Is Environmental Regulation Good?

A statistical paradox both fascinating and heartbreaking.

How you answer that question most likely has a lot to do with whether you live in a red state or a blue state in America. Conservatives, in general, feel that governmental regulations are bad, and that industries should be allowed to self-regulate. They feel that federal regulations impede industry’s ability to be profitable, and therefore they have a negative impact on jobs and the economy.

This is one of the many ways that conservatives and I part company. I have never seen industries act in the best interest of the common man, so I feel they need to be watched over very closely. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, and subsequently their vote. That’s how democracy works.

I only hope that when people vote, they cast educated votes. I certainly try to. In an attempt to educate myself about the vast gulf in my opinions as compared to the average conservative, I decided to read a fascinating book entitled Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I highly recommend that you read this well thought out book, regardless of your location on the political spectrum. The author is a sociologist who spends a year in conservative Louisiana to get to know the people, and learn how they have drawn the conclusions that they have on a variety of subjects, including the environment.

Louisiana has been ground zero for an unbelievable number of environmental disasters. (See also, my post entitled, “A Forgotten Catastrophe.”) According to page 79 of this book, “residents of red states suffer higher rates of industrial pollution than do residents of blue states. Voters in the twenty-two states that voted Republican in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008—and who generally call for less government regulation in business—lived in more polluted environments.”

But she also discovered that it isn’t just a state by state issue. She looked at data on the EPA website, which breaks down risk of exposure to pollution into counties, and she compared that to people’s answers on the General Social Survey, that linked what people believed about the environment and politics county by county.

What she found was very interesting. “If, in 2010, you lived in a county with a higher exposure to toxic pollution, we discovered, you are more likely to believe that Americans ‘worry too much’ about the environment and to believe that the United States is doing ‘more than enough’ about it. You are also more likely to describe yourself as a strong Republican.”

I find this paradox both fascinating and heartbreaking. Just because I disagree with you politically does not mean I want you to suffer. And, of course, I feel that your children should suffer even less. Unfortunately, your stance on the environment effects the planet as a whole, as well.

You don’t have to agree with me. But can you at least understand why I would find this contradiction in thinking confusing? Therein lies the crux of our extreme divide. By voting the way that they do on environmental issues, conservatives are hurting themselves and the rest of us. And that hurts to watch.

Like this Escher box below, I struggle to understand this logic.


Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

6 thoughts on “Is Environmental Regulation Good?”

  1. Spock would have called this eristic and calmly walked away. That would be all the understanding he’d need. Since eristic means argumentative and logically invalid, trying to understand eristic arguments can cause great conflict and twist the logical mind. Walk away lest you find yourself trapped in Escher’s box. 🙂

  2. This is greater than a difference in political ideation. What do we normally do with someone whose illogical thinking endangers themselves and others? Give them a loaded gun and put them in charge while we try to decipher their illogical ramblings? No, that would be crazy illogical, yet isn’t that what we’ve done? Their contradictory thinking led to dangerous actions and damage. That damage increases while we’re distracted by their words. The consequences of their actions, that are speaking louder than their words, are all that’s needed to shut down their arguments, but we continue to give energy and attention to them. Maybe we need to understand ourselves and why we’re allowing this. Perhaps humanity is in need of deep therapy before Gaia decides to wipe us out and start over. Environmental regulation isn’t good or bad, it’s a necessity, for all life, until we accept that we’re part of that nature we are destroying.

      1. I remember this over 50 years ago and had high hopes that humanity was going in the right direction. Look where we are now. More voices and consciousness raised but the damage and battle to end it is so much greater than imagined. Is it too little too late? This should be the worlds mandatory #1 PRIORITY.

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