U.S. Environment Is Troubling
The 2006 Environmental Performance Index, conducted by Yale and Columbia Universities, revealed that only six nations accomplished higher than 85 percent success in achieving vital environmental goals, such as clean drinking water and low carbon dioxide emissions.
The United States, not very surprisingly, was nowhere to be seen among that top six. Nor the top 10. In fact, the United States ranked 28th, behind most of Western Europe as well as other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile.
Yale and Columbia University also conducted a study for four years prior to this most recent one called the Environmental Sustainability Index, which, when compared to the more recent study, shows how well or poorly some countries, have been dealing with their different environmental issues.
For example, Britain ranks fifth in the recent 2006 study, but was ranked 65th in last year’s sustainability study, thus providing an optimistic example of how the Environmental Performance Index can potentially help nations in order to ‘[evaluate] environmental investments and [improve] policy results,’ as the report claims.
However, the United States does not seem likely to follow suit. Although the United States scored well in goals concerning sanitation and indoor air pollution, other statistics, such as the results in overall air quality and the management of agriculture, forests and fisheries in the United States, did not look favorable.
The informative report is only helpful if we as a nation choose to use it as a critical examination of the continually declining status of our environment.
In comparison to last year, environmental programs and policies have seen a significant decrease in funding under President Bush’s administration.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget has decreased 6 percent from last year. The EPA’s role in the United States’ environment is crucial since it finds ways to manage sanitary air and water conditions, as well as clean waste removal.
In addition, the Department of Energy has seen a 2 percent decrease, and the Department of Agriculture has seen a whopping 10 percent decrease. The budget cuts in these areas are supposedly in order to help reduce the overall federal budget deficit.
In the meantime, the U.S. government has allowed for a 5 percent increase in the Department of Defense’s budget, as well as a 7 percent increase for Homeland Security.
Not to say that the budget adjustments for our nation’s security are not important, but the significant decrease in environmental efforts in the United States does not seem like it was such a good move after learning the disappointing results of the recent study.
The enormous threat of depleting the world’s natural resources quietly looms in the near future, and if the decrease in government spending on the environment becomes a trend, the United States runs the risk of having to become more dependent on other countries and their resources to survive.
As one of the world’s richest nations, the United States is not showing enough concern for the future.
Not investing in clean water and energy sources now will push the United States further and further down on the rankings in the future.
The Environmental Performance Index predictably favored richer countries in most areas, such as sanitation and lead exposure.
However, if this is the case, then we should ask ourselves why the United States isn’t ranked higher. Although we may be able to help the deficit temporarily by pulling money from environmental programs, maintaining the programs will prove monetarily beneficial in the long run because the United States will not have to spend billions of dollars later on the energy and resources that we are having so much trouble preserving now.
The author of the report, Daniel C. Esty, who is also the director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said, ‘It’s like holding up a mirror and having someone help you see what you couldn’t see before.’
We can only hope that the United States isn’t too busy to look in the mirror.
Linda Domingo is a third-year English major.