With Ventura County and its sister city Santa Barbara being in the crosshairs for devastating natural disasters in the last couple of years, one would think environmental advocacy would hit maximum effort locally, with many concerned citizens actively trying to reverse the trend of indifference to eco-protections. According to a new United Nations report out Jan. 24, “despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss.”
Regarding the findings of the report, David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment stated, “This compelling new report solves the mystery of why problems such as pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change persist despite the proliferation of environmental laws in recent decades. Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled.”
In the 306-page report, it’s clear that for the last nearly 40 years, there has been a concerted effort to bring global environmental advocacy and laws to the forefront to try and change the snowball effect of mass consumption and a rapidly growing human population. The lack of accountability and enforcement of laws designed to preserve and protect, however, is the true quagmire.
Well-intentioned efforts to force consequences upon those who do not comply with environmental laws are not stopping global climate change. The root issue of this is the need and desire to capitalize on consumption habits and the demand is not abating. While surely the quality of the environment is a top priority for millions of people, when it’s simply not that bad or life is fairly comfortable, apathy sets in and we all rely on someone else to do the work — “not my problem” is a contagious stance. That perspective also seems fitting given the realization of our codependency on the federal government, as shown by the impacts of the recent shutdown, which were felt by federal employees as well as those dependent on the government in other ways.
The report offers some solutions, mainly in legitimizing the rule of law while bringing awareness to the need for enforcement and allocating more resources for that purpose. But how pragmatic is that when 10 percent of the global population exists in extreme poverty (living on less than $2 a day)? In the U.S., 12.7 percent of the national population subsists at $24,000 or less for a family of four, according to U.S. Census data. Further, how many people above that threshold are struggling to get bills paid and maintain their housing? Is it practical to think an impoverished and struggling populace is willing to change their basic habits of survival to address global warming? Will addressing the poverty question also affect our ability to address environmental issues?
Nothing will change if we choose the environment over humanity. The two must coexist and are completely interdependent. So what will it take to get the global population environmentally friendly together? Maybe a truly great leader will rise up to bring us together. But until that time, it seems only more devastation is on the horizon.