One of the behaviors that distinguishes humans from other animal species is our willingness to do things we know are bad for us, but we do them anyway.
Using tobacco, drunk driving, building in a floodplain; take your pick. We humans have no shortage of self-destructive behaviors.
So it isn’t surprising the current occupant of the White House wants to make it easier to pollute America’s streams, rivers and wetlands. That’s right, the Trump Administration announced last week it is repealing the 2015 Waters of the United States rule.
The Obama-era regulation placed limits on chemicals that can be used near water bodies. The upshot is that polluters no longer will need a permit to discharge chemical nasties into the nearest available waterway.
Got a problem? Dump it in the creek.
This is music to the ears of many farmers, a reliably conservative bloc that supports the president even as he undermines their livelihood. Donald Trump is, after all, dancing with thems who brung him.
It’s naked political payback, but is increased water pollution a good idea for the health and welfare of 327 million Americans?
We’ve been down this road before, as anyone who remembers DDT can attest. DDT was an effective pesticide, but it also was a phenomenally toxic compound with a name that took 31 letters to spell.
Because it was so harmful, DDT was banned for use in the United States in 1972.
The ban was good news for humans, but it was great news for bald eagles – which were on a nose-dive to extinction. Coupled with the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the ban on DDT was the sine qua non for salvation of the symbol of our country.
That’s what progress used to look like.
Now we have a president willing to gut environmental protections to please people who already support him, even if he trades Iowa for Iceland.
The problem isn’t limited solely to water pollution. The presidential pendulum is swinging the wrong way on many of today’s most-pressing environmental issues.
Ever heard of climate change, and the need to reduce fluorocarbon emissions? Of course you have, which is why El Presidente wants car and truck manufacturers to produce vehicles that are less fuel efficient than today’s models.
Fortunately, major automotive manufacturers recognize consumers want vehicles that get better gas mileage. Driven by economic self-interest, they are pushing back against the lunacy of reducing fuel efficiency.
What generates this contempt for thoughtful stewardship of natural resources?
The answer lies in the genetic DNA of America itself.
Back when the Pilgrims were playing house at Plymouth Rock, the New World was bereft of music, literature, science or any other expression of advanced human endeavor. The only thing this land had going for it was abundant natural resources.
Need land for a house? You can have it, for free! Need wood to build that house? You can have that for free, too. Need food for your table? Feel free to hunt and fish wherever you like. No need to ask the King for permission.
If it was a book, America’s origin story would be titled, “We’ve Got Plenty.”
But when something is abundant, there’s no need to conserve it. We’re always going to have clean water, right? And we’ll always have buffalo, right? And passenger pigeons? We’ll always have them, too, won’t we?
The ethos of America has always been that Nature will provide. There will always be enough.
It worked for several centuries, but the era of limits has arrived.
There are too many of us here in the Land of the Free. There is a limit to how much we can pollute our water. There is a limit to how much we can pollute our air.
And there is a limit to who is qualified to be president.
William Brock lives in Pullman.