2021: Environmental Progress and Setbacks

Alyssa Abke, Contributor

Although the discussion of how to handle the environment can be debated from person to person, most democrats and republicans can come to the consensus that environmental sustainability is something we should be concerned with in today’s day and age. While it may be impossible to return to complete perfection within our ecosystem, we can certainly work to fix a lot of the man-created environmental problems including air pollution and poor waste management.

President Joe Biden’s victory was met by mixed feelings across the nation; however, more environmental policies have been put in place in his first one hundred days than had ever previously been done with any prior president. Biden ran his campaign on a list of priorities including battling covid-19, economic recovery, fighting for racial equality, and climate change. The area of climate change is being addressed by his administration with what they call a “Clean Energy Revolution.”

Clean Energy Revolution

— Joe Biden

The goal with these new plans regarding climate change is to help the United States reduce methane pollution and achieve a net-zero emissions status before 2050. Companies will also be held more accountable for waste management, especially when they knowingly pollute.

The United States will also be rejoining the Paris Agreement, an agreement that started in late 2015 that works within the United Nations to help combat climate change, sometime in the next year or two.

Despite many recent developments being made, the world has also been struggling with environmental sustainability during a pandemic. Stores in New York City and Los Angeles even went as far as banning reusable bags in their stores so that employees would not encounter and interact with customers more than they needed to.

People also face the challenge of face masks. Surgical face masks are more protective yet are also thrown out after use. Cloth face masks and neck gaiters offer a more sustainable option but are less protective to others. The average face mask should only be worn for four hours before being changed out to ensure that there are not bacteria build up, but this causes a lot of face masks to be gone through in a short period of time.

Many restaurants and fast-food chains are also offering individually wrapped items to allow for less contact between customer to customer. While this helps tackle some of the problems with COVID-19, it creates a lot more plastic waste that we would not have usually seen before.

The pandemic has caused people to indirectly turn a blind eye to underlying environmental issues. In the Amazon, over sixty percent of the forest has been cleared, largely by illegal loggers. Although law enforcement strives to keep an eye out to prevent these things from happening, government regulations change greatly in the midst of so much uncertainty.

As people go around the rules during the covid-19 pandemic, there is little worry, but after the pandemic is over, these poor environmental issues could very well continue onward without hesitation. Lukas Ross, the senior policy analyst at the well-known advocacy group Friends of the Earth says, “There’s a serious risk that polluters could emerge from this crisis bolder and potentially more profitable than ever.”

There’s a serious risk that polluters could emerge from this crisis bolder and potentially more profitable than ever

— Lukas Ross