The devastation from the two recent hurricanes — Harvey and Irma — should be a clear message to our politicians to stop playing politics with the environment. Images of families being rescued by boats because of the floods should get the attention of the president and congress.

Our elected officials seem to be oblivious to how the destruction of the environment affects us. The favorite words of former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, who was Senator John McCain’s running mate in 2008, was “drill baby drill.”

The message she was sending was — forget the environment, just go ahead and drill for oil. The environment will take care of itself.

This was a bonehead proposal without considering how this would affect the environment. Our country needs to be energy independent, but we also need to be good stewards of the environment for future generations. There needs to be a balanced approach to our energy policy.

Some of our politicians are also famous for advocating laws without considering the social and health consequences of these decisions. For example, the city of Houston has no zoning laws. This means that companies can built chemical plants in residential areas.

When Governor Greg Abbott of Texas was Attorney General of the state, he refused to share information about the types of materials that are in the chemical plants. This can be interpreted as callous disregard for the health and safety of the people living in areas in which the plants are located. In short, he was saying is – if you want to know about the types of chemicals ask the people who own the plants.

If anyone believes the companies would voluntarily turn over this information, I will sell them the piece of swamp property I have in downtown Manhattan in New York City. Everyone should get my drift because there is no swampland in Manhattan.

There is too much preoccupation with profits and not enough consideration given to how certain political decisions affect people. What is missing from the debate is the human cost of these decisions.

Our president believes climate change is a hoax. However, our Europeans allies think otherwise. Our country needs a long-term policy to protect the environment. The takeaway from this exercise is that factors which contribute to the destruction of the environment also contribute to natural disasters.

Dr. Noel A.D. Thompson is a political scientist who now teaches at Tuskegee University after many years as a professor at Auburn University.

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