“Regulation” has become a dirty word in politics since the broad deregulation of the late 20th century. While most think of economic regulation, using government authority to protect the environment is perhaps the single most important use of regulatory authority. With the current administration issuing a freeze on new regulations and promoting an even darker connotation for the concept, our environment sits on a dire precipice. Critics of environmental regulation fail to grasp our complete reliance on a stable environment.
Humanity has managed to pull a beautiful life-sustaining planet into an accelerated environmental catastrophe. Continued antagonism toward environmental regulation serves as the ultimate symbol of an anthropocentric mindset. We believe that humanity is infinitely more valuable than all other flora and fauna. Therefore, human systems, such as the economy, are prioritized over “unintelligent” systems of natural life.
With this fatally-illogical mindset, politicians on the Right tend to place deregulation ahead of environmental policy. They bemoan the Environmental Protection Agency as a symbol of excessive interference, believing natural forces and consumer interests provide enough motivation to serve the interest of both the Earth and capitalists. In reality, there is no circumstance under which the environment can come second to economics or anti-regulatory fervor.
It is in our existential interest to preserve the planet as best we can. The recent freeze in regulation has threatened the status of several species in the United States. While it might require an esoteric understanding of ecology to grasp the importance of a single species, such as the rusty-patched bumblebee, this is precisely why specialization should be cherished. The anti-intellectual distrust of scientists is a self-defeating mindset that, when combined with the current climate catastrophe, will prove disastrous.
Carl Sagan famously described the Earth as a pale blue dot, sustaining life against incredible, unfathomable odds. While humanity has done its best to destroy that capability, this administration possesses the ability to rapidly destabilize efforts at stemming the tide. Instead of a one principled-man, we have given the keys of national regulation to a menagerie of harebrained nitwits who find more beauty in a sterile golf course than in untamed wilderness.
Unfortunately, the new administration is working from an established skepticism. In 2015, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) walked into the Capitol with a snowball as if to suggest the presence of snow disproved climate change. Sen. Inhofe is either a special kind of a stupid, or a special kind of evil. Either way, standing in a burning house and screaming “What fire?” cannot be the basis of climate policy. We are in the midst of massive climate change of an unforeseen pace, as initiated by the burning of fossil fuels. The greatest threats of climate change, as far as humans are concerned, are not flooded beach houses and mosquito-filled summers, but the continued existence of humanity.
Climate change is an existential threat, and one that will continue to grow in severity if the most powerful office in the world continues to treat it as a “hoax” or a problem to be dealt with tomorrow. Placing deregulation ahead of climate change policy will ensure humanity makes a swift exit as the result of our own myopia and folly.
Humanity’s greatest mistake has been in thinking ourselves to be exceptional in existence. If our species disappeared tomorrow, only our pets would take notice. Placing deregulation at the forefront of American policy threatens millions of species of flora and fauna in the short-term. In the long-term, this thinking is suicidal for our species. Our ability to rapidly adapt to a world altered by climate change is doubtful. Our continued belief that deregulation should extend to the environment is proof.
In reality, humans are no more important than trees, flowers, bees, fish, birds or beetles. If humanity is to thrive, we must recognize our relative unimportance, while recognizing the need to halt behavior which is destructive to our planet. This planet will outlive humans. In the end, our continued existence is almost entirely dependent on a dramatic recalculation of our own place in this world. We are just a cog, not the entire machine.
Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @ChrisPSacco.