued debate over environmental regulations and their impact on culture and lifestyle is looked at from different viewpoints. Around the world, scientists and everyday citizens are affected by the environmental regulations designed to preserve natural resources worldwide. These affects are positive and negative in nature and can range from economic to social. Assessing the current state of natural resources is essential to knowing what future regulations may be required for further protection and which regulations are no longer necessary.
Keywords: Scientific Natural Resources, Environmental Regulations
Our Natural Resources and Environmental Regulations
For several decades there has been a tug of war between balancing the need to have environmental regulations in order to protect our natural resources and the need of society to advance technologically. Recently there has been a greater emphasis placed on the need to regulate everything from sport fishing to the carbon footprint allowed by businesses. While the goal of environmental regulation is to improve the state of our natural world, that protection does not come without some cost to the culture and lifestyles that humanity enjoys. The goal of this essay is to look at the process of assessing the state of our natural resources, examine the impacts of environmental regulations on society, and the long term direction of environmental regulation.
Natural resources are considered “the various substances and energy sources we need to survive” (Withgott, p. 3). Natural resources exist in two forms: renewable and nonrenewable. Renewable resources include sunlight, wind, and wave energy. These forms of renewable resources are replenished over a short period of time. While renewable resources can be regenerated naturally over a period of time, nonrenewable resources are those that can be depleted with overuse and cannot be restored. Examples of nonrenewable resources include coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Without better management of these precious resources, they face possible total consumption within the next century or so.
In order to better protect our natural resources, it is imperative to assess their current state. In order to do this we must take an inventory of sorts. While it may be impossible to fully measure the exact amount of any given resource, we can, with a fair amount of certainty, assume that any renewable resource such as wind or sunlight is perpetual and therefore not in danger of extinction. But unlike renewable resources, those resources that are nonrenewable can be measured to some degree. Guidelines such as past amounts of consumption, average growth of the human population worldwide, and the development of industry can be used to estimate future use of resources such as coal or oil.
Humanity has made great strides in the detection of natural resources present at various locations worldwide. One example is the presence of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. While there is no way to accurately account for the total amount of oil present, we can say with a fair amount of accuracy that there is between 5.7 and 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil located under that arctic tundra. This estimate is considered to be a “prospective resource” and therefore is not scientifically proven to be accurate.
The discovery of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has led to the discussion of the costs and benefits of its recovery. In 1980, this section of 19 million miles of northeastern Alaska was established by Congress to be a federally protected wilderness under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. This plan required that any drilling in a 1.5 million acre subsection of ANWR be approved by Congress prior to beginning. It is also required that a detailed inventory of fish and wildlife in the area be taken prior to any oil drilling. As imagined, the prospect of drilling for oil in this pristine wilderness ignited a large amount of controversy on both sides of the issue. Environmentalists have taken the standpoint that the natural beauty of the area and the presence of a diverse ecosystem deserve to remain undisturbed, regardless of the potential for economic windfall for the United States. On the other side of the issue are those that believe that the prospect of recovering oil from this region should be pursued in spite of the potential risk to the Alaskan landscape.
It is an easy extrapolation to state that either decision will impact the culture of the state of Alaska as well as that of the United States. With the drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the US would be less dependent on foreign oil to meet our demands. The decrease in demand would therefore lower the average price of a barrel of oil which would lead to lower gasoline and heating oil prices. Lower oil prices would allow the American consumer to drive more and would also alleviate the pressure some Americans feel to forego heating their homes. The other benefit to drilling this resource would be to provide tax revenue to the state of Alaska and the native population living within Alaska’s borders.
In summation, the issue of environmental regulation does have positive and negative effects on society. How those are weighed depends on which side of the issue you come down on. The key point that should be kept at the forefront of this issue is that all natural resources need to be treated with respect and a sense of stewardship. If we make it a priority, environmental regulations can be enacted with an eye to the cultural impact that they can make.
Withgott, Jay, & Brennan, Scott. (2008). Environment. San Francisco, CA: Prentice Hall
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Wikipedia. Retrieved June 21, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_Refuge_drilling_controversy#Estimates_of_oi l_reserves,
USGS Arctic Oil and Gas Study released. Retrieved June 28, 2010