Posted May 10, 2022 at 8:54 am
John R. Platt
How do we protect communities — especially long-neglected communities
of color — from environmental harms caused by corporate polluters, lax
Poor enforcement of existing laws and oversight
This country desperately needs new eco-detectives — trained employees
citizens who are able to identify and expose pollution, poaching, and other issues
People, wildlife, and the environment are at risk from eco-threats.
These types of actions have never been taken by the United States, as has most other countries.
You must take all crimes and assaults seriously. This was especially true during Trump’s time.
Administration, which saw enforcement environmental regulations fall
To an all-time low. This neglect was due to a systemic flaw.
The punishments for environmental crimes are handed out to the perpetrators
amount to little more than a slap on the wrist — if they’re prosecuted
None at all
It’s time to fix that, not just for the past administration’s four years of malfeasance but to correct a history of injustice.
Let’s start with the Environmental Protection Agency, which needs
More investigators are needed to catch and stop corporations poisoning our waters
air, water, and bodies Trump has led to the EPA losing thousands of employees
members and significantly reduced its enforcement. Those
People must be back on the beat. President Biden’s 2023 budget
The proposal aims at creating the equivalent of More than 1,900 full-time new positions. That’s a start, but it Only a few people can keep up
1.500 jobs that the EPA has lost during the first half of the
Previous administration. Let’s double that number of new hires.
But that’s not all. We also need more investigators in the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management. Forest Service.
other agencies to protect our wildlife and endangered species — our
natural, cultural heritage — from poachers, corporate development and
Climate change. The Fish and Wildlife Service has only about 250 special agents investigate wildlife crimesMany of these require multiyear investigations. The BLM, however, has Only 70 peopleThe criminal investigation unit is the focus of our efforts. That’s hardly enough to serve a country our size.
In the same way, we need more inspectors for our Ports that are chronically understaffed
Borders to detect illegal wildlife trafficking and protect
Endangered species can be protected from exploitation, and the rest of us can be saved from being introduced
Invasive species and diseases. To accomplish this, the Border Patrol’s History of racism, brutality
must be systematically shifted into a future that is science and
service. And it’s not the only federal law-enforcement branch that needs
reform — I’m looking at you, U.S. Park Police.
Of course, once we find a crime, we must do something about it.
it. That’s why, on top of investigators, we also need more environmental
The Department of Justice prosecutor to ensure that these types of
Crimes are properly punished. That’s especially true now, when the DOJ
it is already stretched beyond its capacity as it pursues the more 700
Individuals arrested during the Jan. 6, insurrection.
Again, Biden’s 2023
Budget proposals Some of these,
with an additional $6.5 million for DOJ’s Environment and Natural
Resources Division, but that’s a long way from becoming official. The
EPA, DOJ and others announced several initiatives. Address environmental justiceIt will be May 5, so let’s hope that it will spark some effort and take action.
Meanwhile, it’s not just about the federal government. States are also included.
We need to have more environmental crime-busters in order to tackle local crimes.
federal laws don’t cover. If an endangered animal is being sold,
pollutes a river, or chops down a forest but doesn’t cross state lines
To do it, they must still be found and punished.
All of these are essential, but there is more. You can also
We need more to address environmental crimes through the legal process
Environmental journalists, especially in communities that are underserved. We
need these watchdogs to serve as eco-detectives more than ever — the
United States More than 2,000 local newspapers were lost
since 2004, turning many towns and communities into “news deserts.”
Participatory democracy is dependent on a vibrant, free press.
Studies have shown that newspapers lose more local content. Fraud and abuse rises — like in Coal countryFor example,
We need more scientists to work in every public-health organization.
You can better understand the crimes committed against the planet.
its denizens. They can help find crimes — for example, by using
satellites to detect unreported emissions — or push the legislatures to
regulate threats we’re just uncovering, like the Health risks from PFAS chemical substances.
Researchers must be able to live and work in every community.
We need more commitment from academia for ivory integration
Tower, as well as our collective commitment to fight systemic racial inequity
Everywhere we see it.
This brings us back to the victims of environmental crimes.
Most: The people. We are the most affected by environmental crime.
We need to train citizens scientists in communities so that they can be citizen scientists.
Look out for signs of harm yourself. This is a volunteer effort.
Long and important history of detecting pollutants and declining wildlife
populations and other crimes/damage.
This requires more citizen activists and whistleblowers.
Mention more laws to protect them when they tell stories
wouldn’t be told without their eyes and ears. Recent years have seen numerous states
A rapid succession of changes has taken place in the country. Anti-protest laws
related to fossil fuel project, and ag gag laws to shroud
Factory farms are kept secretive and subject to other regulations in order to minimize their impact.
Public participation and knowledge. These are the people that must go.
The threat can be viewed, monitored, reported, and reacted to by the individual.
They can have an impact on their own lives.
And importantly, all these people — the detectives, prosecutors,
scientists and whistleblowers — need to be listened to by those in
power. Folks have been speaking up in “Cancer Alley” and other
Environmental justice communities have existed for decades without any changes to the public’s view.
Health regulations: Many of the environmental harm committed against them are due to their health regulations
These communities are currently legal. This means that we need another.
Politicians who will listen to the new environmental crime-buster
Act now and pass the tougher laws that are being demanded so much
Of course, nothing I’m proposing here serves to erase the sins of the
past. However, more eco-detectives are needed to address environmental crimes
Every level of society would make our lives better and help us all get there.
path towards a brighter future. Without them we’ll remain locked in a
Polluted prison of our own making
This story is part Covering Climate Now, an international journalism collaboration that strengthens coverage of the climate story.
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