Earth Day 2019: Focusing on Policies that Don’t Intend to Hurt the Environment…But Hurt the Environment Anyway

Sometimes, it’s not easy being green. We are often required to drive to/from work, drive our kids to school, drive to get to other family members’ places, have a job that requires someone to drive…on and on it goes. The bottom line is that even if we don’t want to put more pollution in the air, our living habits are such that we often have no other choice.

And here’s the thing: so many of these things are the result of policies that don’t intend to hurt the environment per se, but do so nevertheless. 

But how? Here’s a list of several policies not intended to hurt the environment, but that hurt the environment anyway:

  1. Approaches to land use have often favored development of car-reliant suburbs over transit-reliant areas. For decades, the focus was (and still is) on building around the highway. One of the most famous examples in the post-World War II era was with parts of Long Island in New York being built around the Long Island Expressway, but there are many other examples of this. Policy that allows for the building of areas that are destined to be mass transit deserts leads to heavy use of the car and heavy pollution.
  2. Poor funding for mass transit means fewer mass transit options, and pushing people towards the car. If there’s no mass transit available to take because of a lack of funding for mass transit, what choice is there other than to drive a pollution-emitting car?
  3. School choice policies mean that kids have to be driven or bused to the schools of their choices. What I say here may be controversial, as school choice sounds great and is popular with many. However, one of the consequences of school choice is that, instead of having to walk to the neighborhood school (especially in urban areas), kids have to be driven to far-away places. No pun intended, but if governmental bureaucrats invested energy into making all schools good, there would be no need for kids to have to be driven for miles, while emitting pollutants into the air.
  4. Speaking of schools, many school districts have school lunches that prominently feature food that emits high levels of greenhouse gases. As things like red meats are a large part of the lunch fare at many schools, school districts are heavily using food that emits high amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Lean meats and vegetables are not only healthier for kids than red meats, but they are healthier for the environment.
  5. We’re not doing enough to make housing affordable. In places like New York City and Washington, DC, people often drive long distances to work because nearby areas are simply not affordable. In short, affordability crises are not just bad for people’s pocketbooks, but bad for the environment because people have to drive to work.
  6. Many municipalities recycle but don’t provide easy access for people who want to recycle certain kinds of items. That’s how you end up with copious amounts of e-waste inside a home (including my home)—sometimes a city, even one that purports to be environmental (such as New York City), doesn’t have easy access for people who want to recycle said e-waste (or other waste).

Obviously, this is a rather car-heavy list. Regardless of that, my point is that there are many governmental approaches and policies that are not malicious to the environment per se, but end up doing a great deal of harm to it. And, during this week of Earth Day, we should be aware of such policies.

10 Replies to “Earth Day 2019: Focusing on Policies that Don’t Intend to Hurt the Environment…But Hurt the Environment Anyway”

  1. All very good points. One thing, though, is we humans have to change the way we think. Even those for whom mass transportation is handy will often prefer to take their car for reasons of flexibility and privacy. Even with carpool lanes, it’s amazing how few people actually carpool. People have become accustomed to their ‘conveniences’ and talking them down from those is a huge challenge. Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks!

      You are right that an attitude change is required too. Case-in-point: I live two blocks from a subway station, and there are households with 2-4 cars! That’s just not ret necessary, unless you have a family with 20 people or something like that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! I’m always like, “really?” Although I am guilty of driving to my friend’s house down the street – but that’s due to the sexual assaulter that the police won’t do anything about that also lives on that street. After two runs-ins with him while walking my dogs I have no choice but to drive now.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yep. Though I feel like what you describe is more about caring for your mental health, which is a whole different situation than driving down the street to the grocery store just because.

        Like

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