Environment


We have one planet, one environment. And we must take care of it.

One of my earliest memories was of my father trying to explain why a river was on fire. I was just about to turn seven when the Cuyahoga River started burning. I could not fathom how water could burn. Of course, I have since caught on. However, I remain mystified why as to we would pollute our home to the point that this could happen.

I credit President Nixon with responding appropriately to a nation we had made filthy. Like the Clean Air Act enacted before him, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency have allowed us to make great strides in cleaning up the environment and in saving lives threatened by air and water pollution. That said, farm- and urban-runoff still create crises like the extraordinary and unnatural algae blooms in the western end of Lake Erie—blooms that are starting to form again as I write this in June 2017. (2017 Lake Erie algae prediction) Clearly, we have much more to do to make this planet inhabitable and survivable for ourselves and for our grandchildren.

t the same time other pollutants that degrade health and take lives have been flowing into our air and water, we have been producing huge amounts of carbon dioxide. The Nixon Administration discussed global warming in 1969 and the likely results of emitting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Moynihan-Heffner) We have crossed the 400 parts per million threshold we were warned to avoid, and each of the last three years has been the new warmest year on record. (NASA-400ppm) (NASA-warmest years)

I have a friend who liked to claim that the Earth’s climate is always changing, and what we are experiencing now is more of that natural variation. He is half-right. Indeed, the Earth’s climate has varied over time. We know that because climate scientists have done exhaustive research into the history of our Earth’s climate. Now, those same climate scientists are telling us that what is happening in our lifetimes is not part of that natural change. Rather, this is a manmade (anthropogenic) change that is unprecedented.

My friend is no more qualified to say that climate scientists are right in the first instance and wrong on the second than he is to tell doctors that they are right on general human anatomy but wrong on a malfunctioning kidney diagnosis. We are wise to defer to expertise when our own is lacking. We do that all the time (plumbers, mechanics, doctors, dentists, and on and on) with this silly exception on climate. And that political position is very recent. In 2008, Senator John McCain ran for President on a strong platform for fighting climate change. Republicans voted for him.

We can and must respond to this extraordinary threat to our planet. We have no other place to live, nor do our grandkids. We can mount vigorous and effective programs and projects to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we spews into the atmosphere. The technology exists and even the market is working to replace pollution sources with cleaner alternative. (Energy trends) Clean sources are becoming cheaper than dirty sources. Jobs in clean energy are exceeding the number of jobs in dirty energy. (Solar jobs exceed fossil fuels) We can accelerate this.

The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord by Donald Trump and the applause he received from Lou Barletta for that wrong-headed action condemns more and more people to suffering from the effects of too much carbon dioxide and accompanying pollutants. It is not a stretch to argue that people will die from this action. (US air pollution deaths)

The flows of pollution into our streams and air that bring CO2 also bring a number of other pollutants that lead to birth defects, disease, and death. Whether or not you accept the science or predictions on climate change, you still suffer the immediate effects of these other pollutants. So, too, do the members of your family, especially elderly parents, pregnant wives and daughters, and children. If you resist controls on carbon, your health and your life still depend on controls of the pollutants produced alongside CO2. We do not have to poison ourselves. There is a museum in Pennsylvania that records the 1948 death of 20 people and the illness of 7,000 due to air pollution. We must not experience that again.