Good research paper on social responsibility to nature

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Introduction
Despite the call for increased environmental awareness, most people remain unaffected by environmental concerns. Although it is an accepted fact that the environment is everyone’s concern, most individuals and organizations take their social responsibility to nature for granted. Most environmental programs are not taken seriously. For instance, most people knew that throwing litter could adversely affect the environment yet evidence show that this awareness is of no effect or is taken for granted. Cigarette butts, for example, still constitute the largest percentage of street litter, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the major problem in America’s drainage systems . For the same reason, most solid waste management programs that local governments undertake have limited success. Some people engage in social responsibility towards the environment with underlying agendas. Apparently, being an environmentalist is good for personal image. Whether in corporate or in individual endeavor, concern for the environment is a vocal agenda that seem to come naturally without much effort of reflection. However, only a few pursue environmental concerns actively. Several constraints have been cited as among the major drawbacks in environmental activism such as political, behavioral and cultural factors. For example, some people may use environmental programs for pursuing political ambitions while other is incapable of feeling remorse because of greed. Also, it is quite obvious that some cultures are tolerant of environmental abuses most likely because of government corruption or for livelihood’s sake. For the same reason, industries and companies whose operation poses environmental concerns choose to outsource their production in such countries where there are less stringent measures regarding environmental protection. Beyond the seemingly less serious take on environmental issues, there is mounting evidence of environmental problems that pose serious risks to human existence. Obviously, unless people are directly affected by the environmental hazard, environmental issues are of lesser concern. For the same reason, this paper would like to investigate on the seriousness of environmental issues and to evaluate whether or not environmental issues are a pressing concern that should merit a genuine activism.

