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Anti-environmentalism refers to the way that various groups in society have sought to counter the effects of environmental ideology and movements, to redirect and diminish public concern about the environment, to attack left-leaning environmentalists, and to persuade politicians against increased environmental regulation. Environmentalists argue that the only solutions to climate change will come from humans interfering less with the Earth, or to stop interfering altogether. In the eyes of many anti-environmentalists, environmentalism is radical and "anti-human".
Some anti-environmentalists argue that the Earth is not as fragile as some environmentalists maintain, as Earth maintained itself long before humans arrived, and it will continue to maintain itself long after humans are gone. Another significant argument made by anti-environmentalists is that it is in the interest of the economy, and more specifically job creation, to be anti-environment. Groups which are notoriously anti-environment include oil producers and mining companies.
As the nature of anti-environmentalism is a polarizing subject, it has resulted in a variety of conflicts throughout North America, including the Dakota Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota and the Alberta Oil Sands. The Dakota Pipeline, a four-state crude oil pipeline which would transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, evoked backlash from environmentalists, as well as the Indigenous communities residing in South Dakota, primarily the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. These groups had concerns about the ethicality of the pipeline as well as the pollutants the pipeline would release into the water supply of South Dakota inhabitants. Environmentalists had similar complaints regarding the Alberta Oil Sands. Anti-environmentalists argued that the economic benefits that would result from both projects outweigh the negative effects on the environment and these people living in these areas.
History in North America
Concern about the impacts of human activity on the environment in Canada started in the 1960s and pollution was one of the main concerns at this time. Throughout the 1960s, more emphasis was put on nature conservation, as the natural environment started to be seen not only as scenic, but important to human survival. Public concern for the environment turned into action with the development of activist groups such as Greenpeace. This concern was later reflected in decisions made by the Canadian government, as was seen with Canada ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 under the leadership of Jean Chrétien of the Liberal Party. Critics of the environmental movements described Greenpeace as a radical group, displaying an act of “domestic extremism".
During his time as President of the United States, Bill Clinton made strides towards environmentalism and sustainability. Throughout the 1990s, Clinton signed various executive orders committing to the preservation of many facets of the environment including animals, forests and wetlands. In 1993, Clinton and Gore hosted the Forest Conference which was considered to be the beginning of developing a comprehensive, long term policy in which workers, businesses and communities dependent on timber sales would be supported. In the same year, Clinton issued executive orders for federal agencies to increase the use of alternative-fueled vehicles and reduce the use of materials which deplete the ozone. As well, Clinton spearheaded an environmental justice movement, ensuring that low-income citizens and minorities did not disproportionately feel the impacts of industrial pollution, and minimizing the hazards associated with the construction of pipelines.
Clinton’s successor, President George W. Bush stated in his campaign platform that he would “ensure that the federal government, which is the country’s largest polluter, complies with all environmental laws” and that the United States would even exceed the set standards. Though once elected, Bush verged from what he had promised during his campaign, and instead reversed Clinton administration initiatives on drinking water, and advocated for oil exploration in protected regions. Bush’s administration also moved forward in withdrawing its support of the Kyoto Protocol, a worldwide global warming agreement created in 1997. Bush stated that he would work with allies to the United States to reduce greenhouse gases, but would not carry out a plan that would harm the economy and hurt American workers.
From the 1980s, Mexico experienced rampant deforestation to create room for pastures. Tropical forests covered 50% of the state of Tabasco in 1940, which then was reduced to 10% in the late 1980s. The result of this has been mass soil erosion nationwide. By 1985, 17% of Mexico’s land was classified as totally eroded, while almost 50% of land was classified as experiencing an accelerated erosion, or signs of impending erosion. The coastline of Mexico experiences other problems, such as the exploitation of petrol as there are relaxed regulations concerning petrol. In 1992, this resulted in 1,000 barrels of gasoline leaking into municipal sewer systems in Guadalajara, where the gases and chemicals produced an explosion killing almost 200 people. Following this event, in 1994, President Bill Clinton issued executive orders demanding that the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States Concerning the Establishment of a Border Environment Cooperation Commission be enforced so that it aligns with American environmental policy.
One study conducted in the mid-1980s of twelve urban areas around the world concluded that residents of Mexico City had the highest levels of cadmium in their blood. The concentration of pollutants was impacting surrounding ecosystems, as well as residents in the area These impacts included birth defects and high levels of gastrointestinal disease. Also in the 1980s, the Mexican government implemented various anti-pollution policies in Mexico City. These policies included vehicle emission inspections, introducing unleaded gasoline, and the installation of converters on vehicles to help reduce pollution created by buses and trucks. Another study in Mexico determined that five million tons of contaminants were released into the atmosphere each year; ten times more than in the previous decade. Vehicles and industrial plants were found to be the main contributors of contaminants into the atmosphere. As well, fecal matter becomes airborne in Mexico during the winter months, resulting in residents being diagnosed with a variety of respiratory illnesses.
