Humanity’s greatest aspiration is its insatiable need to rationalize the world around us. This natural instinct led humankind to improve life beyond measure — where would we be without innovation, philosophy and the written word?
However, the balance of rationality, and the certainty of specific phenomena, is fragile. What happens when we deny what we must inevitably rationalize? What happens when our drive to control our lives turns into the force that could end it?
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, crossed this fragile balance by attempting to postpone an Obama-era regulation on methane gas emissions for 90 days, largely due to the influence of the Texas Oil and Gas Administration and the American Petroleum Institute. Just like most greenhouse gases, methane significantly increases risks of climate change and poor public health. However, methane is around 87 times more cogent with the long-term destruction of our environment than carbon dioxide, according to the Sierra Club, one of America’s foremost environmental advocacy groups.
The Sierra Club led the first class-action suit against the EPA under the Trump Administration and won on a 2-1 rule by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This loss is a large setback for Pruitt’s EPA, whose primary activity is reversing many of the Obama Administration’s environmental regulations.
The court claimed Pruitt’s actions were based on arbitrary views on the issue. His lack of consistency, however, can be paralleled in the court’s decision: although the delay of said regulation is unconstitutional, the decision states that the EPA has the right to reevaluate the regulation and possibly remove it.
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To the environmental science students at the University of Wisconsin, I am sorry you are the future of a movement that people deny the existence of. I am sorry that your world-saving discoveries may be stifled by humankind’s need to regulate and rationalize what they may never understand.
But I am proud to say that you are not alone. Upon examining the complexities of the court case, the regulation in question, and the conflicts the two bring, there is a stark realization: nothing is black and white.
An interdisciplinary education is the only true solution of this problem. It is in the core of the university’s ideals to utilize our commonalities and take advantage of our differences, both in and out of the classroom, to make the world a better place. The Wisconsin Idea lives within all of us — it is our duty to make these ideas reality.
Climate Reality Project aims to have UW running on renewable energy by 2030Across the globe, sea levels are rising, temperature extremes are occurring and people face more challenges throughout their daily lives. Read…
Regardless of your major, your background or your passion, we are equally adept to use our variety of different skills to advocate for a better world. Political science majors can learn how to analyze and create effective environmental policy. International relations students can create plans of action on how to take these policies global.
Engineering students can design and build greener facilities for us to live, learn, and work. Marketing majors can make these options appealing to the masses. Environmental science students must lead the cause and continue to research and discover in spite of restrictive policy, but the entire Wisconsin community can rally behind them.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Abby Steinberg ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science with the intention to major in journalism.