Today, on Cleaning Up The Mess
we present part one of a two-part guest column series by her Excellency
Beatrice W Welters, US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago who tells us how
the Americans, under the Obama administration, are tackling serious
BEATRICE W WALTERS
US Ambassador to Trinidad and
pride ourselves on the natural wonders of our country. Hanging on the walls
of US embassies worldwide are framed photographs capturing beautiful scenes
of the mountains, rivers, fields and wildlife found in America’s national
parks. The US Census Bureau recently published a fact about the United
States that few people, Americans included, probably realise; of the
country’s total land mass, 94 per cent remains categorised as undeveloped.
But even with large tracts of
land that many would deem “pristine,” or perhaps because of it,
environmental awareness, conservation and protection have been hallmarks of
the American experience since the country’s founding, and Americans of every
political stripe and walk of life strive to be good stewards of the natural
environment, whether as hikers, hunters, farmers, surfers or bird watchers.
American environmentalism mirrors our federal system of government, in that
efforts to protect the environment simultaneously fall under the purview of
federal, state and local units of government.
The US Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) sets the tone for our nation’s environmental
strategy, implementing laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act
to regulate harmful emissions into the atmosphere and water supplies, and to
set national standards for environmental protection.
Other government agencies,
like the US Department of Energy, encourage the development of clean energy
sources, and work with countries like Trinidad and Tobago to find unique
methods to address shared goals.
In fact, the Department of
Energy and the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs are
negotiating an agreement to exchange ideas and best practices in the
renewable energy sector.
And in his recent State of the
Union address, President Barack Obama challenged the US scientific and
business communities to develop new clean energy alternatives that would
create jobs, defend national security, and protect the planet. The US
federal government, however, does not alone bear the duty to care for our
natural world. State and local governments also take responsibility to
ensure the protection and conservation of their own environs.
The State of California, for
instance, has often led the country in setting new standards to combat air
and water pollution, and many of its regulations have been replicated by
other states and become accepted nationally by the federal government and
private industry. Municipal governments, likewise, closely regulate the
impact of human activities on open spaces, water and the atmosphere through
land-use zoning, building permits, and emissions controls. Municipal
governments also take the lead on recycling efforts nationwide.
It is now the habit of many
Americans living in urban and suburban areas to separate their trash items,
placing plastics, glass, cardboard and newspapers in special bins provided
by their city governments, with trash haulers taking those materials to