When it comes to protecting “the commons” — including public water sources in North Carolina — there shouldn’t be much ideological difference between conservatives and liberals.
Nevertheless, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have so far failed to substantially address the problem of GenX in the water supply of Wilmington. That chemical, dumped into the Cape Fear River for years by Dupont (and then by splinter company, Chemours Co.), has been measured at high levels near the coastal city and may be toxic.
Instead of uniting to ensure clean water, the two political sides in Raleigh have battled each other. The GA refused a 2.6 million dollar outlay the state executive branch requested in August to help fund public health and environmental protection efforts. Then, last week, Cooper vetoed House Bill 56, a bill would that have provided almost half a million dollars to study and clean up GenX, (as well as making some changes to environmental law. For example, it would have repealed a plastic bag ban on N.C.’s coast).
This fighting has been polarized politics as usual, with Republican Sen. Phil Berger accusing Cooper of wanting to grow the bureaucracy with the multimillion dollar outlay, and Cooper naming HB 56 “cynical.” What’s tragically absurd here, though, is that the ideological gap on this issue shouldn’t be wide at all.
As Garrett Hardin’s classic 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” argued, air and water — which all but the most capitalistic thinkers agree shouldn’t be held as private property — must be protected against degradation. The dynamics of the “commons” are such that if the government doesn’t protect them, no one will.