An honest critique on conservative environmental policy, or lack thereof

Author: Castle Dettinger

Have you ever noticed that there are certain things in America, specifically when it comes to our government and public policy, that just about every single reasonable person agrees is broken? And nothing ever gets done to fix them? Allow me to highlight one in particular: water pollution.

I spent most of my childhood and early teenage years living in rural Wisconsin. If I ever found myself driving down a country road, I would see many fields and depending on where I was, lakes and rivers too. Not a bad thing at all in and of itself. A large problem though, especially when you consider how many lakes and rivers there are, is that the chemicals that are sprayed on these fields seep into the water.

According to a 2022 report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), 51% of rivers and 55% of lakes in the United States are too polluted and fall short of the standards for swimming, drinking, fishing and aquatic life. It is known that the leading cause of waterway pollution is from agricultural runoff. Why is this tolerated? 

No matter your political views there should be certain things that we do not tolerate as a country. It goes without saying that America is the richest, most influential country in the world, so why do we have this problem? This same thinking can and should be applied to so many other issues in this country, but I am simply using this one specific issue to illustrate a broader trend.

I would describe myself as a fairly conservative person; however, I strongly disagree with how many conservatives choose to die on the hill of “limited government.” For example, I am willing to bet most conservatives would be against simple government regulation that would prevent toxic practices that pollute our lakes and rivers in the name of “limited government” or “protecting the bottom line.” Part of conservative values is wanting to CONSERVE the country and its environment, its natural beauty and its usability. Can you believe it was a Republican president who established the Environmental Protection Agency? Today, on the other hand, it seems most Republicans are willing to completely ignore environmental policy as a means to “own the libs.”  Yes, you may own the libs, but now you can’t drink your city’s water due to high amounts of toxic chemicals.

I’m not saying conservatives should add the “Green New Deal” to their platform going forward, but supporting policies that prevent our lakes from being polluted by toxic chemicals should be something everyone should get behind, no matter their party affiliation.

Conservatives, if you take anything from this, it should be that it is alright to care about the environment and there is nothing wrong with sensible regulation to prevent large industries from damaging it. This does not need to happen at the federal level either, in fact, I don’t think it should. Conservatives, liberals and independents alike should find common ground and embrace government regulation to maintain and conserve the natural beauty and resources their states have to offer.

Photo credit: Nico Kazlauskas


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