President Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dec. 2, 1970, in response to concerns about environmental pollution, and the health of our planet and American citizens. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the nation's growth in industrial areas such as plastics, petroleum and chemicals created unbridled pollution at the expense of the public's health.

This was the age of Love Canal (1940s-1970s), the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching on fire (late 1960s) and DDT (1960s). The EPA was tasked with the mission of balancing ecological goals with those goals related to public health and the common law rights of the individual. Since the inception of the EPA, phenomenal progress has been made in cleaning America's air and water and dealing with abandoned waste sites. The EPA continues to work for the public health and benefit of all Americans.

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The EPA is not out of control, there is no radical anti-fossil fuel agenda, it is not single-handedly destroying American jobs, nor is it a state-funded religion, and it certainly will not destabilize the globe and send it spiraling into a world war, as Commissioner Richard Rothschild would have you believe. In fact, what is really destabilizing the world is anthropogenic global climate change. This is evidenced by the worldwide growing lack of clean water sources and areas of increased drought, which lead to food security issues. And while food security was not the single cause of the Arab Spring in 2010 and 2011, experts agree that it certainly heightened tensions, adding to the unrest.

The EPA is not about pantheism, the belief that the universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, but it is about sustainability. And if we do not live sustainably, there will be no planet for our future generations.

What does living sustainably mean? It means we need to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels (and yes, that includes diesel) right now. It is true that diesel vehicles have a better fuel economy than their gasoline counterparts and are reasonably priced. And yes, in the UK, 50 percent of the cars are diesel, but diesel is not without negative consequences. A recent report (Clean Air London Group, 2015), found that diesel automobiles emit four times more nitrogen dioxide pollution (a component of ground level ozone) and 22 times more particulate matter (PM), which are small solids that can penetrate the lungs, brains and even the heart. Ground-level ozone and PM are the two pollutants the EPA tracks to ascertain the air quality. When a code orange or code red day is announced, it denotes high levels of ozone and PM. Regulation is therefore required for diesel automobiles — and all automobiles — unless we want to move back to the days when air pollution was rampant.

More recently, the EPA has been addressing the increasing rate of global climate change, specifically the increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. This is one of the greatest environmental threats we face as a world today. Last year, 2015, was the hottest year on record since 1880, and not by a margin, it was 0.24oF warmer than 2014 and 1.37oF above the long-term average. This exceptional heat continued into 2016 with both January and February breaking records for high temperature worldwide. In fact, February blew away the global heat record with a temperature 2.18oF warmer than the 20th-century average. The rate of change of the global temperature is outside of anything ever recorded or experienced in Earth's climate history and is unequivocally caused by increasing concentrations of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere.

Indeed, there are predictions that March 2016 may break the record that February set. The EPA set a climate plan in place last year (the Clean Power Plan), which specifically aims to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. These would be the first ever national standards that address power plant sources of carbon pollution. While the Clean Power Plan is supported by 7 out of 10 Americans and has broad bipartisan citizen support, Senate Republicans blocked it in late 2015 and the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the plan as temperatures continued to increase. In addition, due to increased temperatures causing ice sheet melting, global sea level is rising at a rate faster than the last 28 centuries, and the oceans could rise 3 or 4 feet by 2100.

Want to know whom to blame? Ourselves. This is a hard pill to swallow, but our continued excessive use of fossil fuels, unsustainable lifestyle and disregard for the environment has lead us to the state where we are now. Blaming the EPA for the current state of nation is irresponsible.

Want to save America?

Live sustainably. It won't only save America, but it might just save the planet. Sustainability puts humans first, not only humans that are alive at this time, but also future generations.

We are approaching an age where innovation and technology can help lead the way into the future. Where we will need new ways of doing things, greater utilization of renewable energy sources, and we will need to change our mindset; we need to move forward, not backward to a time when there were almost no regulations on environmental issues.

Mona Becker is chair of the Environmental Studies Department at McDaniel College and is a member of Westminster Common Council.

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