Environmental Issues

A string of human activities have been mentioned in literature that poses serious risks to the environment. Since most nations have embraced industrialization, the damage to the environment has also been an increasing concern. While some of the impact of industrialization can be mitigated, there are environmental damages caused by man’s activity that are irreversible. Examples of immediate effects are:
1) Contamination of water resources. In the U. S., for example, in as early as 1700’s the residents of New York experienced serious health issues due to underground water contamination. Accordingly, the city was struck with a yellow fever epidemic in 1795 because of indiscriminate digging of water wells and unsanitary waste disposal . In 1850’s, the discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania made the United States are primary producer of oil and natural gas, which later proved to be at the expense of the country’s water resources. Due to excessive demand, oil and natural gas have been explored and extracted with little regards to its effect on the ground water table. The fact that oil and natural gas are found deep within the earth’s surface, drilling technologies were developed to facilitate the efficient extraction of these natural resources. One particular drilling technology that has caught the attention of environmentalists is hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a combination of drilling and hydraulic pressure. First, a hole is drilled sufficiently to reach the oil and natural gas resource. Once the objective has been reached, a drilling technology known as horizontal drilling commence wherein drill operators maneuver underground to create a horizontal drill hole in the shale formation. Once a bore hole has been sufficiently drilled, enormous amounts of water are forced through the hole to create cracks in the shale formation. On the other hand, this enormous amount of pressurized water is combined with sand to fill the gaps created by the hydraulic pressure and other chemical additives to facilitate easy cracking . Unfortunately, most of the chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing are extremely toxic. Examples of these harmful chemicals that are commonly used as an additive in hydraulic fracturing are methanol, benzene, lead, isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol and ethylene glycol. Contemplate this; if drilling is enough to pose serious risks to the contamination of the ground water table as evidenced by the New York incident, how about if these toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing seeps through the ground water table? The harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing are already felt in communities where drilling companies operates. According to studies, methane gas, the principal component of oil and natural gas have been detected in unhealthy concentration in ground water in areas where drilling operation are being performed.
2) Climate change. Divergent views on climate change have made the topic quite controversial. Majority of scholar believe that climate change is caused by man-made activities while others are skeptical about the real cause of climate change. The skeptics believe that climate change is brought about by the natural tendency of the earth to warm up. Accordingly, the earth’s climate follows a cycle which is influenced by natural factors such as varying CO2 level, distance of the earth’s orbit from the sun, gravitational pull and alignment of the planets, etc.. However, increasing evidence on the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses has led most scholars to agree that there is indeed an increase in the earth’s temperature and the increase appears to be man induced. These climate scientists believe that “ natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures”. Since the industrial revolution began in Europe in 1800’s, concerns about climate change has emerged. Research studies have shown that the pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen indiscriminately from 270 parts per million to the current levels of 380 parts per million. According to scientists, if the incremental increase of carbon dioxide is not remedied, by 2056, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be enough to merit catastrophic phenomenon brought about by climate change . Apparently, these drastic changes are already revealing as further studies have established a link between climate change and the intensity of typhoons. Typhoons are comparable to heat engines . Being an engine, it needs to feed on some energy source. Accordingly, the ocean is the typhoon’s primary energy source and it sustains its energy from the continuous flow of warm air including the thunderstorm activities that contributes to the heat of its central core. As the surface water of the oceans get warmer, there is a huge tendency for typhoons to obtain more energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) confirmed this finding and stated that “ warmer water in the oceans pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them stronger and potentially more destructive. Even with storms of the same intensity, future hurricanes will cause more damage as higher sea levels exacerbate storm surges, flooding, and erosion” . As the NRDC observed, the number of category 4 and 5 storms has greatly increased over the past 35 years in conjunction with the increase of ocean temperature. Indeed, devastating typhoons have rocked certain countries that led to the immense damage to lives and properties. In 2005 alone, three category 5 tropical cyclones have passed the U. S., which is unprecedented in history. Just recently, the typhoon Haiyan has left a whole province in the Philippines devastated; bringing storm surges comparable to tsunamis with wind gust reaching 270 km/hr. that flattened the affected provinces to rubble.
3) The spread of pathogens and infectious diseases. The disturbance of bio-diverse environments is feared to have serious health implications. It is readily observable that most natural resources such as mineral, oil and natural gas deposits are found in bio-diverse environments . As oil and natural gas as well as mining companies explore and extract natural resources from bio-diverse regions, they inevitably destroy the diversity of organisms in their natural environment. In effect, organisms that may be considered as harmless in their natural niche may come in contact with humans, which could have devastating health effects. According to experts, any reduction or loss of biodiversity would result in the spread of parasitic micro-organisms. The disturbance on natural environments brought about by mining and oil exploration companies are devastating. In the Appalachian’s, for example, the practice of mining coal using mountain top removal techniques has flattened numerous mountain peaks that were previously covered in deep forest. More than 500 peaks were affected by these mining activities, which, according to observers, may affect more if not stopped . It should be noted that the Appalachian Mountains is home to some endangered species of flora and fauna. Just recently, biologists found new genus of salamanders, which could not be found elsewhere. Aside from the destroyed habitat of plants and animal species, the spoils created by these mining activities in the Appalachians are unimaginable. Huge amount of top soil are removed and dumped in mountainsides that subsequently contaminate natural water streams. Despite efforts to rehabilitate the mining sites, the extent of damage to the region’s biodiversity is so large that no amount of rehabilitation could compensate for the massive environmental devastation.
4) Bio hazards. Waste management is a major environmental program that is often times neglected. A common issue in waste management is the improper disposal of household wastes, which could be wrongfully considered as non-hazardous. Classification of wastes has become a major concern of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By definition, hazardous wastes are those wastes that “ chemical composition or other properties that make it capable of causing illness, death, or some other harm to humans and other life forms when mismanaged or released into the environment”. However, it is quite easy to erroneously classify some household wastes as non-hazardous although it could potentially create adverse impact to the environment. Examples of toxic and hazardous wastes in households that are indiscriminately disposed of are detergents, cleaning agents and other household chemicals that may contain toxic substances. Aside from chemical wastes, solid wastes such as plastics, expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) or the Styrofoam, cartons and other materials that has high potential for ignitability are also considered as hazardous although they are not included in the list of hazardous materials under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Political Constraints

The United States government has made legislations that provide for the protection of its environment and natural resources. Primary to these legislations are the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) to name a few. Although the U. S. have a flurry of regulatory laws that aims to check and balance potential environmentally hazardous activities, the implementation of the policies is a major drawback. Being a highly industrialized country, it is noteworthy that the United States is very much dependent upon mining and oil and natural gas drilling activities to supply the much needed raw materials to run its machineries. In fact, based on fuel consumption, oil and natural gas combined supplies more than 50% of the country’s energy needs. Evidently, the United States could not afford to discourage such activities by issuing stringent measures since the country is economically and technologically dependent on such activities. On the other hand, in the international level, three major organizations are noted as policy makers for environmental protection. These are the ISO, the API and CEN. International organizatons, however, are even less stringent in the implementation of their environmental laws since they are largely dependent upon domestic law enforcement. It appears then that mother nature has no decisive hero to stand for its defense since each governments are driven primarily by the economic benefits of exploiting its natural resources rather than concern for the environment.

