Graduation year: 2022
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS single major
Other major (if applicable):
Minor(s) (if applicable):
As humans have moved towards industrialization, large scale agriculture, global trade and other practices that come with modernization, we have surely seen an increase in negative externalities. In this era, capitalism is the dominant global form of political economy (West, 2012). Capitalism is a system that forces a single motive on the action of all of its members, perpetual accumulation of capital (Magdoff, 2011). Because industries rely so heavily on extraction, it is hard to find cohesion between capitalism and environmentalism. We can see this clear opposition when pollution, such as smog, starts to clear during times of recession (Magdoff, 2011). People are forced to consume less, and therefore there is less waste being produced. As the economy flourishes, the environment does not, and vice versa. In other words, the health of the economy and the health of the planet seem to have an inverse relationship. Is it possible to have a direct relationship between the economy and waste reduction?
As the global population grows, more things are being consumed, and therefore there is more waste being produced. Waste can include agricultural runoff from pesticides and herbicides, trash that people and industries throw into a landfill, excess material from construction, or obsolete electronics.The world’s solid waste production has grown ten-fold in the last century and the waste production as of 2013 is projected to double again by 2025 (Hoornweg et. al. 2013). Not only are the copious amounts of solid waste becoming hard to manage, but there are invisible forms of waste products coming out of our agricultural practices. The chemicals that are used as pesticides and herbicides on crops soak into the soil and groundwater, causing harm to vegetation, animals, and people (Carson, 1962). Everything in the natural world has checks and balances but these chemicals that were produced in labs have no counterparts in nature, allowing them to cause unprecedented damage to the ecosystems they come in contact with (Carson, 1962).
Our economic system is run by the free market and driven by businesses, big and small. These businesses are motivated by their ability to make money. If they are to be expected to reduce the amount of waste they are off putting with the production, distribution, and disposal of their goods and services, this reduction has to have a monetary benefit. The US government has tried to control the amount of negative externalities created by businesses by implementing acts such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Toxic Substance Act (Anton, 2004). These acts set out guidelines and regulations to be followed and monetary punishments to be paid if they are not. These acts have led to an overall increase in the improvement of air and water quality (Becker, 2013).
Firms can hire lobbyists to achieve an objective within the U.S. legislative branch by introducing bills to be passed by congress (Schluter, 2017). In order to achieve their political goal, there are oftentimes some sort of exchange made between the lobbyist and member of congress or political party. This exchange could be a sum of money or political endorsement (Schluter, 2017). In just a ten year span the business contributions towards the Republic party went up by 220% (Lux, 2011). There used to be a maximum amount of money that a business could contribute to a political campaign. However, since that has been eliminated there is even more room for corporate political influence. Corporate political action is a tool to increase the profits of a firm. Environmental policies may put limitations on consumption or add taxes or monetary penalties to waste production. Thus, it would be in the firm’s economic interest to lobby against these policies.
- How much money do lobbyist spend influencing congressional law makers?
- How much time do lobbyist get with law makers compared to NGOs and constituent representatives?
- Why, despite overwhelming evidence for the need to address the climate crisis, is it not a priority within the American government?
- How much influence do corporations have on the legislature?
- Which type of waste should be the focus of mitigation efforts?
- SOAN 265 (Critical Perspectives in Development) Spring 2020. Learn about the relationship between rich and poor countries and how resource consumption is not evenly distributed.
- EINV 260 (Sustainability and Entrepreneurship) Fall 2020. Taking a look at how businesses are starting to think about environmental issues in their decision making.
- EINV 298 (Summer Internship in Renewable Energy) Summer 2021. Learn how to combat waste production associated with energy usage by learning about renewable energy sources both in a classroom and in a workplace setting.
- POLS 253 (Public Policy) Spring 2022. Learn about how policies are actually made in the United States and how they effect certain issues, including environmental ones.
- ENVS 460 (Environmental Law and Policy) Fall 2021. Examine environmental laws and policies that have been put in place, organizations and government institutions that set out to create these laws, and how the policies are enforced.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: BIO 201, GEOL 170, ECON 260, IA 257, HIST 239, PHIL 215. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Feedback to date
- 04/2020 consult with Jessica Kleiss
- Be precise and elaborate on a lot of vague wording
- Questions need to be more specific
- 04/2020 consult with Amy Dvorak
- Make sure my main point is clear and cohesive
- reorganize ideas
- April, 2020
- rewrote most of my questions to be more specific
- eliminated sentences that had tones of personal opinion
- Got rid of or elaborated on “big” words with vague meanings
- Added more information on lobbying in the U.S. government
- changed the wording to be more consistent and inclusive of my main points
- changed the order of some of the paragraphs
- changed around some of my breadth courses and related courses to make sure that I have all the required fields included in my breadth courses
- eliminated unnecessary information about how lobbying works
Revisions to date
- Anton, Wilma Rose Q., George Deltas, and Madhu Khanna. 2014. “Incentives for Environmental Self-Regulation and Implications for Environmental Performance.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 48, no. 1: 632–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2003.06.003.
- Becker, Randy A, Carl Pasurka, and Ronald J Shadbegian. 2013. “Do Environment Regulations Disproportionately Affect Small Businesses? Evidence from the Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditure Survey.” National Center for Environmental Economics, no. 12-06.
- Carson, Rachel. 1962. Silent Spring. Boston, New York: Mariner Books.
- Hoornweg, Daniel, Perinaz Bhada-Tata, and Chris Kennedy. 2013.“Environment: Waste Production Must Peak This Century.” Nature News 502, no. 7473: 615. https://doi.org/10.1038/502615a.
- Lux, Sean & Crook, T. & Woehr, David. 2011. Mixing Business With Politics: A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents and Outcomes of Corporate Political Activity. Journal of Management – J MANAGE. 37. 223-247.
- Magdoff, Fred, and John Bellamy Foster. 2011. What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment. NYU Press.
- Schluter, William E. 2017. “LOBBYING.” In Soft Corruption: How Unethical Conduct Undermines Good Government and What To Do About It, 77-94. New Brunswick, Camden, Newark, New Jersey; London: Rutgers University Press. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1p0vkmk.8.
- West, Paige, and Dan Brockington. 2012. “Introduction: Capitalism and the Environment.” Environment and Society 3, no. 1: 1–3.