The protection of the environment is an urgent issue in many countries nowadays. The United States of America is not an exception. The rapid industrialization and devastating human activity have led to the terrible condition of the environment. The government of the U.S. realizes the urgency of the problem and takes necessary measures on both state and local levels. In the following paper, the initiatives for the protection of the environment in the U.S. and the State of Hawaii will be investigated.
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Environmental Protection — General Information
The protection of the environment became a significant issue in the previous century. Many scientists proved that human activity had an immense effect on the environment. Even more, it was demonstrated that human activity changed the planet’s ecosystems and biological cycling drastically so that it became difficult for the planet to maintain its stable condition.
The promotion of the protection of the environment became one of the most popular trends. Nowadays, people are aware of all dangers for Earth. Despite this fact, nothing changes significantly. There are several reasons for this.
According to Harris (2012), three reasons explain the difficulties of inefficient environmental protection. First, the science of the protection of the environment is extremely demanding. Everything is interconnected in nature. One action can lead to unexpected results. Second, numerous stakeholders can be both the causes of problems and potential solutions, as well.
Everything depends on the scope of interest of stakeholders. Third, the resolving of environmental issues requires dramatic changes in the ways of life of all people. Not everybody understands this need. Many individuals are more interested in their personal well-being and do not comprehend the global level of the problem.
Overview of the Current Issues in the U.S.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides information about the current environmental issues in the U.S. Thus, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.), the following concerns should be distinguished:
- Air pollution. It has a direct effect on the health condition of many people. The most significant problems that are connected with air pollutions are acid rains and greenhouse gases;
- Toxins and chemicals are another threat to the environment. The most widespread dangerous chemicals include hazardous air pollutants, asbestos, drinking water contaminants (dioxins or benzene), mercury, volatile organic compounds, and lead;
- Climate change is one of the most urgent issues in the whole world. The scientists have proved that the temperature of the Earth is rising every year. It results in the melting of ice caps, increasing level of oceans, and potential increase of natural disasters that can be devastating for humanity;
- Pesticides usage;
- Waste — both solid and toxic wastes are extremely dangerous for the environment. The planet cannot get rid of them on its own. Hazardous and non-hazardous waste has already affected many biological cycles;
- Water pollution is a grave threat to wildlife and humanity. The polluted water negatively affects the health condition and impedes the natural cycling;
- Noise pollution is one more problem that is caused by human activity in most cases. Transport is the primary source of noise in large cities. Noise can affect human well-being and lead to constant problems with health.
History of the Need for Government Regulation in the U.S.
The current stage of the need for government regulation of the protection of the environment starts in the 20th century. However, it should be briefly noted that everything commenced from the period of industrialization. The rapid industrial development altered the world. Thousands of plants began operating, and it resulted in terrible water and air pollution. The consequences occurred in the 20th century. Besides, there have been other disasters that affected the need for governmental regulation of environmental protection.
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The story of Love Canal is one of the vivid examples. Love Canal was a small settlement not far from Niagara Falls. In the 1970s, the incidence of cancer diseases increased drastically among residents. Besides, many children were born with various birth defects. It turned out that thirty years earlier, the company Hooker Chemical began dumping industrial waste in the canal. In 1953, the company sold the land, and the new school was built in that place.
A few years later, the whole building crumbled, and the disaster was revealed (Moss, 2010). In 1919, the residents of the town Libby became affected by continuous emissions of asbestos from the local plant. More than two hundred people died of asbestos-related diseases, and approximately one thousand residents were ill due to the same reason. According to Moss (2010), the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island is regarded as the most significant disaster in the field of nuclear power.
In 1979, the meltdown of the secondary non-nuclear system led to the release of gases. Unfortunately, no exact data concerning the number of released gases remained. Nevertheless, the disaster was a noteworthy sign for the government to react. The concerns about water pollution became urgent in 1969. In that year, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was extremely polluted. Because of the overabundance of pollutants, the great fire occurred. This situation showed the government the necessity to react to the problem of water pollution as well.
Major Laws that Regulate the Protection of the Environment in the U.S.