There are many scientific studies, which have analyzed the organized campaigns to sow doubt among laymen and politicians, which has been done by the so-called "denial machine". The process of creating doubt within a community is difficult and requires many moving parts in order for it to be effective. If it is done correctly the influence a denial machine has on the public is enormous. These types of machines have previously been used in the tobacco industry, and in today’s world it can be found in the climate change discussion. It all starts with large corporations and trickles down to politicians, cover organizations, the media, and into the laps of ordinary citizens. Koch Industries is a prime example of this. Since 1997 the Koch Brothers have spent over a hundred-million dollars funding alternative theories of meteorology. These groups are masked as think tanks and their purpose is to spread false ideals and attack climate change scientists. Large corporations do not only funnel money into denial groups, but they also pay off politicians. Politicians like Mitch McConnell have been paid millions of dollars from oil and gas industries to prevent pro-environmental legislation from being passed. This combination of politicians and denial groups spreading propaganda causes a lot of uncertainty within the public community.
Alberta oil sands
The Alberta oil sands has also been a point of contention between environmentalists and anti-environmentalists. Anti-environmentalists maintain that the oil sands have improved Canada’s relations with the United States as Canada is their number one foreign supplier of oil.
As well, the oil sands have brought a secure source of energy to Canada, as well as tremendous economic gains for Alberta. There are some environmental efforts in place to mitigate the effects that the mining involved in operating the Oil Sands has on animal species, though environmentalist groups are not satisfied. Environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace are concerned with the environmental, social and health impacts of the Oil Sands, particularly on First Nations communities in Alberta.
The source of this conflict is that on January 25, 2016, Dakota Access announced that it received permit approval to move forward with the construction of a four-state crude oil pipeline which would transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois. Anti-environmentalists defended the construction of the Pipeline as it would create thousands of jobs, make the United States more energy independent and create a more cost-effective method of transporting oil to major refining markets. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe took issue with this as the pipeline would run through their communities, tainting their sacred land as well as contaminating their water supply. What followed in the next ten months was a response from Sioux communities, protestors and environmentalist groups in the form of peaceful protests in which over 400 arrests were made by local law enforcement. 26 Environmentalist groups responded to the event with an open letter condemning the actions of the North American banks who helped fund the pipeline, and encouraged them to stop any future payments contributing to it.
Effects of climate change
Climate change has been in effect for some time now. Scientific evidence in the last 50 years has proven climate change to be both real, and dangerous by giving scientific evidence for connection between human carbon emissions and indefinite climate change. Examples of the increasingly dangerous effects of this climate change can be seen in many different parts of the world. These effects are seen in Arctic regions as the loss of ice volume is increasing rapidly. In the mid-1970s there was a shift as the annual volume loss was about 147 mm.yr-1 in water equivalent, followed by more rapid loss in the last decade. As heat continues to rise dangerous effects can also be seen in warmer regions of the world. For example, these hot areas consumed by agricultural fields have increased in the numbers of fires, vector-borne diseases, and have ultimately created a decline in agricultural production. The droughts and below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures in 2010 and 2011, affected four regions: the southern United States, western Russia, Western Australia, and East Africa, and the entire continental US was affected. In all these cases droughts reduced crop yields and led to increased wild fires. The Southern half experienced extreme and persistent drought from mid 2010 to September 2011, with the greatest impact in Texas. The Texas drought epicenter had historic rainfall lows of up to 66% below normal, coupled with one of the hottest summer on record in 2011. Global warming helped fuel 2005's destructive hurricane season, researchers said. Their study adds to a roiling scientific debate over the role of climate change in spurring more intense hurricanes. About half of the previous year's extra ocean warmth was due to global warming said the co-author of the study Kevin Trenberth. According to the study, the 2005 hurricane season was a record one with 28 named storms. The season extended beyond its normal November close, lasting until December 30th. It was the first year on record with three category 5 storms. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there's an 80% chance of an above average hurricane season with four to six major hurricanes that year. Sea- surface temperatures are key because hurricanes are essentially heat engines. They draw energy from warm ocean waters and release it in tremendous storms.
Since the early 1990s, key issues across the world regarding how nations should address the concept of climate change have created several tensions. As a result, from these tensions, global relations (specifically between developed and developing nations) have diminished in quality. For example, the Kyoto and Copenhagen Conferences in the late 2000s brought up issues revolving nuclear power energy use in Japan and the nuclear radiation detected on the coast of other countries of the Pacific. Eventually the argument was settled between Japan and its oppositional forces of the United Nations, led by key large nations of the West such as the United States, in the Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord itself hosts large controversy, headed by promises of both developed and developing nations to mitigate advocations for action against climate change. In other words, in an attempt to create a regime that compliments the United Nation's core beliefs that often correlate to Western society's beliefs, attitudes of past imperialism were implemented on a global scale. An earlier occurrence reflects the same concept, when Indonesia experienced widespread drought between the years 1993 and 1997. During this time period, rice, Indonesia's staple crop and food source, experienced major detriment in its production, causing riots resulting from a dramatic increase in price of rice and political instability. China played a key part during this period, being that the country made settlements on subsidies for rice, as China experienced an abundance of rice yield during the same period. This furthered Indonesia's debt to China, cancelling out any progress made by the two nations during the Settlement of Indonesia's Debt Obligation to China conference of 1990.
