Among our student body there is a deep sense of unease with the direction of the U.S. federal government, but that is coupled with a high degree of confidence in the importance of the emerging green economy. Over the next several years, many of our graduates will be avoiding the U.S. federal government and devoting their brainpower to nonprofits, local governments and the private sector.
The presidential transition process will continue to contain distractions, disinformation and dysfunction, but my hope is that the people running our national government remember that we need clean air, water and food to live. Government’s fundamental function is ensuring our security and health. Environmental rules must be enforced for that function to be performed.
On New Year’s Day 2017, the impossible took place and the first phase of a new Second Avenue subway line in New York City was finally opened. Governor Cuomo demonstrated what visible, positive public leadership could accomplish.
Denying the science of global warming is absurd, but accepting the science of climate change does not require decision-makers to accept the policy prescriptions of climate scientists.
Privatization is seen by some as a way of rebuilding America’s infrastructure more efficiently than public sector reconstruction, but experience with privatization is mixed. Sometimes it works well; sometimes it doesn’t.
The year 1970 is the year that Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States enacted the Clean Air Act, establishing national standards for clean air. Nearly half a century later, America’s population and economy are both much larger than they were back then, while our air pollution is lower. As Mr. Trump’s anti-regulatory EPA nominee Scott Pruitt packs his bags for D.C., I hope he takes some time to check out what’s happening to the air in China.
While many people around the world are concerned about President-elect Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, I am far more concerned about the possible signal to American corporations and jurisdictions that enforcement of our air, water, and toxic rules would be relaxed under EPA’s new administrator.
Princess, a division of Carnival Cruise line, the largest passenger cruise company in the world, has pleaded guilty to seven felony charges and will pay $40 million after employees on a cruise ship were caught dumping oiled waste into the seas and lying to cover up their actions. This as an issue of management that is not limited to Princess or Carnival, but to whole areas of business practice that continue to ignore their responsibility to apply best management practices and the best available technology to operations such as waste disposal.
We do not know enough about our planet and the impact of human technology on its basic systems. It is beyond idiotic to think we can grow our population and consumption this much, this quickly, and have no impact. But it is also foolish to overstate what we know and ask policymakers to invest trillions of dollars on impacts we have not yet seen. Scientists need to be encouraged and funded to present facts, projections and options.
If you had the experience of hearing Leon Billings teach and tell stories, it is hard to believe his voice is no longer with us. He was a great American and an important figure in American environmental history.