Warner Pacific College
May 13, 2014
“Federal Governments Environmental Injustice”
Since the founding of The United States the position of the various entities in charge has been in a constant state of change with regards to the environment and natural resources. This has had a positive effect and today there is still conflict but I feel we are heading in the right direction. A large part of this change is due to the shift in public opinion over time.
When independence was declared in 1776 The United States was a coalition of colonies that had been prospering from selling resources and goods to Europe. The resources in the new land seemed endless. People settled in the New World for many reasons like religious freedom, entrepreneurship, and to simply homestead. Early environmental policy like the General Land Ordinances promoted development and western expansion. This helped with crowded eastern cities and ensuring control of the continent from European powers. (Withgott, 2014) I think overall these laws were the right policy at the time. I am not sure our nation would be the same today if it were not for our leaders implementing these laws.
Then we come to the 19th century when the evidence of corruption and the power of greed is ever so prevalent. Expansion happened at an uncontrollable rate and I believe special interest groups took advantage of a developing nation that had no continuity in the government allowing for all kinds of bribes and unjust laws. Some of these laws were both good and bad like The Homestead Act of 1862. This law allowed people to claim 160 acres of land for a fee if they lived on it for five years. The time limit was meant to ensure the land was intended for personal use. However, if you paid a larger fee you could shorten your waiting period to 14 months. (Withgott, 2014) This became the difference between settlers and entrepreneurs. I feel that we should still have a law that allows for homesteading by private parties for personal use. Although that will be very complicated given the fact that corporations are viewed today as individuals. There was a need for economic growth and prosperity as we developed into a world power, but reining that in was a struggle in the 20th century.
While there are many reasons that I can find to disagree with Theodore Roosevelt I cannot be more thankful for his role in the creation of our national park, national forest, and national wild life refuge systems. These were major steps in stopping the exploitation of natural resources. The public position began to shift and people began to understand that the resources are exhaustible. In the latter half of the 20th century we began to not only understand that our resources are exhaustible but we started to see the impact of our actions and industry on the environment. The presents of pollution was in everyone’s face and on everyone’s mind. Policy makers responded with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (Withgott, 2014); which was a great piece of legislation.
In our nation’s history environmental policy has been an afterthought. As I stated above some of this has been the cause for our expansion and prosperity, but it is my opinion that we must be more proactive today. The best way to understand the impact of our policies and/or actions is to use science to our benefit and attempt to understand all of the second and third order effects of our decisions.
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2014). Science and Sustainability: An Introduction to Environmental Science. Environment: the science behind the stories (5th ed., ). Glenview: Pearson Education.