‘Con­trol vol­ume’ needed to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

If en­gi­neer­ing has taught me any­thing, it is the im­por­tance of the con­trol vol­ume. Most prob­lems are so com­plex that it is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand them un­less you de­fine ex­actly what you care about. This has many ap­pli­ca­tions to pol­i­tics, and es­pe­cially to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Most cor­po­ra­tions, driven by quar­terly earn­ings, de­fine their con­trol vol­ume as their com­pany. They send money out to pur­chase sup­plies to build prod­ucts. They then send these prod­ucts out in ex­change for money. Pol­lu­tion is not in­side their con­trol vol­ume, nor are non-re­new­able re­sources or beau­ti­ful land­scapes. Now imag­ine if com­pa­nies ex­tended their con­trol vol­ume to in­clude the stream next to the chem­i­cal runoff? Imag­ine if they in­cluded beau­ti­ful wilder­ness and de­plet­ing re­sources?

If ev­ery­one be­haved as a Boy or Girl Scout, com­pa­nies would in­stantly rec­og­nize that quar­terly prof­its are no ex­cuse for the per­ma­nent de­struc­tion of Earth’s trea­sures. Un­for­tu­nately, they do not. With­out reg­u­la­tion, there is no quar­terly fis­cal cost of pol­lu­tion. So, for a cor­po­ra­tion driven by this met­ric, there is no in­cen­tive to do any­thing about it. This is the role of govern­ment.

The govern­ment, through tax­a­tion and reg­u­la­tion, im­poses costs on com­pa­nies to dis­in­cen­tivize such short-sighted be­hav­ior. The govern­ment forces com­pa­nies to ex­pand their con­trol vol­ume and en­sures that the price of de­stroy­ing na­ture is far, far higher than the profit gained from it. It doesn’t kill jobs. It forces com­pa­nies to be­come more re­spon­si­ble. If it were to kill jobs, the govern­ment could, and should, in­ter­vene to help sub­si­dize the in­dus­try’s cost of tran­si­tion­ing to new pro­ce­dures.

I am a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can, but I don’t take in­spi­ra­tion from the ab­surd rhetoric of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of “lead­ers.” In­stead, lis­ten to one of the great­est Repub­li­cans: A scholar, sol­dier, states­man and leader, Teddy Roo­sevelt re­al­ized that the en­vi­ron­ment was worth far more than the prof­its of cor­po­ra­tions. He said: “Of all the ques­tions which can come be­fore this na­tion, short of the ac­tual preser­va­tion of its ex­is­tence in a great war, there is none which com­pares in im­por­tance with the great cen­tral task of leav­ing this land even a bet­ter land for our de­scen­dants than it is for us, and train­ing them into a bet­ter race to in­habit the land and pass it on. Con­ser­va­tion is a great moral is­sue for it in­volves the pa­tri­otic duty of in­sur­ing the safety and con­tin­u­ance of the na­tion.”

Can’t ev­ery tree-hug­ging lib­eral and gun-tot­ing con­ser­va­tive stand there over­look­ing the Grand Canyon, Bad­lands or the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and say with con­fi­dence that pro­tect­ing its beauty for them­selves and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions is more im­por­tant than dol­lars in some­body’s bank?

David Al­man, Hunt­ing­town

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