Saturday, January 9, 2010

Polar Bears and Pollution

I don't think too much about the "global-warming-climate-change-cap-and-trade" debate that rankles so many people these days. Though, I certainly don't make or support ridiculous statements about the recent cold spell being the proof that climate scientists are wrong. For me, it's really not about that. It's not about the polar bears, or the ice caps, or ocean front property, or carbon limits, or the effects of those limits on industry. Those aren't on my mind when I take my position. Here's what is.

It's the (cough! hack! ugh!) pollution, people.

The other day I was walking to school, as I do each day, across the student parking lot to our school. The lot is just east of the school district's bus parking lot, which is incidentally, just north of my house. As I made my way on a two-minute walk to the West building, the buses were warming up, and I could barely breathe. Several were belching some black smoke, which was wafting east, and I could barely make it across the lot.

Halfway through the school day, my lungs still hurt. Hurt. They literally hurt from the ingesting of noxious fumes from engines burning fossil fuels. And these were diesel, supposedly burning cleaner than most. My lungs hurt ... here in the beautifully clear Rocky Mountain air.

We simply need to stop burning fossil fuels at the present rate, and I support restrictions. Whatever happens to the polar bears, I care about my health. There is no way to argue that moving away from oil and gas is a bad idea. And, the concerns that restrictions will be hard on business is dubious at best. Some businesses may go under? Good. Better them than my health. I know we heard the same complaints after the founding of the EPA and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts of the 1970s. Of course, those arguments were secondary to the fact that the Cuyahoga River had caught on fire several times in a week.

Did restrictions cause those polluters to go out of business. Who cares? Did the economy crumble? Did the world come to an end? Uhmmm. The answer is no. Thomas Friedman was on the news the other day talking about his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. He pointed out that there is no doubt the earth is warming and it's causing "problems." There's a pretty good chance that man's industrial output is playing some role. How big is debatable. But, regardless, when we face potential disasters, we buy some insurance. That's what climate change legislation and polices are. They're insurance.

I'd like some insurance against the lung cancer I may have contracted. If that helps the polar bears, too, then good.


palo said...

I am not going to lie, I was intrigued about your blog and this is what influenced me to actually post a comment. First of all, I am a teacher in California and your comment concerning the issue of pollution really hits home considering I live in Southern California. Every day seems to be hazy for whatever reason, and the last few days have actually been very clear. Usually this does not take place unless there it rained the day before, which is a rare occasion in Southern California. With all the talk in Washington and even in Copenhagen, Denmark concerning the issue of global warming, it seems people forget the very simple nature of the effects of global warming: their own health. True, this will effect the polar ice caps and perhaps increase the water levels throughout the world, but I agree with you. What about our own health? At what point will it be enough?

Mike Palo
HS History/American Government
Riverside, California

mmazenko said...

Thanks for commenting, Mike. This is the issue that has frustrated me with the global warming debate, and the deniers. Certainly, I trust most of the science that says it's a problem. But even if some of it is dubious, or scientists have "an agenda," there's simply no reason to argue against clean energy.

Daughter of Eve said...

Pollution is a big problem, yes. And, as stewards of creation, we are supposed to be taking care of the earth, not destroying it. But, if you look at the scientific data, there isn't much proof for man causing global warming. There isn't even a whole lot of proof that global warming is something other than the natural fluxuation of the earth's climates, that has been happening since the beginning of the world. Also... What about "Climategate"?

mmazenko said...

Stewards of the Earth, exactly. That's all I'm saying. So the debate over causes is superfluous to the fact that the changes simply need to be made. But there is oodles and oodles and oodles of proof that man is playing a significant role in climate change. However, again, that's not my point. Whatever the percentages of what is causing what - the pollution needs to stop, and if there is even a one percent chance man is causing significant climate change, man has to act now. It's the same for terrorism - if there is a one percent chance that some country or group or individual is going to nuke us, we have to act. There's not much sense in debating how valid all the data is.

Theresa Milstein said...

I couldn't agree more. I teach in the Cambridge Public Schools, and I can't believe how many students now have asthma. It was the rare child when I was a kid. More children have seasonal allergies too.

Look back to the last olympics in China and all the work they did to control their pollution for the athletes. There's something terribly wrong.

Paul Swendson said...

I have heard lots of people deny the reality of global warming. I have yet to hear anyone claim that oil and coal have anything but a negative effect on the environment. At some point, the world is going to have to transition away from fossil fuels. Our country should be in a "Manhattan Project" type of mode to make sure we are on the forefront of this inevitable transition.