Do we need more flexible [environmental] regulations given the economic crisis and the [2020 Covid] pandemic? Do we need increased regulations and enforcement? Discuss.

Dorcas Omowole
4 min readJan 29, 2022

(Note: This summary of readings was written in the second half of 2020 as part of a Mega development course)

Given the economic crisis and the ongoing pandemic, I think we need increased social and environmental regulations and enforcement. However, what exactly does increased regulations look like and who will enforce them. Political office holders and businessmen are committed to the continuous exploitation of the environment and vulnerable populations, calling regulations and arguments to curb their excesses a hoax. While we may point accusing fingers at climate change denialists, our current state reflects our collective moral failures. Our inability to enforce social and environmental regulations now, increases the sense of pessimism that we may never be able to hold these “abusers” accountable without innovative and strategic approaches.

What is more. It seems that there is no consensus about the importance of social and environmental regulations, addressing climate change, and reducing emission of greenhouse gases. Just like many other things, it comes up in the agenda as a way for political office holders to canvass for votes during elections. After elections, the quest for economic growth and political sublimes take over and these promises are either forgotten or are implemented partially, such that they do not have a significant positive impact on the environment. Even in the ongoing Presidential elections in the US, President Trump questioned the veracity of his democratic opponent’s commitment addressing climate change by asking him if he will stop fracking. Those who hold economic power have a strong hold on those in political office. We can only hope for a strong economic leader with substantial political backing — or vice versa — to show the way by supporting and enforcing social and environment regulations.

Based on this weeks’ readings, some of the challenges to creating and enforcing social and environmental regulations include “the inadequacy of global greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and implementation efforts,” “inadequacy of contemporary climate financing,” “opposition to climate change action,” and “the current global oil and gas boom.” (Selby, 2019) Also, heads of fossil fuel corporations are being employed to head environmental regulatory agencies. The Trump administration has also removed “environmental data from federal Web sites “and constrained “federal agencies with environmental governance responsibilities.” Also, “environmental crimes are often punished with small fines that often go unpaid.”

Consumerism has also become such a huge bane in our society. Countries, especially HICs, are overproducing and not even using all that is produced. Some of these products get dumped in LMICs. Companies, especially IT companies, keep producing the latest model of the same thing, even when the last model is barely one year old. One question for pro-environment individuals is “what sacrifices do we want to make for the environment on a personal basis without seeing them as an unnecessary discomfort?” For example, is it possible that we all refuse to buy the new iPhone 12 or the latest electronic gadget to pass across a message to their producers and instead choose to stand in solidarity with those who suffer and have their environment degraded in Baotou, China (BBC, 2015). If we as individuals want more — or we blame it on the advertisements and marketing — who are we to expect or demand that businesses, corporations, and governments should not want more.

However, it is only fair to expect that projects should at least be properly executed so they do not lead to disasters such as the collapse of tailing dams in Mariana and Brumadinho in Brazil. (The Guardian, 2019) If planetary considerations are abstract to climate change denialists and the connections to the quality of life seem forced, the impacts of the lack of regulations when it leads to loss of life or impacts negatively on people’s sources of livelihood is visible, except of course to the physically and morally dead.

References

Selby (2019) The Trump Presidency, climate change, and the prospect of a disorderly energy transition, Review of International Studies, 45:3 pp.471–490. (available on moodle folder)

The Guardian (April 27, 2020) Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/27/halt-destruction-nature-worse-pandemics-top-scientists

Brumadinho Dam, Brazil: ‘the river is dying’: the vast ecological cost of Brazil’s mining disasters’ The Guardian.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/29/the-river-is-dying-the-vast-ecological-cost-of-brazils-mining-disasters

The Dystopian Lake Filled by the World’s Tech Lust. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth

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