Well, telling us something we should have learned in high school, a new study by researchers from the University of California shows why it is so difficult for the US to move forward on critical environmental issues.
The basics of it is that there is a severe misrepresentation of rural interests in the US political system. When you get into the details, you see how unbalanced this actually is and how this results in the US being an environmental laggard in the global community.
Due to the fact that every state gets two senators, California, for example, has the same influence in the Senate as each of the 21 least populated and generally rural states despite having approximately the same number of people as all of those states combined.
Put in other terms, Wyoming has 2 senators per million voters and California has 0.06 senators per million voters.
The result of this, for various reasons, is weak environmental action on critical issues.
“The study argues that rural voters tend to be more opposed to environmental legislation, as they are more dependent on private vehicles for transportation and must travel longer distances for professional and personal purposes, while the observable externalities of gasoline consumption, such as local air pollution and traffic congestion affect them less,” Tom Young of Business Green reports.
As a result of this unbalanced representation in the political system, the US is far behind on raising fuel taxes and addressing climate change.
“In many of these cases, this institutional variation is the result of antiquated and idiosyncratic historical choices,” the report says. “But the evidence points to an unintended consequence in the realm of environmental policy.”
In the end, rural concern led by efforts like the American Farm Bureau’s “Don’t CAP Our Future” campaign against cap and trade legislation, unbalanced in the US political system, stunts needed societal improvements to address climate change and other environmental issues and to create more jobs in the US. How to address this problem is the question at hand now.
Merging states, changing the representation system, or reducing the power of the Senate are all potential solutions to this problem, in theory, but highly unlikely to occur. So, for now, it seems that if we are going to address environmental issues in an appropriate way, we need to look at ways to engage these rural voters and their representatives in a positive manner on the pressing environmental issues of the day. Any suggestions?
Image Credit: Zachary Shahan
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