John Stuart Mills wrote in his work On Liberty, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This is a great principle for a government to follow. When people pollute the environment, either on their behalf or on behalf of a company, there is the potential for harm to others. Dumping pollutants into the Ohio River caused it to become the most polluted in the USA. Many people drink water that is sourced from the Ohio River, and if there are floods then people have to deal with the USA’s most polluted river even more up close. Does flooding seem familiar to people who live along the Ohio River?
Air pollutants have effects on people’s bodies too. As cities in Republican controlled states grow, ensuring that people have relatively clean air, relative to if there was no government intervention, is important to keep these places desirable to live in. Cleaner air can be achieved by working towards realistic targets for less emissions from power plants and vehicles. An additional way to for cleaner air with a bit of government cost, is working for more densely populated, walkable cities could help people help themselves if they have closer proximity to their jobs.
This can help people take personal responsibility, and if people can live without cars in cities then that means less traffic, less air pollution, and a potentially healthier population. Key policies to help make more densely populated cities is to allow for businesses to build tall buildings, build micro-apartments, and build buildings without parking lots. Asking federal congress to repeal the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 in Washington DC could be a good start, especially since rents are getting so high in that area.
The federal EPA could have a role in making cities more densely populated. This could happen by having the federal EPA collect data on best practices to making walkable cities. Then cities and states could use that information to make decisions at the state level. The states themselves should make their own EPAs, and the federal EPA could help provide information on best practices collected from across the USA and around the world, and help the state EPAs be effective.
I want to be clear that none of this opinion is regarding global warming, and is about the effects of the pollutants on people.