Commonwealth environmental responsibility
Something is happening in Pennsylvania. Grassroots are joining with small government to appeal to the ‘top roots’ to focus on reducing emissions from fossil fuel powered energy plants. The risks to our health are considerable, as physicians say that polluted air will be the major cause of illness in the future. The risks to global health are great, as these pollution-emitting sources of energy cause increases in green house gases in our atmosphere causing rise in temperatures, and causing acidity and reduced health of the oceans and waterways.
Pennsylvania is said to be second only to Alaska in its water wealth, has beautiful open spaces, and has an agricultural industry that is working to become less polluting. The impairments to our water sources, almost 23,000 miles in Pennsylvania according to the Pennsylvania offices of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, are a loss that we still can prevent and repair if we work together. There is a growing consensus in Pennsylvania that we must move away from dirty energy sources. The only concerns heard at public hearings held by the Department of Environmental Protection are fears of job losses. New training for existing jobs, and new jobs with environmental skills, can be created in the Commonwealth that focus on many areas of environmental protections, from methods to better monitor toxic releases, to creating innovations in more efficient and safer energy extraction from renewable sources, to identifying ways to develop renewable energy and preserve the environment on site, rather than having to pipe or surface transport energy around the country, which is a major source of environmental degradation.
Economists who analyze the economic parameters and costs to industry find that putting resources into the environment actually increases industry-level employment (“Jobs versus the Environment: An Industry-Level Perspective”, 2000), and this analysis did not consider the new skill areas that are growing. Corporate environmental responsibility enhances the status of the company both for its consumers and its shareholders.
We all need is to increase the priority that we give to our consciously made decisions to pollute. The other side of not identifying the silver linings in
Pennsylvania is said to be second only to Alaska in its water wealth, has beautiful open spaces, and has an agricultural industry that is working to become less polluting.
investing in environmental protection and renewal, is the serious and increasing risk to the health of our children, and ultimately, of the human population. For the first time in 100 years of modern IQ measurement, IQ has decreased after slowly increasing in a predictable way. Many of the myriad of chemicals that we are releasing into the environment have effects on brain development (e.g., “Examining Childhood Development in Contaminated Urban Settings”, 2000, and “Hazardous Waste and Neurobehavioral Effects: A Developmental Perspective”, 1997). Also, the health risk from accidents and longterm environmental degradation affect all citizens, including the workers and union members who are at greatest risk for workplace accidents and unseen discharges.
Decisions we make to keep industry the way it is in our state should be tempered by the many risks that we take on if we ignore environmental effects, and keep Pennsylvania behind in its development of new jobs that include environmental training. An immediate opportunity is the Clean Power Plan in Pennsylvania, which has strong bipartisan support to decrease carbon emissions from fossil fuel powered energy plants by 26 million tons annually by 2030, as compared to levels in 2012. Progress is being made to accomplish this by transition to clean energy economies, and we are about 1/3 of the way to this goal, but the plan will need to cover both existing and new power plants to achieve our goal. Carol L. Armstrong, Ph.D.
Adj. Associate Professor
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine