Pro-environmental action a must by gov

Andy Slaven

Libertarians enjoy little government intervention in aspects like personal liberty, foreign policy and free-market exchange
because essentially we believe life can be enjoyed more when there are less restrictions on the freedom of people.

With this being said, environmentally conscious libertarians find ourselves at a crossroad between our basic belief of having a limited government and the knowledge that global warming is almost undoubtedly a direct result of industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

If nothing is done to help reduce these emissions, it will eventually lead to unknown consequences for the entire planet, and this is a problem that the government needs to step in and help absolve more effectually.

Environmental protection by the government is nothing new to our country. The first major federal law pertaining to sustainability of the environment dates back to the late 19th century. The Refuse Act of 1899 prohibited the “dumping of refuse” into navigable waters, except by permit.  Since then, the government has occasionally looked to promote a healthy environment for future generations by producing other laws such as the Clean Air Act of 1963 and the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986.

Without these regulations, corporations and people alike would regularly use the planet aimlessly to promote their own wealth and ‘needs’ at the expense of harming the living condition of others.

Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a huge step forward and issued the Clean Power Plan in 2015, which put the nation on track to cutting harmful pollution from our national power sector by 32 percent, below 2005 levels, while also cutting smog-and soot-forming emissions that threaten public health by 20 percent.

There are also international arrangements such as the Kyoto Protocol that were created as a way to reduce emissions on a global scale, but over time their
effectiveness has been questioned. Some researchers claim the Kyoto Protocol has failed because the three countries with the highest share of global carbon-dioxide emissions (China, India, and the U.S.) have refrained from participating.

During Kyoto Protocol negotiations in December 1997, the U.S. demanded as a provision of signing that all of its military operations worldwide be exempted from measurement or reductions. The Bush administration then obtained this provision but refused to sign on anyway and continued to pass another provision through Congress guaranteeing military exemption from any energy reduction or measurement.

According to a Project Censored article, environmental journalist Johanna Peace reports that military activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Peace states, “the military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal government’s energy demand.”

Humans have the right to use the planet until our actions begin to infringe on the lives of others around us. This notion also stands true for government bodies, or at least it should anyway. As we move forward to control emissions in the private sector, it is equally important for the government to look at their contribution to the environment as well as the industrial giants.

According to the author of “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism” Barry Sanders, “the greatest single assault on the environment, on all of us around the globe, comes from one agency—the Armed Forces of the United States.”

The planet faces a very grim future if all humans do not aspire towards a more sustainable society. Not only should our country support EPA regulated greenhouse gas emissions, but also regulation of the Department of Defense.

Conservationist and writer Aldo Leopold once said, “cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays.”

All sides of the political spectrum, not just libertarians, should join the movement for a more sustainable future. While this condones allowing the government to regulate certain private sectors, it avoids an almost certain disaster of future public harm, and it would also bring to light the unrestricted  amount of carbon emissions the U.S. military is allowed.

Some libertarians ask, “where will the line be drawn between government control of public health and personal freedom?”

An example would be the government stepping in and mandating people to stop smoking because it is bad for them.” I refute this with a statement that all libertarians can agree with: the harm you bring onto yourself is your decision. The harm that huge corporations bring to the planet enslaves all of its inhabitants with poor health slowly but surely, yet it is not our choice whether we want to be poisoned by pollution.

In fact, pollution is an infringement on everyone’s personal liberty and their freedom to be able to live on a healthy planet as natural beings of Earth. If we don’t support the movement to limit greenhouse gases as a unified nation, then future generations will have to pay the price for our mistakes.