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In Defense of the Environmental Protection Agency: A Call for the Depolarization of Environmental Issues

By Emily Kern, Contributor

Jeb Bush’s lack of support for environmental issues exemplifies the brokenness of our political system. Photo courtesy of Courtney Such
Jeb Bush’s lack of support for environmental issues exemplifies the brokenness of our political system.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Such

After blatantly bashing the EPA and condemning the expansion of the Clean Water Act, former Florida governor and Republican primary candidate Jeb Bush left a bad taste in my mouth during his rally at Furman University last Fri., Oct. 2.

This environment-negative discussion highlighted an issue that exemplifies the brokenness of our political system which is  inherent to a highly partisan divide in Washington. Our current political climate has politicized and polarized the environmental issue, leaving fundamental concerns for the betterment of our nation and the world as a whole to be picked up by one party, and feverishly opposed and written off by the other. This results in politicians supporting a detrimental rhetoric of condemning environmental protection and denying sound, scientific findings simply to support their party’s platform. This rhetoric has made talks like Bush’s and comments like S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s on Friday, in which he discounted the EPA as the “Eliminate Prosperity Agency”, sadly unsurprising.

But we must all remember the EPA and subsequent statutes like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts were established with bipartisan support. Since their inception, it is undeniable that Americans of all political affiliations are better off. The Agency has made great strives to ensure the conservation and regeneration of our declining environment and has, in turn, strengthened America by: banning the widespread use of the pesticide DDT; achieving significant reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that were polluting water sources via acid rain; changing public perceptions of waste, leading to innovations that make use of waste for energy creation and making new products; getting lead out of gasoline; classifying secondhand smoke as a known cause of cancer, leading to smoking bans in indoor public places; establishing stringent emission standards for pollutants emitted by cars and trucks; regulating toxic chemicals and encouraging the development of more benign chemicals; establishing a national commitment to restore and maintain the safety of fresh water via the Clean Water Act; promoting equitable environmental protection for minority and low-income citizens; and increasing public information and communities’ “right to know” what chemicals and/or pollutants they may be exposed to in their daily lives.

Do these sound like actions that “eliminate prosperity”?

Somehow, we still have opponents of environmental regulation like Jeb Bush, claiming that this is an issue for the states and that our government must be reeled back. May I ask, governor, how you warrant combatting a global issue at the state level? Environmental degradation cannot be confined by state or national borders. The issue must be tackled by collaboration between nations, not nations divided by state and party lines.

The environmental problem is bigger than that—it’s an issue that requires that we reverse the partisanship that has broken our nation in two and come together as members of the global community. So let us all join, Republicans and Democrats alike, to foster a rhetoric that encourages the protection of our environment so that we will continue to have the resources to build, create, innovate, trade, and grow our nation into one that supports prosperity for our people and for the rest of the world.

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