According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, the primary laws about the environment in the U.S. are:
- Atomic Energy Act was introduced in 1954. The Act defined the necessary requirements for the regulation and monitoring of nuclear plant activities. Besides, the government’s objective was to decrease the level of radiation hazards and radioactive waste;
- Clear Air Act. It was developed in 1970. Clear Air Act set standards and requirements for air quality regulation. In 1990, the government introduced important amendments to the act. Air purity and quality norms became stricter;
- Clean Water Act followed the previous one. It was created in 1972. The standards for water purity and quality were identified in the act. The first set of significant amendments concerning the increased monitoring of toxic waste in water occurred in 1987. In 1990, the second group of changes reflected the danger of oil spill and necessary regulations related to the problem;
- Endangered Species Act was signed in 1973. The act was created to provide compulsory protection and recovery measures for endangered species in the United States;
- Marine Mammal Protection Act was designed in 1992 to protect dolphins, seals, sea lions, whales, and other marine mammals due to the worsening of their natural habitat;
- The Safe Drinking Water Act was introduced in 1947. The requirements for the quality of tap water were established in this act. The list of common pollutants and contaminants was included in the following amendments. Also, the “right to know” was added, which presupposed that people had to know about the quality of water from their taps.
National Environmental Policy Act should be described separately as far as it is of great significance for the environmental protection in the U.S. NEPA was the first statute that reflected the modern requirements for the protection of the environment. Cullingworth and Caves (2013) investigate the scope of regulations predetermined by NEPA.
The Act requires all federal agencies to conduct their activities in such a way that they do not violate environmental policies described in the Act. Cullingworth and Caves (2013) write, “perhaps the key section of NEPA is its requirement for all agencies of the federal government to integrate federal environmental considerations in their operations. In essence, it is a tool designed to help decision-makers make better decisions” (p. 249).
EPA and CEQ as Primary Federal Organizations for Protection of the Environment
CEQ and EPA are two federal organizations that work for NEPA. They are the most significant regulators of the environmental issues on the state level. The Council of Environmental Quality is a national body that belongs to the Executive Office of the President. CEQ handles the coordination, regulation, and execution of the environmental policies.
The organization should also report about the quality of the environment in the country. The President appoints its chair. That person becomes the primary advisor on environmental issues. Some of the functions of CEQ include the creation of the annual report, monitoring of the activity of federal agencies, and the evaluation of the environmental trends (Cullingworth & Caves, 2013).
As far as EPA is the largest national organization, it is significant to analyze its activity and critically evaluate it. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a broad range of responsibilities. President Nixon established EPA in 1970. Since that time, it carried a substantial administrating burden.
President Nixon realized the necessity to reorganize the system of control of the quality of the environment. The events described above served as premises for making such a decision. Before the foundation of EPA, there were separate small agencies that had limited responsibilities and did not collaborate effectively. That is why the President decided to create one organization with the largest authority that would handle the whole branch of environmental protection.
The enforcement tools of EPA are laws that were written by Congress. EPA has the highest authority to behave as the primary body that ensures law enforcement in the environmental sector.
Besides, numerous national enforcement initiatives assist EPA in taking necessary measures when laws are violated. According to the article “National Enforcement Initiatives” (n.d.), “Every three years, EPA sets national enforcement initiatives to focus on civil and criminal enforcement resources and expertise on serious pollution problems affecting communities” (para.1).
The formal structure of EPA comprises the Office of Administrator, headquarter offices, and regional offices around the nation. The current EPA’s administrator is Gina McCarthy. The Office of Administrator, in its turn, is further subdivided into smaller sections such as Office of Civil Rights, Office of Policy, Office of Homeland Security, and others. There are twelve headquarter offices. Every office handles one particular area.
For instance, there are Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Environmental Information, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (EPA Organization Chart n.d.). More than fifteen thousand people work for EPA throughout the country. All employees are highly educated and have the necessary knowledge and skills for conducting their duties.
EPA’s budget is open to the public. Thus, one can find information about the funding for 2016 on the official website. The proposed budget for EPA comprises 8.6$ billion. The funding will be used for climate change issues, air quality improvement, water protection, toxic waste reduction, and other urgent concerns (FY 2016 Budget n.d.).
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The performance of EPA has always been proving its effectiveness. EPA is the most efficient federal organization for environmental protection in the U.S. According to Seattle (2011), EPA set a variety of policy priorities and enforced laws that changed the world for the better. Evermore, EPA became the inspiration for other countries to fight for the greener and safer future together. The success of EPA can be proved by introducing the list of some of its achievements.
