Pollution and climate change be damned! We need jobs… (what good that will do once we spoil our nest I am not sure) …

June 2, 2017

And he made it sound so right and good.

I heard enough of President Trump’s speech on why he decided to withdraw the U.S. from the so-called Paris Climate Agreement to get the message that his justification is that it put an unfair burden on the U.S. while allowing other nations to continue on their polluting ways.

(Is this true? I don’t know.)

He further contended, I think I heard him say (I was cooking dinner and my computer audio is on the fritz — it goes in and out), that even so the U.S. will continue to be a leader in a clean environment, or something like that.

Is that why I see all the trash up and down the roadways? I just usually figure it was left by Trump voters and supporters (and probably liberals and all to be fair).

It does seem to me that the mainstream press has not done much to explain the Paris accords, or maybe that is just my lazy excuse for not becoming more informed.

Ultimately we cannot ignore environmental concerns just because we think taking corrective measures would eat into profits. For one thing, if we destroy our environment, profits will no longer be an issue. And for another, could it be the rest of the world will move beyond us in adapting to the environment and leave us behind, choking from our own inability to adapt?

And if those Paris accords are really unfair to us, why so? And could we take the lead or take back the lead we are about to abrogate or squander and renegotiate?

If I thought Trump et al. knew what they were doing I might say hooray!

I doubt that is the case.

For congressmen and all politicians it is easier to simply go along with lobbyists protecting their interests than to balance the good of the people as a whole and the concerns of certain sectors of the economy and job market. But real statesmen defer to the good of the people as a whole.

Statesmen are nearly extinct. They are an endangered species.

p.s.

Still searching for a story to explain this all to me, not in a partisan way, but in an objective manner.

 

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Not as much smog in LA these days, could it be those ‘needless’ environmental regulations are needed?

March 11, 2017

The late Johnny Carson used to do a comedy bit on the Tonight Show where he posed as a Middle Eastern mystic, “the Magnificent Carnac”. He would be given an answer or response and he would supposedly by divine intervention come up with the heretofore unknown question or first part.

A favorite of mine: UCLA…..the response was “when the smog lifts”.

Carson of course broadcasted from Burbank, in the Los Angeles basin. If you are way younger than I (I was born in 1949) you might not be aware of or have experienced the thick smog of LA. I got my first sight and whiff of it when I was maybe six years old. My family took a car trip to LA. We came down the old Ridge Route (nowadays more commonly referred to as the “Grapevine”) and there was a pall of smoke, or actually smog, over the basin and it burned our eyes.

(smog = fog or haze combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants).

As a child, my family made a few more trips to the LA area or through it on vacations, but then I was seldom through there for a couple of decades. And then in late middle age I became a truck driver and since then have spent a lot of time driving around in that area.

There are two things that stand out to me:

Disneyland is no longer surrounded by orange groves like it was in 1955 and most of the smog in LA seems to have disappeared, even though the traffic has gotten much worse.

I can only conclude that the heavy environmental regulations, including smog devices on internal combustion engines and other such pollution controls, have had a positive effect. Also I just read a story that said respiratory health among those who live there has improved over the decades.

But if you can believe it, we now have an administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who sees no direct correlation between carbon emissions and the degradation of the earth’s atmosphere, including global warming. As far as I know the consensus of the scientific community is that there is indeed a link. And I’ve been told that the earth is more round than flat (but if I wrote that in the Middle Ages I might have been burned at the stake by religious zealots or today by alt right know nothings).

Like I always say on this subject: I am not a scientist. I have to defer to the scientific community on this one (as well as my own observation).

But this guy Scott Pruitt who was appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled senate as the EPA administrator, is no scientist either. He is a lawyer and his background is in part with big oil and fighting regulatory rules on the behalf of industry.

Now I do realize that it is possible for regulatory agencies to get out of control and issue regulations and requirements that are unreasonable and maybe even counterproductive. Bill Wattenburg, who used to be on a San Francisco radio station and who said he was an engineer and billed himself as something like the smartest man in the world (he was not humble), used to rant that the California Air Resources Board, among other terrible things, was forcing everyone to use an ethanol gasoline formula that actually increased pollution. I don’t know the validity of that, but I would say it is worth looking into. There always needs to be public oversight over the bureaucracy. Of course mid-western corn farmers have a big lobby pushing for the use of ethanol, produced from corn.