The Role of NGO’s

Civil rights movements in the 1980’s turned the spotlight on non-government organizations as the champions of environmental protection. These NGO’s, also known as environmental justice organizations (EJO), became a major voice in the fight against environmental exploitation especially of big corporate organizations. Environmental discrimination is quite rampant during the 80’s and 90’s. Accordingly, hazardous wastes are dumped on facilities located near colored population, which incited revolt among the colored masses the most significant of which is the North Carolina protest in 1982. Perhaps the brave display of environmental activism as well as the attention that such activism gets from the media as well as government policy makers may have encouraged the rise of environmental justice movements. Among the major aims of these movements is to make corporate entities pay for the environmental damage that their operation may have caused. The power of the NGO’s in promoting environmental agendas are quite notable. Over the years, these movements have helped establish the framework of international and local policies on environment protection. One particular example is the 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit wherein representatives of environmental groups help define health and safe working conditions. However, it seems that the fiery start of environmental NGO’s have also died down. Apparently, there has been a shift from the traditional group effort to individualized effort in addressing environmental issues. Modern environmental initiatives such as planting trees, recycling, conserving energy and the likes are reminiscent of the individualized culture of Americans which has been criticized as inadequate given the enormous environmental issues at hand. According to one observer, current programs and agendas lack depth in which he is forced to conclude that environmental movements in the U. S. have run out of ideas. What happened to the eccentric goals that the NGO’s decades ago have been advocating? Evidently, the environmental issues are getting worse but actions are getting less. One possible reason for this decline is the infiltration of politics on environmental organizations. As stated by Scruton, “ Not only are there no votes to be won by seeking to close airports, to narrow roads or to return to a local food economy. There is a serious risk of making matters worse, by representing environmental protection as the cause of nostalgic cranks”. Obviously, as organizations become politicized, they seem to tiptoe their way among issues so as not to create commotions thereby the spirit of activism is lost.

Volunteerism

The true essence of being an environmentalist is volunteerism. Volunteering is defined as “ any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group or cause”. For environmental objectives to prosper, sincerity and selflessness are essential attributes, which is in line with the principles behind volunteer work. Although there is no material benefits expected from volunteer work, virtues such as self-fulfillment and other positive emotions are the sought after benefits in volunteerism. It should be noted though that volunteerism implies that and individual must subject himself to a group, under which he subjects himself to the group’s agendas and leadership. However, the concept of volunteerism clashes with the individualistic culture of the American society. According to the Hofstede cultural tool, individualism is a fundamental principle in American culture wherein people are inclined to look only after themselves and their direct families. Considering the strong individualistic culture of the U. S., it is possible that volunteerism on the context of environmental movement would not prosper. It should be noted that civic movements triumphs through collective efforts. Although an individual may make a significant contribution, the power of the crowd to attract attention and actions could not be denied. For the same reason, a genuine effort to protect the environment should constitute bilateral cooperation between government agencies, NGO’s, academic institutions and individuals who collectively pools their effort into a common goal. It should be noted that there are numerous opportunities and tools that can be used to further environmental cause today than ever before. With the advent of the internet technology and social media, information dissemination and pooling of resources can be easily undertaken.

Conclusion

Decades ago, people have formed groups and actively fought for the environment. Interestingly, their collective actions elicited a universal awareness towards stewardship of the environment. However, it seems that those fiery actions have waned over the years despite the fact that environmental hazards are becoming more apparent. Persistent issues such as contamination of water resources, climate change, the loss of biodiversity that causes the spread of parasitic organisms and other bio hazards are constantly threatening human health and well-being. Nature should have relied on the government to provide environmental protection yet political and economic constraints make pertinent government agencies unable to fully initiate their environmental programs and policies. Because of these gaps in the implementation of government policies, nature turned towards NGO’s to champion the protection of its natural resources yet it appears that the NGO’s have also gone cold perhaps due to the shift in cultural perspective toward individualism or most likely, these organizations have been infiltrated by politics that decisive decisions could not be reached. In an individual level, initiatives such as planting trees, saving energy, etc., are inadequate to address the global environmental issues as brought about by global corporations that exploit the environment in all sides of the globe. It appears then that a new wave of activism based on the spirit of volunteerism is necessary to combat huge environmental concerns. With the use of emerging technologies in the internet and social media, there is a chance that people can organize once again and create a strong stewardship for the already degraded environment. After all, we are all part of one world and whatever happens to any part of it will eventually affect the other parts in one way or another.

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