It’s Fall of 2021: we’re at the tail end of the COP26 summit, an infrastructure bill chock-full of recycling funding is approaching the President’s desk, and we’ve reached a Renaissance of metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes. Perhaps we have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the state of waste reduction in America?
For all of our talk about reducing waste, America’s recycling rates are shockingly low.
Since 2010, recycling and composting rates have been stagnating or dropping, reaching a dismal 32% of all municipal solid waste generated in 2018.
Virginia’s state elections on November 2nd resulted in a red wave washing over the Commonwealth. Democrats have enjoyed control of all three executive offices and both houses of the General Assembly since 2019 and no Republican had won a statewide race since 2009. After polls closed, Republicans had gained the governor’s, lieutenant governor's, and attorney general’s offices, and won at least 50 seats in the House of Delegates. A few races have yet to be called in the House, but Democrats have lost outright control of the House nonetheless. No Senate seats were up for election last Tuesday.
Virginia voters cast approximately 3.3 million ballots in the gubernatorial race, the highest turnout since at least 1997. About 55% of the Virginia electorate turned in early ballots or voted on election day. Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe had a lead in early voting, mail-in ballots, and provisional ballots, but Republican Glenn Youngkin was able to mobilize his base on election day to swing the election in his favor.
In May 2019, SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration collaborative, launched a batch of small, tightly-packed Starlink Satellites. Although that first launch only contained 60 satellites, SpaceX plans to form a global network of over 42,000 Starlink satellites by the end of the decade – for context, there were roughly 4,000 total active satellites in orbit as of May 1, 2021. Thanks to a launch in mid-September, the company brought its total satellite count to almost 1800.
Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a potentially landmark abortion case with the petitioners asking the Court to revisit Roe v. Wade. Before oral arguments in that case could even be scheduled, the Court rejected to stay a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks.
As a result, the Court’s conservative justices find themselves in damage control mode, with a number of justices taking the time to once more assure the public that the Supreme Court makes only legal decisions and never determines policy based on its merits. Both Justice Alito and Justice Barrett recently gave speeches defending the Court’s recent decisions declining to stay the Texas abortion law against allegations of political motivation. Without a doubt, the Court moved to the right as Justice Barrett replaced liberal Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. While public attention on the Court remains focused on social issues like abortion, the rightward shift will result in dramatic changes to the regulatory state.
At long last, we’ve finally reached a point in our societal discourse where the question of whether anthropogenic climate change is or isn’t happening is a bygone conclusion. Most major players in the debate can reluctantly acknowledge that, yes, climate change is real and yes, something must be done about it. Within the beltway, the shift on the political right toward accepting the reality of climate change is best exemplified by the recent formation in the House of the 64-member GOP-only Conservative Climate Caucus, which will ostensibly seek to educate members on climate issues (although the sincerity of these members should be taken with a grain of salt). We’re also seeing hints of a sea-change in the private sector, a traditional source of opposition to climate action, as more and more companies realize that green technology is good (and potentially very profitable) business. Even the giants of the fossil fuel industry see the writing on the wall and are beginning to invest in renewable energy, although this isn’t to say that oil companies will stop drilling any time soon.