But I would be more comfortable with someone with a scientific background as administrator of the EPA.

If I have a medical problem I don’t go to a lawyer. I go to a doctor.

 

 

 

 


Some think climate change talk is a political ploy; Pope wants to save the planet and the human race

June 23, 2015

Those who decry environmentalism as a ploy by political liberals to gain power are also often those who seem to align themselves with conservative and evangelical religious groups. And that seems strange in that one would think that religious people would want to protect the earth that God created.

But they have things to explain away all that. For one thing some still deny there is climate change (beyond the normal historical pattern). They also claim I suppose that God takes care of everything and that if you believe in the Lord then you are free to use the resources he has given you to your heart’s desire. Actually I think some evangelicals think greed is good, as long as you say your prayers in a good Christian manner.

At any rate, now the world-wide leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has come out with a call to save the earth from climate change, which he says is a result of man’s activity, along with natural phenomenon.

For my part I have to put my trust in the scientific community, and as far as I know, the consensus is that man is the primary cause of climate change. But we can do something about that and not totally give up our way of life I feel certain.

But we do have to look past immediate gain, immediate profits, and think long range. Capitalism may not be good at that, and yet it is capable of it I am sure. And maybe capitalism is better to handle things in that it can respond to changing demand and conditions much quicker than ridged forms of socialistic planned economies.

And while I don’t think we need to go back to the old days (and which time period would we pick?), it does seem to me we have gotten a little carried away, to say the least, with our technology. In the name of making life easier and producing more, we have speeded up our existence to such a pace we have a hard time keeping up mentally, physically, and financially.

And I think that here is something in my own life somewhat related to all of this:

When I was a little boy we used to visit a relative’s farm. It was a sort of bucolic paradise in my little eyes. In the early visits the relative was still operating a small-scale dairy — the product not for fresh milk, but for cheese and butter. The dried manure from the cows was a natural fertilizer that was spread over the pasture and fields that might also be planted to corn, or alfalfa, cut for hay. Water was still plentiful in the area. At an earlier time one had to simply sink a pipe into the ground for an artesian well, and the water would flow. Many of the farms were relatively small, 60, 40, even 20 acres.

Fast forward: the land is now rented out to a neighbor who has a much larger operation (and to survive economically larger is necessary).

Those who live on the small farm now buy bottled water in town to drink, fearing the water table has been polluted by chemicals used for fertilizer and pesticides and fungicides. On a recent visit there I saw a strange space-age-looking tractor applying some kind of spray and another more standard-looking tractor with chemical tanks on the back applying chemical of some type.

Most of the farms have been consolidated into larger acreages.

Right now California is in a major several-year drought. Some of the neighbors there are ratting on each other for over-use of water.

Things were not quite the Garden of Eden I saw in my mind’s eye even when I visited there as a young boy no doubt.

But to some extent now the area seems to have an almost industrial character rather than that of rural farmland.

To me, this is not progress, or if it is then progress has an ugly side.

It is said big agriculture is needed to feed an ever-expanding world population. Actually in many countries big agriculture has turned common people from those who could sustain themselves on small plots of land to desperate people crowded into big cities.

The United States has also pushed agriculture exports from our agribusiness sector that in some cases have pushed out small farmers in third-world countries, or so I read.

Now I would not at all propose that our government outlaw big agriculture but on the other hand it could not do so much to encourage it in the way of subsidies, cheap water, and help from public universities. On that last one I mean to say farm advisors or county agents from those universities put most of their effort into helping big farmers. When my relative changed from raising dairy cows to sheep he said he could not get much help from the farm advisors. They were more interested in big operations.

(This was some time ago, perhaps the attitude of farm advisors or county agents has changed. I don’t know.)

There is a renewed interest in sustainable agriculture and buying foodstuffs produced closer to home. I would not suggest we do away entirely with our present way of doing things, shipping the same kinds of food back and forth, some passing each other moving in opposite directions on the highways, but food grown locally on a smaller scale is a nice alternative.

