economic development

Big Businesses, Clean Up Your Mess

There is a popular saying of “if you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.” While this statement may be true in the culinary sense, it allows too many people to evade responsibility when crises occur. For example, because people prefer to drive, it is considered acceptable to destroy the environment to fulfill the wishes of some human beings, even at the expense of others. Oil spills are thought to be the price humanity pays to drive, and because not enough people are directly affected by them, few work to hold the companies accountable for their messes. After several oil spills, contaminated water, and violent protests, it is time for profitable industries to be responsible for the environmental consequences of their efforts.

At some point, local government entities need to recognize their authority when large private entities come to call. If a business is locating in a community that is normally marginalized, what then should the company do to alleviate those effects? How will the company would to change whatever negative results come to that community? Will any of the new jobs be advantageous enough to the constituents within that community, or will the company just transplant employees currently located elsewhere? Most importantly, will those employees be willing to live near the company and share the effects bestowed on the new area? The answers to these questions must be provided to the residents of potential neighborhoods so that they can exercise autonomy over who enters their community.

Whether the local entities acknowledge this statement or not, when companies pollute the areas where they are located, citizens are paying taxes for pollution. Not just in the form of health issues, but they are paying for the street cleanup, water treatment, and road maintenance. Their property values shrink because of the affects, forcing them to remain in areas that may be hazardous to their own health. If large companies that earn billions of dollars in revenue wish to involve themselves in communities, they should not be allowed to avoid taxation if residents will be directly involved with the byproducts. No residents are approached before the local government authority, so none should be harmed by lack of engagement.

Finally, none of the companies who are so eager for avoiding their part in cities are willing to pay for the environmental consequences. Air pollution has become so concentrated in marginalized communities that the health benefits of walking in such areas is eradicated by the dangers of the air quality. Water potability has consistently be documented and filmed, but few companies have been responsible for the cancer-causing toxins that reshaped communities and financially ravaged families. Poisonous pesticides have reduced crop yields, but no large farms have stepped up to accept the consequences of food shortages and change their cultures. Human beings live in one ecosystem on the planet, and few people are deciding the quality of life for billions without consent.

Avoiding natural disasters does not seem to be sufficient enough for the public to demand that companies curb their pollution. Environmental workers are paid some of the lowest wages, if they are paid at all, even though the environment makes financial growth possible. More people should admit that the world will not indefinitely have plentiful resources, and those that exist can only sustain humanity as long as those who have damaged them for so long are motivated to work to clean up their messes.

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