True grit

The Denver Post has some good news about the people in the great American West:

A new survey has found a majority of voters in the Rocky Mountain region regard clean water, air and land that sustains wildlife as very important.

Two thirds of surveyed voters said these natural resources are fragile and must be cared for and protected.

The "Conservation in the West" survey, commissioned by Colorado College and released this morning, also found that two thirds of voters believe current laws protecting air, land and water should be strengthened or better enforced.

Even when offered an economic rationale for relaxing environmental standards, 77 percent of voters surveyed said standards that apply to major industries must be maintained. Only 18 percent favored relaxing standards in an effort to boost the economy and generate jobs.

The survey indicates most voters consider environmental protection and a strong economy to be compatible goals.

Good going to my brothers and sisters out west!

Now, I don’t follow the politics or internal slants of the Denver Post, but I do know that many news outlets (like my paper here in Rhode Island) have a tendency to veer far left on social issues. Stories about eco-loving people can fit a big-government agenda, especially in an age of growing economic warfare. After all, more and more, government-sponsored environmental protection is the target of budget-cutting fiscal conservatives.

But as a government regulator myself, I have a question: do we really need the state and federal government to regulate industries, or individuals or even local governments about keeping things clean and healthy?

Two thoughts:

First, we could say “no—we do not need government intervention.” In a perfect world, properly educated people would be responsible enough to live their lives in accordance with natural laws. We’d reuse as much as we could, under consume, recycle, not build or dump in wetlands, nor use non-toxic products—the works. And we’d do business only with companies and countries that did likewise. We’d think about our neighbor(s) and our planet when making our decisions.

Thankfully, many try to live this way—without big government telling them what to do. And indeed, government is not always the answer. It’s not uncommon for government programs (and the bureaucrats that run them) to expand their mission and scope far beyond their original intent, and fail at their tasks nonetheless. At work, I call it “empire building.” Thanks to original sin, what was once a good idea soon becomes a monster, sucking huge amounts of taxpayer money for not a lot of good.

Which brings me to my second thought: also thanks to original sin, we humans can be slobs. Oftentimes, we want whatever feels best and easiest at the moment, and we’d rather not think of the consequences. And so our fallen nature seems to require that civilization put in place environmental rules and regulations, and to designate people to enforce them (as well as to assist and encourage them to do right).

And so the rub. Thanks to the undeniable reality of original sin, we need government to keep order, but because of that same fallen human nature, government—as necessary as it is—can quickly become the problem. (And so we find yet another example of why we need God in our lives and our world.)

Bottom line: because so many of us care about the ecology and so many are also hurting economically, we best make good and temperate choices in funding what we need to—and no more—to keep our air, water and land clean for our use and for all those generations yet to come.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.