Progressive Views: Environmental Protection

by Kendalyn Lytle, Champion High School
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, June 21, 2019

Flowering tree in front of Ye Kendall Inn in Boerne
Photo by Leah Rosenberger. Used by permission.

Kendalyn Lytle was one of two winners of the 2019 Civic Engagement Scholarship sponsored by the Boerne Area Democrats. She wrote the below essay based on the following prompt:

Consider the numerous challenges facing our country today, such as the environment, health care, civil rights, education and immigration. Pick an issue that you think is the most critical, explain its importance/implications, and describe how you would advise our government to address this challenge.

Our nation is born from struggle. Throughout the decades, our forefathers have time and again endured hardships and suffering to uphold the American ideals of liberty, justice, and freedom, and the fight to keep the values of this nation secure isn’t one that is easily secured. As a nation, we face many challenges in this modern age. From political polarization to border security to the new wave of the civil rights movement, there is no shortage of issues to address. However I feel the most pressing issue is that of environmental protection.

The debate, largely political, about global warming has distracted the public from other issues and hindered the making of any policies or progress that could help the situation. By arguing with the facts that should be unarguable—that the earth is warming, the ice caps are melting, and the levels of atmospheric CO2 are increasing at staggering rates—politicians distract the public from the pursuit of progress and refuse to take accountability for their actions. As time is wasted in our nation’s capital, rainforests are cleared, coal is burned, native lands are encroached upon, and the earth is degraded just a little bit more. To add on, the actions of our president have only darkened an already grim situation. By exiting the Paris Climate Accords, advocating expansion of the coal and natural gas sectors, shrinking national monuments and sacred lands such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, and refuting the findings made by his own environmental departments, President Trump has used his power to undo any progress made by his predecessors.

The issue of the environment might pale in direct comparison to others the nation faces. Warmer summers and slightly smaller ice caps appear insignificant when compared to racial inequality, sexual assault, and poverty. However, environmental issues, particularly global warming, have much deeper impact than initially thought, and the effects are already being felt. The increase in devastating weather events, from Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston and south Texas, to the winter storms that have been sweeping the nation, causing death and destruction in northern cities, are a direct result of global warming. As the ice caps melt, oceans warm, and colder winds blow south, disrupting normal weather patterns and resulting in catastrophe. The consequences of our reckless actions are of incalculable severity.

I would strongly urge the government to take action before it is too late. Re-entering the Paris Climate Accords, while not a governing body or watchdog organization, would symbolize to the world that America is once again dedicated to becoming an eco-conscious nation, and could motivate other nations to improve their efforts at searching for clean, renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuel consumption. Additionally, I would advise the government to increase funding and grants to research organizations that are attempting to harness and commercialize renewable energy. By granting tax breaks to environmentally conscious companies and businesses, our government could incentivize major corporations to join together and cut down on the amount of power they consume and waste they produce.

America has long been a beacon of hope and progress to the world, and this nation has been more influential on the course of modern history than any other. Reducing the effects of global warming and repairing the damage that has been done to this earth is a task that no nation alone can shoulder, but if America and her leaders are willing to head the charge, then the rest of the world will follow suit.

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