‘Corona change’ is an economic force with environmental consequences
Wednesday, April 01, 2020
Climate change issues are intimately tied to the coronavirus (CV) pandemic, but how? The recent announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended regulations requires reflection on the pandemic’s climate change politics.
There are countless speculations as to the virus’ origins, and all are anthropogenic. This means human practices disrupt ecological balance resulting in huge social impacts, like pandemics. Plain and simple, right? Climate change is itself a result of cumulative human practices throwing off ecological cycles: this is the most general way to connect CV to ongoing climate change issues.
“Corona change” is the sum of all socio-economic impacts on the environment during this pandemic. Extreme market competition pressures labor and ecological systems to perform beyond their limits. Workers are always pressured to elide health and safety codes — such as we’ve seen with Boeing leadership’s complicity in recent plane crashes. In nature, for example, fewer forests are pressured and fail at adequate carbon capture, which creates a domino effect leading to greenhouse gas pollution accumulations.
During this crisis, there are many pressure points and contradictions; it’s unclear what the future holds.
Corona change is economic, as revealed by oil price declines at their lowest level since 2002: “...oil prices for the U.S. and global crude benchmarks suffered the largest quarterly percentage declines on record and lost more than half their value for the month amid a demand slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a glut of supply thanks to a Russia-Saudi oil-price war.”
To compensate for this profit loss, oil companies have added another layer. They have successfully lobbied the EPA to suspend rule implementations, like reporting fracking wastewater, so the American Petroleum Institute can facilitate profits.
The fallout from this move, intended to create a trickle-down economic effect to boost supply and demand chains, is manifold. It compounds air and water pollution in an already pollution-intensive industry, adding to the radically compromised unhealthy pandemic atmosphere that can continue for years.
EPA regulation suspension also encourages the wrong kind of employment. This may sound arbitrary, but work performed by those who create and process EPA paperwork is the kind of labor encouraged by the new normal of social distancing/remote work.
Oil field man camps are hardly CV-prohibitive.
Finally, EPA regulation suspension reinforces what we already knew: under Trump’s watch, federal agencies are pressured to capitulate to corporation bottom lines.
The answer to this economic crisis is to suspend market growth prohibitions; this growth adds more polluting elements to the already fragile life cycle that produces radically destabilizing viruses to begin with.
Corona change is a destructive force, but moves, even in the courts, to break it are all around us. The recent federal ruling that a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental impact statement is now required for the Dakota Access Pipeline proves the federal judiciary is not in step with the executive branch on oil extraction politics.
With the status quo in suspension, this ruling suggests it’s a good time for companies to dig in, assess environmental impacts, and provide remote employment. Environmental regulations can stimulate the economy, too.
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