In a recent comment on a previous post, it was argued that with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the government is on our side. This may be true to a certain extent; indeed, the US EPA has jurisdiction over some of the most important pieces of legislation to ever come out of Congress - the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (part of it). It is also clear that there are employees of the US EPA that truly do care about the environment, and value the data and numbers that science provide, and want to see those data and numbers effectively understood and acted upon. (I know of one personally.) Yet a government agency that works within a government-industry system of violence towards nature can in no way put a halt to environmental destruction; it may only serve to quell it at times.
As I have written about previously, we have surrounded ourselves with proxies of all sorts - we rely on others to grow our food, we rely on others to make sure we are drinking safe water, we rely on others to make shoes for us, we rely on old white men sitting in rooms making decisions about where our money is spent, whether for education or war. As soon as we give proxies, we lose our ability to have adequate control over what is done with our confidence. So, we end up with genetically-modified foods whose impacts are uncertain, we end up with potentially toxic chemicals in our water because of a 'risk-based' approach to chemicals, we end up with sweatshops in foreign nations, we end up with perpetual war. And when I see permits continually granted for fracking in eastern US and mountaintop removal continuing unabated, I conclude from these data that however we've structured our society and government so far just isn't working. How is it that our land can be allowed to be scarred permanently? Any moderately concerned individual would think that such behaviour just isn't right, even if you can't scientifically prove it (because you probably don't have the ability and access to do so). Our best interests, yours and mine, are not in mind, particularly if you have a government and industry adopting a utilitarian approach to promotion of "welfare."
If there is any hope to move away from a continuing destruction of nature, it is this paradigm itself that must be changed. This is the paradigm that allows pollution of air and water and degradation of land. And this is the very paradigm that is being perpetuated elsewhere - we now have "industrialising" countries, where environmental and ecological norms are blindsided by the euphoria of "growth" and "development." This paradigm shift needs to happen first and foremost in our minds. If we delegitimise industrial capitalism, violent extraction of what nature provides, and the social norms that constrain our actions in our minds, we may be on the road to a meaningful collective action that respects nature and its people.