Cennamology Chief Editor
The Environmental Protection Agency has released new carbon dioxide emissions standards this weekend, once again invigorating what the political world has portrayed as a zero-sum game between the economy and the environment.
Despite what the political media may have you think, the environment and the economy is not a zero-sum game. One does not have to be damaged in order for the other to flourish. These emission standards will curb some of the effects of climate change that will severely damage American industries.
The decline of the polar bear due to melting ice caps invokes an emotional response from many people who admire the species' beauty and wonder. Even though the polar bear is very cute, their value to the earth does not end at aesthetics. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the polar bear is in serious danger of going extinct. The continuing disappearance of the polar bear also has devastating effects on the environment as well as the economy.
A relevant factor hear is the Gaia hypothesis, which, as described by Michael L. McKinney states that "the Earth is similar to an organism, and its component parts are so integrated that they are like cells in a living body." Like the human body, the Earth's parts are integrated that any change in one environment can greatly influence other environments. Therefore, what happens to polar bears does influence the salmon supply that many American fishermen rely on for their incomes. This is largely due to the polar bears' important role in the food web.
An ecosystem is highly dependent on all its parts, and the loss of a single species can change everything. As the ice caps melt, causing more polar bears to disappear, the arctic seal population is inflated because there predators are more rare. This throws the environment out of balance, as an overpopulation of arctic seals mean that more seals need to be fed, leading to less salmon available for fishermen.
The salmon is an important component of the arctic seal’s diet, so when the seals’ population increases due to being eaten less, salmon population decreases because there are more seals to eat the salmon. The decrease in the supply of salmon will lead to an increase in salmon prices in seafood markets all over the world. So, in the grand scheme of things, the polar bear population affects the amount you pay at the supermarket.
As the northern ice melts (with many ice shelves not lasting through the summer) and the polar bear disappears, salmon prices are not the only thing that will be affected. As salmon prices rise, less and less people would be buying salmon, damaging the revenues of fishing companies large and small. Salmon fishing crews would have to be cut back, costing many jobs. So, in a way, less polar bears means more unemployment.
The polar bear is just one of many reasons why these new EPA standards are important. Our environment is a very fragile thing and the influence humans have on it cannot be underestimated. The Gaia hypothesis holds true for the polar bear, and it will hold true for the numerous other components of the environment that global climate change impacts.
We cannot wait until it is too late. We must take action now and do whatever we can to keep the environment in balance. Do not believe for one minute that humans are too insignificant to impact the climate. We are the world's most intelligent creatures, and we have impacted it. We have the intellect and the power to change course, but we must act swiftly.