Previous Page An Issue 13.
Responsibility for preserving the natural environment ultimately belongs to each individual person, not to government. Question
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading. Analysis
While nearly everyone would agree in principle that certain efforts to preserve the natural environment are in humankind's best interest, environmental issues always involve a tug of war among conflicting political and economic interests. For this reason and because serious environmental problems are generally large in scale, government participation is needed to ensure environmental preservation.
Experience tells us that individuals (and private corporations owned by individuals) tend to act on behalf of their own short-term economic and political interest, not on behalf of the environment or the public at large.
For example, current technology makes possible the complete elimination of polluting emissions from automobiles. Nevertheless, neither automobile manufacturers nor consumers are willing or able to voluntarily make the short-term sacrifices necessary to accomplish this goal. Only the government holds the regulatory and enforcement power to impose the necessary standards and to ensure that we achieve such goals.
Aside from the problems of self-interest and enforcement, environmental issues inherently involve public health and are far too pandemic in nature for individuals to solve on their own. Many of the most egregious environmental violations traverse state and sometimes national borders. Environmental hazards are akin to those involving food and drug safety and to protecting borders against enemies. Individuals have neither the power nor the resources to address these widespread hazards.
In the final analysis, only the authority and scope of power that a government possesses can ensure the attainment of agreed-upon environmental goals. Because individuals are incapable of assuming this responsibility, government must do so.