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We depend on the natural world for good health and well-being. By Julie Peller Ph.D.

Green Junction

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”  President Lyndon B Johnson, who served the nation from 1963 through 1968, made this statement. Two years later, in 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) was established, the beginning of the most important legislative protections for the environment; this leadership level is required as part of a defense against careless human actions. 

Pope Francis expresses in the Laudate Deum, the encyclical released October 4, 2023, “We have made impressive and awesome technological advances, and we have not realized that at the same time we have turned into highly dangerous beings, capable of threatening the lives of many beings and our own survival.” He further describes failures associated with the over-prioritization of technological progress. “Whenever plans are made to undertake a project involving significant changes in the environment or high levels of contamination, one raises the hopes of the people of that area by speaking of the local progress that it will be able to generate or of the potential for economic growth, employment and human promotion that it would mean for their children. Yet in reality there does not seem to be any true interest in the future of these people, since they are not clearly told that the project will result in the clearing of their lands, a decline in the quality of their lives, a desolate and less habitable landscape lacking in life, the joy of community and hope for the future; in addition to the global damage that eventually compromises many other people as well.”

Establishing the EPA and ensuing laws and regulations have been critical for environmental and human health protections. However, many elected officials put individual interests above those of the greater good. In the state of Indiana, legislation to further weaken wetland protections – changing the classification of many Class III wetlands – passed the House this week. It is important to note that in 2021, many of the same legislators authorized a number of exemptions to wetland protections. According to the Hoosier Environmental Council’s website, “The result was that 75% of the wetland acres destroyed by construction since 2021 have been lost without any mitigation to replace their functions.”

We depend on the natural world for good health and well-being. Last April, the US Supreme Court weakened the protection of surface waters in place for 45 years. The court’s decision (Sackett decision) removed protections of surface waters that are not connected to larger water bodies, leaving tens of millions of acres of wetlands at risk. Our Common Home requires care and safeguards in a complex, materialistic world. 

Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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