Environmental regulations discussed at Povolny lecture

Chris Chan

The status of the environment is an important issue that affects everyone. The need to preserve and protect natural resources has become increasingly important in the world society. George E. Meyer presented a lecture entitled “Government-Business Environmental Cooperation for the Advancement of Business Competitiveness in a Globalizing Age” on Thursday, Jan. 17. Meyer has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and next year will serve as the Stephen Edward Scarff Memorial Visiting Professor of Environmental Studies at Lawrence University.

Meyer has strived to help businesses and government agencies work together to set high environmental standards. Over the course of the last twenty years, a great deal of legislation has been passed. Stronger environmental protection laws have certainly left an impact on Wisconsin.

Meyer, who attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, remembered occasions when students would get thrown into the Fox River. At the time, the river was so contaminated that contact with the water would invariably produce “either an earache or a rash,” commented Meyer wryly. The situation has improved considerably with the enactment of new regulations. While the river is unfortunately not in pristine condition, there are fewer chemicals present in the water and considerably more fish.

Popular opinion holds that large corporations and industrial factories uniformly place profits over the state of the environment, battling or ignoring environmental regulation and stubbornly acting in a manner contrary to the common good. While there are many companies that act in such a reprehensible manner, Meyer recounted numerous tales about how he and his colleagues worked with concerned companies in order to promote a safer environment. In one instance, an industrial company’s benzene emissions were well within governmental standards. However, the company was responsible for producing ninety percent of Wisconsin’s benzene emissions. When confronted with this disturbing information, the company willingly began policies in order to lessen the damage.

“The goal of an environmental management system is to enhance the environmental performance of an organization,” said Meyer. Rules and regulations are enacted in order to improve the state of the earth.

Meyer proclaimed that Wisconsin “has the best recycling program in the country,” and went on to compare Wisconsin’s environmental policies with those of the Netherlands and Bavaria, Germany. While these European communities are very different from one another and Wisconsin, they have a high regard for environmental integrity.

Achievements came into fruition by the joint efforts of businesses and government environmental agencies. Very high environmental levels were set, and contrary to many expectations, these standards were met. Realistic goals, cooperation, and compromise all helped to make improvements possible. Meyer spoke glowingly of the amicable merger of government environmental regulation and businesses, saying, “businesses profit when the environment improves.