Many of you, one would hope, are aware that the most powerful government in the world has shut down because its House and Senate couldn’t agree to fund a bill by a specific deadline — Sept. 30. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the U.S. government. In this article you will get an overview about the effects this shutdown may have on the environment and/or the environmentalists that come along with it.
First, let’s explain what this shutdown means. The government shut down. The wording makes it sound like someone has just turned off a switch and the Capitol deflated. What this really means is that portions of federal agencies, like the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Homeland Security — deep breath — the Justice Department, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Social Security Administration, and the State Department will shut their doors and send home at least a small percentage of their employees. Productivity levels drop significantly.
Let’s take a second to think about two of these entities, the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and what they do for our nation. Going back to high school government class, the National Park Service basically protects our natural resources, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, and also maintains historic sites like the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz. Currently, the National Park Service and the agency that oversees it get about 1/13 of 1 percent of our national budget. With that money, they employ people, educate youth, clean up parks and sites, dust off the Lincoln Memorial, and so on. It’s not a lot, but imagine what our national parks and sites would be with as much money as, say, the Department of Defense.
So what about the EPA? The EPA oversees all environmental damage caused by humans and enforces environmental legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. It tells BP to clean up their messes, tells you not to litter, teaches children how to recycle, and regulates pollution and pesticides. But the EPA has no enforcing power; it’s usually just a slap on the wrist.
These two government entities will temporarily lose more than 75 percent of their staff until the government gets its act together. Specifically, 94 percent of the EPA’s and NPS’ 16,205 employees will be sent home, and all national parks, museums and monuments will close (except the Grand Canyon because the State of Arizona decided to pick up that tab), which affects tourism everywhere. Applications for renewable energy projects on public land will be delayed, climate and marine research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will stop, NASA will shut down almost entirely (sorry, extraterrestrial life), and last but definitely not least, you won’t be able to get your flu vaccines! The list goes on and on, trust me. But don’t fret, for a few key staff members will be around to respond to any environmental disasters like a sharknado (heaven forbid).
This government shutdown affects a lot more of us than you think. Do something about it. Call your state representative, light a fire under their ass and get compromising.
Nicole Koedyker the president of the Drexel Sierra Club. She can be contacted at [email protected].
The Drexel Sierra Club contributes weekly.