Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
The precautionary principle is a simple, common-sense ethical guideline that is a core part of ecology and agroecology. It’s so fundamental to sustainability, and so uncommon in our government today, that it’s worth reaffirming.
The precautionary principle holds that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment that sustains our life, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those promoting the product or the action.
In other words, you must establish that your action or product will not cause harm before you put it out into the world and actually cause harm. The precautionary principle is a statutory requirement in the law of the European Union, but has no legal standing in the USA. The USA has, in fact, lobbied actively—without citizen knowledge or approval—to pressure European governments to slack off the precautionary principle in certain cases.
That’s dumb. Damn dumb. It’s placing monetary profit over common sense, and good health.
This self-destructive tendency to kiss off common sense came to the forefront this summer as the so-called Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) planned to roll back the regulation of methane emissions. While carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas, methane is a close second. It lingers in the atmosphere for less time, but packs a wallop while it lasts.
Currently the government requires the oil and gas industry to put in place technology for inspecting and repairing methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. The EPA is keen to throttle that common sense
The EPA’s proposed regulation rollback is especially notable because, in an act of corporate common sense, major oil and gas operations have, in fact, opposed the rollback. They know that inspecting and repairing their methane methods and machines makes sense, especially now as climate change intensifies. It just ain’t sensible to ignore the reality of climate change. In fact, it’s perverse.
In the North, in Greenland, billions of tons of ice is melting this summer, 50 years ahead of scientific calculations. That rapid melting has prevented the people of Greenland from their traditional ways of moving around the country by sledge. It’s also created the surreal spectacle of children frolicking in the Arctic ocean.
So much Arctic ice has melted that Russian sailors have discovered five new islands, previously buried deep below the ice.
Meanwhile, sea levels rise globally. Meanwhile, Amazon forests blaze and belch out yet another global gob smack.
We’d be wise to bypass government failure to act, and do the uncommon thing, as the late humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) put it: act with common sense. Act personally, swiftly, and strategically. There are a 1,001 things individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities can do. Get your search engine going, and then act. The vast archives of Mother Earth News, and the Pathways resource page open up some of the possibilities.
Photo courtesy of Pixaby.
Worthy of praise in the realms of common sense and agroecology: our personal support of local farm, garden and other community food initiatives. Engaging in these kinds of strategic agroecological acts not only enhances food security, but also in some measure enhances the health of living soil, a factor in stabilizing climate.
Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in agrarian cyberspace at DeepAgroecology.net. Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available at Chiron-Communications.com.
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