I did not mean to pick on agriculture in general or big agriculture. I have a place close to my heart for it. I have actually been associated with it, big and small, much of my life and made my living thanks to big agriculture.

But imagine, living out on the land and being afraid to drink the water from your own well.

P.s.

For the record, I am not Catholic. But I find it interesting that some climate change deniers say things like the Pope ought to stick to religion and stay away from science and economics (and I think that is in his own faith). Does that mean what is discussed in church, such as being thankful to God for what he has given us and being good stewards of God’s gifts, is just some fantasy we listen to on Sunday and then go about doing everything we can to chase the almighty dollar the rest of the time?

I should stop here, but I will add that even if it were to be proven that much or most of our climate problems are part of a natural change in conditions, we know that man’s activity also has a major effect (to deny that is to deny the obvious). So it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to address the issue on both moral and practical grounds.


Santa Barbara oil spill threatens the beauty of the coast and life itself…

May 21, 2015

I consider myself to have been privileged to drive along the California coast in the Santa Barbara area many a time. And while all of the coast is beautiful of course, I think that area is one of the most spectacular sites to behold, and so much of it in a natural state. But it has always made me uneasy to see those oil platforms out there in the ocean. They kind of look like invading aircraft carriers or something. I think they somewhat despoil the view. But my main concern was what happens if there is an oil leak? Well it has happened. Earlier this week area residents smelled a pungent odor and then oil was discovered covering the beach and upon inspection authorities found a leaking pipe line. Before it could be capped, more than 100,000 gallons had spilled out, over the beach or beaches and into the ocean. The depth of the environmental tragedy is not known yet.

What was a far larger spill, as I understand it, occurred in 1969, and is said to have been the inspiration for the modern environmental movement.

I realize we have to have oil (I guess we do) but there needs to be more safeguards — I mean we really need to stay on top of it — and there needs to be some kind of balance. We can’t just ruin our own nest, our natural environment, to produce energy.

Preserving the beauty of the planet is a good enough reason for me to limit offshore drilling and have restraints on all oil exploration and drilling and transporting, but that might not mean much to some. However, preserving the natural environment, our ecosystem is vital to life on this planet. The ecosystem is a miracle (a God-given one if you please) of interactive organisms and geology that makes our life possible and bearable. But I don’t think a lot of people understand that nor care. I also think money, money now, damn the consequences, blinds many to the need for conservation of the planet.

But most of all I just hate to see such a beautiful place despoiled.

I was afraid something like this might happen. And it has.


We’re hell bent on exploiting mother nature, tomorrow be damned

March 31, 2014

We seem to be hell bent on extracting everything we can from the earth and as fast as we can in the name of energy and jobs and tomorrow be damned.

Now climate change skeptics and anti-environmental movement people or those who are just disinterested will just find that first sentence alarmist or just the rant of a tree hugger.

Well I am an environmentalist of sorts, at least to the extent I prefer that we do the best we can to preserve our environment while maintaining our modern lifestyle the best we can.

But here’s the deal: You know that terrible landslide in Washington state which destroyed so much property and killed so many people and tore apart so many lives, well now I read that despite the fact that locals say no one could have known it would happen, there were earlier reports of an unstable mountainside highly susceptible to a landslide if there were development. But who wants to read such a report, especially if it means eroding property values?

And I read that the area was heavily logged by the clear cut method where you totally denude the once forested land.

Now you can’t just say don’t cut trees down. We need the lumber to build houses and other structures. We need the jobs that such an endeavor produces. But when we get carried away and wind up being not good stewards of the land, bad things happen.

One of the articles I read mentioned the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s that coincided with the Great Depression and noted that droughts were historical on the land — poor farming/cultivation practices led to the devastating dust storms.

And now “fracking” is all the rage in our effort to extract natural gas, never mind what it might do to the land. We need energy and we need jobs.

Canada, once so environmentalist, now has energy blinders on and is going whole hog exploiting the tar sands and lessening its own environmental regulations.

Even President Obama seems to be leaning toward approval of the Keystone Pipeline, which environmentalist have heavy concerns over.