Thus, EPA banned the massive usage of DDT pesticide. This pesticide killed bald eagles as well as some other birds. Other EPA’s accomplishments include the fighting for gasoline without lead, prohibition of smoking in public places, making the standards of emission of pollutants by cars and trucks more severe, the enhancing of the public awareness of dangerous substances and pollutants. EPA motivated millions of people to become environmentally friendly.
Recent Controversy and Recommendations for Future Reforms
There are different problems in each of the states of the U.S. However, the major issue that is related to every large city in the country is the issue of noise pollution. According to Hammer, Swinburn, and Neitzel (2014), ten million Americans suffer from noise pollution, and that leads to the development of various adverse health conditions. Noise pollution is the most widespread type of pollution in America.
In 1981, one of the first attempts to analyze the level of noise pollution was made. Thus, the result demonstrated that almost 100 million people of the overall American population suffered from noise exposure that was high enough to cause health problems. The traffic increased drastically in the last few decades. For instance, in 2012, the New York City authorities received almost forty thousand noise complaints.
The government had to react to this controversy. Consequently, the federal public health agenda had to be developed. One of the goals of Healthy People 2020 is to decrease the level of hearing loss due to the noise at the working place. However, more emphasis should be paid to the issue of noise pollution. Thus, Hammer et al. (2014) suggest that the issue of noise pollution should be included in the United States National Prevention Strategy.
In my opinion, the U.S pays enough attention to environmental issues on the federal level. The future reforms should be aimed at increasing regulation at local levels. Although there are responsible bodies for the protection of the environment, not all of them execute their functions with maximum efficiency. I would like to take the State of Hawaii as an example. In the following part of the paper, Hawaii’s environmental issues will be critically evaluated and analyzed.
The State of Hawaii — Overview
The Hawaiian Archipelago belongs to the most isolated places in the world. The State of Hawaii comprises of 137 islands. Only eight large islands are inhabited. Hawaii has a maritime tropical and mild climate. Climate change and global warming are especially significant for the islands as far as they affect Hawaii negatively.
The increasing heat alters the biodiversity and the usual rhythm of bio-cycles in the state. According to Philander (2012), the most important concerns of Hawaii include the degradation of coastal lines, the availability of fresh water, and the modifications in marine and coastal ecosystems due to climate change.
The biodiversity of Hawaii is vast. Currently, there are more than one thousand marine species, almost fifty freshwater species, seven thousand wildlife species, and nearly two thousand plant species. Although these numbers are impressive, the islands have already lost many species. In the last two hundred years, the archipelago lost more than one thousand native species.
History of the Need for Government Regulation in Hawaii
The history of environmental concerns in Hawaii can be divided into two groups: volcanic air pollution and species loss. These two issues have always been the most urgent for the State of Hawaii. Besides, the island faces the problem of the necessary amount of freshwater in the state. This situation is predetermined by the globalization that affected the region as well. The number of people living in Hawaii increases. Consequently, it leads to the rise of noise pollution.
The article entitled “Biggest Loss of Species is in Hawaii, Report Says” was published in the online version of the newspaper New York Times in 2004. The article criticized the governmental inability and neglect of the Hawaiian biodiversity. Almost fifty species have become extinct in the last twenty years in Hawaii (Biggest Loss of Species is in Hawaii, Report Says, 2004).
Such rates are terrible. Five years later, the situation did not become much better. According to the other article published in 2009, “Hawaii is the epicenter of extinction and near-extinction…it is the borderline ecological disaster” (Nearly all native birds in Hawaii in Peril, 2009, para.3).
Major Laws that Regulate the Environmental Protection in Hawaii
No Hawaiian law should violate the federal regulations. Thus, the major Hawaiian laws are as follows:
- The Hawaii Water Pollution Law is the central regulator of the quality of water in the state;
- The Hawaii Safe Drinking Water Law defines the primary actions for the prevention and monitoring of the pollution of the drinking water;
- The Hawaii Air Pollution Control Law represents the Hawaii State Department of Health as the primary authority that handles the air quality monitoring and protection;
- Hawaii Solid Waste Management;
- The Conservation of Aquatic Life, Wildlife, and Land Plants Act is the central endangered species act (National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Research Foundation, 2003).
The Major Regulatory Organization
Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is the primary organization that regulates the protection of the environment in the state. DLNR is the part of the state government that controls the protection of natural resources and manages state parks.
