Pretty Lawns and Gardens: The necessary response to ecological crime

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects vast tracts of land across the United States, preserving the pristine beauty of the North American continent for generations to come. Sort of. Only 28 percent of the land in our country is federally owned, and when it comes to protecting the rest of our nation’s beauty, our government often falls far, far short of its duty. The Washington Post recently reported that a 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from a sunken offshore drilling rig owned by Taylor Energy could soon overtake BP’s infamous Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest oil spill ever. Over the last decade and a half, Taylor Energy has not been held accountable — and, until recently, hadn’t been fully investigated.

This doesn’t sound like protecting the grandeur of our country to me. The pristine waters off our coasts are just as important as the mountains of Nevada. That our government puts so much faith in markets and corporations, and that we, citizens of a global superpower, allow our natural treasures to be destroyed right under our noses, is shameful. I firmly believe that we citizens can protect our lands and waters.

What can a global superpower do for its present and future citizens to guarantee that their nation will remain intact and beautiful indefinitely? Amend the Constitution and enact a “corporate death penalty.”

We must push for a constitutional amendment to protect our land, water and air from abuse and degradation. This is a preventative objective and one that is truly attainable with mass action. Whatever form it takes, we must bake the idea of preservation, conservation and national stewardship into our collective conscious. Retaining, protecting and promoting nature and renewal in the United States will secure our financial future much more than frivolity towards resources. By enshrining environmental protections into our legal code, we can set an example for the rest of the world — something we are not currently doing. It’s an essential human right to live free, and we cannot live free if the Earth itself is in shackles.

Further still, we must enforce strong deterrents and punitive measures upon corporations that actively undermine our nation’s environmental health. Fines have never been enough. A company like Taylor Energy that devastates our waters and lies to the government and the people of the United States should be punished with complete asset forfeiture. Total nationalization. Corporate death. We, the people, must be able to hold companies truly accountable under the law. With a punishment this extreme, who would risk violating the natural treasures of our country?

In sum, national parks are a lovely concept, and I personally have enjoyed their open skies, but U.S. environmental policy goes nowhere near far enough. We do not truly protect our lands, waters and skies. We must enshrine the right to a clean environment in our Constitution and harshly punish corporations that flagrantly violate our shared world.