You can get carried away with environmental regulations. I mean I live in timber country where once the main employment was in the timber industry, much of it at saw mills and lumber re-manufacturing. When I was in high school it was said that half the town was employed at one mill and half at the other. I even worked in the industry for a short term after I got out of the army (it’s hard work). And then I think two things happened, foreign competition and the spotted owl. Logging was heavily restricted and I think barred from some old growth timber where the spotted owl supposedly restricted is nesting to. And then some environmentalist detractors said the spotted owls were nesting nicely in new growth timber — I wouldn’t know, just like I never know for sure how dangerous various things are to the environment — but we all know that you have to take good care of the earth to sustain its bounty.

But caution and moderation run headlong into the economics of we must have as much money as we can now and let tomorrow and another generation take care of itself.

Another major problem is that our leaders are more concerned about elections and the big money that powers them, the same big money pushing for energy development at any cost, than what is good for sustaining our earth and what is best for human life. And furthermore the vast public is indifferent, each person only concerned about his or her immediate need for the day.

Here is a link to one of the articles that got me going on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/opinion/is-canada-tarring-itself.html?hpw&rref=opinion

 

Have a nice day.

 

 

 

 


The corn for enthanol problem and millions in subsidies for millionaires…

November 13, 2013

Apparently the federal government is still doling out millions of dollars to millionaires via agricultural subsidies, some of whom aren’t even gentleman farmers — have nothing to do with farming, other than to collect their subsidy checks — and just as bad or maybe even worse is a misguided effort to burn cleaner fuel and help corn farmers at the same time. It is causing an environmental crisis and has increased food prices. The latter has to do with the corn-based ethanol mandate for our gasoline.

I’m talking about two different but somewhat related things here.

The subsidy scandal has been around for a long time. I mean at least once a year the story is done. But the lobby that supports the subsidies is strong and misrepresents itself as supporting Ma and Pa down on the farm, lest they lose the farm to the uncertainties of crop prices and weather and the high cost of chemical based, manufactured fertilizer (and gee in the old days it just came out of the end of a cow, as a byproduct, you might say), oh, and the evil banker foreclosing on the unpaid mortgage. But much of the subsidies go to extremely large farming operations and even business operations of individuals who have nothing to do with farming, other than they have investments involving land and other than they have somehow finagled their way into the subsidy bonanza.

And whether some of these subsidy payments may be collected illegally is apparently in question and there does not seem to be a lot of oversight by the government agencies involved. In fact, I just read that rules are being changed in the name of more transparency but in reality some of the subsidies are going to be moved to different programs that do not provide transparency. I know. That does not make sense. I don’t claim to be an expert in all of this. Like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers, well on the computer. But there is a bad smell from the farm programs and it is not cow manure.

And I’ll just add, something I have mentioned previously, my own congressman comes from a family who has a large farming operation, of which he is part, and it has collected millions of dollars over the years in subsidies. He is a conservative, anti-tax, get the government-out-of-my-business conservative Tea Party Republican. He sees no conflict. I imagine he considers it just good business.

The ethanol mandate was supported heavily by presidential candidate Barack Obama and continues to be supported by President Obama. He needed to woo Midwest corn farmers, particularly the Iowa farmers to influence the Iowa caucuses. Supposedly, replacing part of the gasoline mix with the additive of ethanol makes the fuel burn cleaner. Whether that is true or not, the resulting demand for corn has resulted in more pollution and environmental damage and has caused food prices to skyrocket because corn that would have gone either directly for human food or to humans via livestock feed is being siphoned off into ethanol production, the process of which causes pollution. And what has been noticed now is that farmers have put so many acres into corn, to include virgin ground, that it is becoming an environmental disaster, to include heavy erosion. And such heavy fertilizer use contaminates ground water and water ways and large bodies of water, such as the Gulf of Mexico. Lands that had been put into conservation programs, that carried a government incentive, are now being put into corn because the price of corn has jumped.

Now as to farm subsidies, there may be an argument for them having to do with supporting family farms and maintaining a stable food supply. But they seem to be maintaining rich people and maybe there is a less costly and more efficient method of maintaining food supplies. And stepped up oversight is certainly in order. And if your income is in the millions (or billions), really it is hard to argue that you need help from the government. And if it is only in the millions because of the government, well the government should not be in the farming business and you should not be either.