As far as the primary concern of the state is the loss of species, I would like to evaluate the performance of the major organization that specializes in species conservation only. Hawaii Conservation Alliance (HCA) was established in 2006. It is a non-profit organization that investigates the condition of the state’s biodiversity, promotes education and environmental awareness, and protects endangered species.
HCA has an Executive Committee that is formed every year. 2015 Executive Committee comprises of five bodies. They are the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (Division of Forestry & Wildlife), U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Kamehameha Schools.
The number of employees of HCA is unknown. The only information provided on the official website is about five members of staff who handle the most significant activities of the organization. The budget of the HCA depends upon the sponsorship. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaiian Electric Companies, Big Island Visitors Bureau, Hawaii Pacific Parks Association were some of the sponsors in 2015.
As far as the DLNR is a part of HCA executive committee, the governmental law enforcement means can be used by the organization. However, the principal remedies of HCA refer to the engagement of volunteers in various activities. For instance, the project “Hakipuʻu Stream Restoration with Hui o Koʻolaupoko” was initiated in 2014. The initiative aimed at lowering the level of sediment in the bay and improving the natural habitat for native species (Hakipuʻu Stream Restoration with Hui o Koʻolaupoko, 2014).
The organization’s primary emphasis is laid on the education of the population and engagement of masses via annual conferences. The major issues of the Hawaiian environmental protection are discussed at these conferences. Nevertheless, I consider that this organization experiences the problem of under-regulation. The government should broaden the authority of the HCA as far as their current activities are not enough for efficient protection.
Recent Controversy and Recommendations for Future Reforms in Hawaii
The most significant controversy in Hawaii that still lacks necessary regulation concerns the invasive species. The entering of non-native, alien species to the Hawaiian indigenous habitat leads to adverse outcomes in the economy, the environment, and human health. For instance, Salvinia Molesta is a water plant from South America. It destroys habitats for different species when it grows.
Consequently, some birds and aquatic species cannot live in their habitat anymore. The threat from invasive species is not overestimated. Over 80% of Hawaiian plants face extinction due to the active spreading of alien species. Mosquitos can bring Malaria to the state, as well. People already suffer from bites of alien species in Hawaii.
The need for regulation of this aspect is apparent. However, the government has not chosen one exact way of dealing with the issue. According to Dixon (2011), one of the suggestions is to kill animals before they reproduce. Nevertheless, some people consider it unethical treatment. The HCA supports the idea of trapping animals for their sterilization.
The other significant problem refers to the high cost of conservation. The financial resources needed for the research are limited. Also, the period of research as well as for the intervention is unknown too. Such uncertainty impedes the reaction of local authorities to the environmental issue.
Particular attention is paid to the protective measures against feral ungulates. Goats, deer, and pigs are devastating the Hawaiian environments in many ways. Dixon (2011) writes that “grazing and rooting result in damage to ground cover and consumption of native plants. The soil disturbance results in erosion and sediment run-off that destroys coral reefs” (para.1). This description exemplifies the way alien species affect the Hawaiian ecosystem. Everything is connected in nature, and even the smallest change may lead to adverse outcomes.
In my opinion, the most significant thing in regulation is the consensus. There is no agreement in the State of Hawaii concerning the primary methods for dealing with the problem. When the agreement is reached, it will be easier to receive the necessary funding. I consider that the environmental protection of Hawaii requires increased regulation.
The rapid industrial and technological development, as well as a human activity, resulted in the deterioration of the condition of the environment. In 1970, President Nixon signed the most significant act for the regulation of environmental protection in the country — the National Environmental Policy Act. The Council of Environmental Quality and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are the central organizations that regulate the quality of the environment.
EPA has proved the effectiveness of its performance since its establishment. EPA’s initiatives such as the banning of the widespread usage of DDT pesticides and smoking in public places have changed the environment of the U.S. for the better. The regulation of the protection of the environment is also conducted on the local level.
Thus, the State of Hawaii’s primary body is the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The Hawaii Conservation Alliance is a prominent non-profit organization that protects Hawaiian ecosystems. Currently, the primary concern of the state is the massive species loss because of the changes in the ecosystem. Various invasive species alter biodiversity and even ruin it. The authorities of the State of Hawaii have to reach a consensus to solve this problem timely and adequately.
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Cullingworth, J., & Caves, R. (2013). Planning in the USA: Policies, Issues and Processes. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
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