In recent decades, conservative political parties in North America have been supportive of an anti-environment agenda. In Canada, a main proprietor of this agenda in the past has been Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada. In 2014, Environment Canada released its annual emissions trends report, which showed that Canada was not going to meet emission reduction targets as was promised in 2009. In fact, Canada is on track to increase its emissions up until 2020. While Harper’s government originally committed to reducing emissions, Harper later stated it would be “crazy” to limit oil and gas emissions as the price of oil rose higher
This was consistent with Harper’s decision to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011. The main reason given for this by Harper was that Canada was not having success in meeting the protocol’s targets. In the following years, Harper’s administration made it difficult for environmental groups to operate in Canada. Environmental charities experienced frequent audits by the federal government which resulted in less productivity and being at risk of losing their charitable status. In addition; scientific institutions were eliminated, or were faced with obstacles such as reduced government funding, and rules put into place which made it increasingly difficult for government scientists to discuss their work with media outlets. Scientific positions including the National Science Advisor who is the point-person between the scientific community and the government, were phased out in 2008. Harper also repealed a significant environmental policy which had previously been in place; the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Later, a new version of the act was created, which critics argue allows the government to select which projects are assessed for their ecological impact and which are not.
In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made climate change a primary concern during his first months of leadership. In 2016, Trudeau signed the Paris Agreement which outlines the avenues the international community will pursue to keep global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Trudeau also changed the name of Environment Canada to Environment and Climate Change Canada which was an important milestone for environmentalists, as it acknowledges that climate change exists, and is of equal importance to other environmental concerns.
Recently, President Barack Obama promised to make the United States more environmentally conscious, and implemented the Clean Power Plan, invested significantly in clean energy, and improved standards for fuel economy of our vehicles; this reduced pollution and was also economical. Obama also made a joint agreement with China to reduce the emissions of both countries, and to reduce emissions in the United States by 27% by 2025. The current state of environmental affairs in the United States has changed drastically once again with the new Donald Trump administration. Trump has been open about his plans to alter or withdraw entirely from many climate change and environmental agreements the United States is currently involved in, such as the Paris Agreement. As this agreement is voluntary, the United States would face no penalty if they declined to participate. However, as the United States is the second largest emitter of carbon after China, their lack of participation in the agreement would greatly impact global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. While in 1999, President Bill Clinton announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would enforce the toughest standards to date, Trump's administration recently instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website. EPA employees have stated that if the page is taken down, years of research on global warming will be gone, as well as detailed data on emissions and links to scientific global warming research. On June 1, 2017, Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. Trump stated that "The Paris accord will undermine (the U.S.) economy," and "puts (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantage."
In Mexico, the economy and population are putting a strain on the environment which has led to increased pollution and natural resources being depleted. Mexico has implemented an environmental, legal and institutional framework to minimize their negative impact on the environment, and it is now commonplace for sustainable development to be incorporated into policymaking. This has resulted in improvements in air quality in urban areas, where previously many more individuals were seeing the negative impacts of pollution on their health. As well, water management has become more decentralized, which has assisted municipalities in developing their own water and waste water infrastructure. This has also resulted in safer drinking water for residents of Mexico.
However, there are challenges that persist for Mexico in trying to become more sustainable. One of these challenges is that policymaking needs to be accompanied by capacity building within communities to be able to put policy into practice. Deforestation is also still rampant in Mexico, occurring at one of the highest rates in the world. The OECD recommends strengthening the implementation of legislation concerning nature conservation and reducing pollution using inspections. OECD also recommends increasing the funding Mexico receives from private, public and international sources so that infrastructure, mainly concerning waste water, can be more effectively implemented. Investment in water infrastructure makes up approximately 50% of what Mexico requires, as only one quarter of urban waste water is treated.
A recent collaborative development between all three North American countries is that of the North American Climate, Energy, and Environment Partnership. The partnership was announced by Justin Trudeau, President Barack Obama, and President Enrique Peña Nieto on June 29, 2016, at the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, Canada. The central pillars to this partnership include; advancing clean and secure energy; reducing climate pollutants; promoting clean and efficient transportation; protecting nature and advancing science and showing global leadership in addressing climate change.
- Climate change denial
- Criticism of environmentalism
- Fossil fuels lobby
- Wise use movement
- Environmental skepticism
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