As for the ethanol thing, well for one thing, as I understand it, it does not improve gas mileage and in fact reduces it. And I have already mentioned the environmental harm and the effect it has on food prices.

I am not at all against our agricultural sector. Much of my life I have worked in connection with it. A lot of family farmers run major operations that look more like corporate endeavors than that iconic picture of Ma and Pa down on the farm somewhere in Iowa, but the farmers I have come into contact with are hard working and multi-talented, being part businessman, farmer, mechanic, construction worker and so on. I don’t begrudge their success. And I suppose if the government is offering a subsidy it in most cases it is simply good business to take advantage. But on the other hand, we all have to realize that it makes no sense and is not fair to the rest of us for our government to subsidize people who can do quite well on their own. And I really have no good feeling about subsidizing corporate farming operations. Businessmen want independence and they should get it.

I’ve provided links to two stories that deal with the subjects I covered:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/24/millionaires-get-farm-pay_n_146189.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57611891/making-corn-based-ethanol-badly-hurting-environment-ap/

P.s.

I forgot to mention that energy independence was used as a selling point for corn-based ethanol production. But as I understand it, what with natural gas and new oil extracting methods we are now energy independent. I mean Hitler did turn to making fuel for his tanks from distilling the alcohol out of potatoes — but that meant everyone had fewer potatoes to eat.


Climate change debate filtered through ideology but public may see through it…

August 9, 2012

Just read a newspaper column (on the internet of course) that said there is research that indicates the majority of the public actually believes there is  climate change (formerly called “global warming”) but may disagree on the current severity of it, while there is a minority at both extremes, one thinking it is the end and the other that climate change does not exist (or it is just a simple and natural fluctuation of weather patterns).

(I had to re-read the column to figure out whether it was trying to say that most people believe climate change is man-created or augmented, but the implication is that they do and want their leaders to do something about it. Maybe in my haste to post this I did not represent the message of the column quite right, but what I really am trying to say is that it seems most people know something is wrong and that somehow we can and need to do something about it.)

And of course some people aren’t even aware of the problem or perceived problem. These people don’t really count, though.

But a line in the column intrigued me, something about the ongoing debate between the Fox News public and NPR public.

We all know that Fox is slanted toward the right wing who finds it economically and politically convenient to ignore or dispute climate change and we all know that NPR would most likely align itself with progressive thought that would naturally tend toward saving the environment even if it is inconvenient and costs money in the near term. And then there is the fact that NPR is not above pointing fingers of blame at commercial interests, while Fox would naturally tend to resist that.

It is really too bad most of the information disseminated to the general public comes through ideological filters.

What we need is truth, free of the slant of politics and ideology.

On the one hand, we don’t want to go overboard and pass and enforce needless regulations that hamper everyday business and life and on the other hand we don’t want the farm that feeds us (using metaphor here) to blow away in dust bowl fashion because we don’t want to give an inch to those attuned to the environment, who just might be lefties.

I was interested to hear a news report that said something about soft drink makers taking steps to preserve water supplies. Sounds kind of environmental. But if water is the main ingredient for your product, then it makes business sense (not to mention water is a necessary element for life itself).

You know, the public may be on board in this quest to figure out what to do about climate change and business people will be too as if affects their bottom line.

It may be the politicians who are not up to speed.

They are hampered by the fact that they are sometimes afraid to say what they really think or know because they fear alienating groups of potential voters.

It’s too bad that our decision makers go by votes more than evidence.

And it is too bad that some who want to push an ideological or political agenda on both the left and right use this very real problem as a tool to achieve political goals.

P.s.

I am not really up on the science of it all and I understand there have always been cycles of hot and cold and wet and dry weather, but from what I have read so far, most scientists agree that what we are seeing now is indeed a major earth climate change, affected to a large degree by man-produced carbons in the atmosphere. Even some skeptics in the field of science have now accepted that there is a major climate change taking place.

I give you the link to the article I read that prompted this post:

http://www.omaha.com/article/20120808/NEWS/708089922/1694#grace-climate-change-is-here-so-let-s-talk