Congress Destroying the EPA: What Was Life Like Before We Had It?

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A freshman congressman from Florida, Matt Gaetz, has introduced a bill to the House. Now, sometimes these bills can be complicated and difficult to really understand so let’s take this line by line. H.R. 861. Line 1: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

Well, shit.

The EPA has been in the news a lot since Trump has been shitting all over it by, for instance, picking Scott Pruitt to run it. Pruitt, if you didn’t know, is the Oklahoma Attorney General who has sued the EPA several times and is currently suing them, so it’s just a good, smart pick with absolutely no conflicts of interest.

So I guess the bright side of all this is that soon maybe Scott Pruitt will be unemployed?

Our Republican Congress trying to completely eliminate the EPA in 2017 is something that would have been unthinkable when it was created in 1970. It was an executive order from Richard Nixon, of all people, and was ratified by the House and Senate. Pretty much all politicians everywhere agreed with its aim, regardless of their background or political viewpoint. How could a federal oversight agency have that much support from both sides of the aisle? Because back in 1970, before the government started protecting the environment, shit was really, fantastically fucked up.

One of the first things the EPA did was hire some photographers to document what life was like in America at the time of their founding. The photos weren’t revelatory back then because they just showed daily life, but nearly 50 years later, they’re horrifying — first, because that’s how our parents and grandparents lived, and second, because that’s how our children and grandchildren are going to live if the EPA is destroyed.

The photos include a woman holding a mason jar of tap water from her well that’s black sludge due to a nearby coal operation, something that’s already familiar due to images from places like Flint, Michigan.

In another image, smokestacks pour pollution into the sky from burning discarded car batteries. That factory was shut down by the EPA.

An abandoned Beetle sits in New York’s Jamaica Bay, which is marshland important for many migratory birds and other wildlife. Since 1972, it’s been a protected area that is still struggling to recover from heavy pollution.

Another image shows a legless man in a wheelchair who was disabled from working in mines but had to wait 18 years to collect workman’s comp.

One more: here’s a photo of small children playing in a yard while a smokestack towers over them. The stack is pumping out arsenic and lead.

Congressional representatives may make enough money to temporarily shield themselves and their families from the effects of destroying the EPA. They might be able to buy bottled water shipped in from Fiji, or move to areas with no industrial development to poison their lungs. But they won’t be able to do it for long, because the regulations the EPA imposes affect everything around us. If we no longer protect our air and water, even the rich won’t be able to avoid the negative consequences of the world we create. Let’s hope that the rest of Congress has enough sense to shut down this resolution, not only saving the jobs of more than 15,000 people, but also the lives of countless more.

Oh, and as always, contact your representative. Especially if they’re on the science committee!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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