What do you fear? People are moved to action by their fears. Dying oceans, polluted lakes and streams, unsafe drinking water in major cities, catastrophic hurricanes, severe drought and wildfires, and an increase in the intensity of weather events, have brought environmental issues into the things Americans fear.
The annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears in 2017 gives an in-depth examination into the anxieties of average Americans. The survey looked at 80 fears and ranked them according to the survey responses Chapman’s chart lists America’s top 10 fears for 2017. For the first time ever, not one, but four of the top 10 fears are linked to the deterioration of the environment.
It is not only natural disasters that happened in 2017, but political events. Americans had considered that the Environmental Protection Agency would safeguard our natural waters from pollution. However, Scott Pruitt, the existing Environmental Protection Agency manager, decided to not enforce major pollution laws, and fired the EPA’s entire Science Advisory Board. No advice, no study, no problem. People have started to realize that what you do not know can hurt you.
The publicity surrounding the collapse of the state and local government of Flint Michigan to protect the city’s residents from lead poisoning, and the subsequent discovery of lead and other toxins in our town water supplies, have made people fear that their water isn’t safe to drink. Almost everyone lives downstream from someone, and pollutants that find their way into our water supplies are bound to find their way into us.
Many Americans perceived the results of climate change remote and far into the future. The attribution of worsening disasters to climate change, and the US withdrawal from the Pirates Climate Accord have brought carbon emissions and air pollution into sharper focus. Pictures of severe smog in China and the data from the American Heart and the American Lung Associations about the amount of deaths caused by air pollution and particulates are making people increasingly fear for their health.
Action and involvement is the antidote for what fear can create, a feeling of helplessness. In spite of the failure of our government and the EPA to protect the environment, we can still do it with market forces. The best strategy is the carbon fee and dividend system as proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby. The CCL legislative proposal would set an initial fee on carbon at $15 per ton of CO2 at the source and would increase it by $10 each year until the CO2 emissions were reduced to 10% of their 1990 US levels. The carbon fees aren’t a tax, as they would be rebated 100 percent to American households. It would give every American citizen a stake in conserving energy and reducing their use of carbon dioxide, which would both cut pollution and improve the market. Exercise the power on your citizenship, and insist your Representative encourage action on climate change.