Siphoning Off the Future

in Future

Last week the EPA categorized carbon dioxide and 5 other greenhouse gasses as "endangering public health and welfare", finally recognizing officially what the scientific and conservation communities have been trying to tell the governments of the world for years. The EPA is very likely to recommend legislative action on this issue, while looking at regulatory options as well.

This is a stark turnaround from just a few years ago, when President Bush publicly stated that there was no such thing as global warming and the politically conservative EPA saying nothing on the issue. In today's political news, the Republicans have been forced to acknowledge reality on this issue, but are now basing their opposition on cost. They maintain that it will simply cost too much to regulate or legislate industries to "go green", citing higher energy costs and job losses as reason to do nothing to as little as possible on the issue. They have responded in accordance with oil company executives who say that President Obama's proposals will encourage the industry to shift production and jobs abroad. They also look at China and India's use of fossil fuels with little to no regulation as making our attempts worthless.

These comments and attitudes exposed a few things that I have long suspected and have commented on in the past. One, that the Republican Party only gives a hoot about the future of this country and the welfare of future generations when it suits them. Second is that when corporations reach a certain size, they care nothing for the health of the citizens and nations that gave them life, only care for their short term profit and own survival. Third is that politicians and analysts in this country are using the fact that India and China are major contributors to the global warming problem as an excuse to do nothing, saying that unless they take measures to cut their usage and carbon dioxide emissions there's no point to us doing it.

Ask any Republican what they object to most about the stimulus package and they will start talking about how the Democrats are saddling future generations of Americans with "crippling" debt. We won't go into the fact that the single biggest cause of the current deficit is the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were engineered by a Republican administration. We will, however, pause to question that the Republicans, in their fervor for cheap energy that nurtures our wasteful treatment of our natural resources, show no signs of being concerned with the health or welfare of those same future generations by taking action to ensure our planet's well being. In order to be able to have cheap electricity for McMansions and to be able to fill up behemoth SUV gas tanks for less than $50, they are willing to risk a future with mass flooding, dying wildlife, dirty air, increased skin cancer risks, and dangerously shrinking natural resources. They are willing to cause irreparable damage to pristine wilderness areas ("Drill, baby, drill!"). They are willing to disrupt the natural cycle of all life on this planet. All of these will cost our descendants untold sums to fix, if they even can, but that isn't our problem is it? That hasn't happened yet, so it isn't real, is it? But the fact that gas will cost me a little extra and that I may have to turn my thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer will really put me out NOW. However, I don't look at it that way. The higher cost of fuel and emissions caps won't affect me all that much- I have always owned very fuel efficient, low emission vehicles, turned lights and appliances off when not using them, kept my programmable thermostat at a lower temp in winter and a higher one in summer. The extra $20 to fill my tank at $4 a gallon and higher natural gas bill was more of an inconvenience than crippling, because I had already made my energy needs so small. I see taking action now as an investment in the future, and $20 a week is cheap for ensuring my son a bright future on a healthy planet. Sure it will cost us money, but when has inaction and procrastination ever saved anyone money. All it does is rob us of the time and resources needed to tackle the problem. Fact is, something should have been done about this a long time ago and we have coasted. The cost will only continue to grow and the time needed to come up with a solution will run out. Do we want to hand our future generations a "do or die" situation, or do we want to exercise some forethought and good judgment and give them solutions? I opt for solutions.

That brings me to my second issue, the stated response by the oil companies to attempts to legislate climate change. They are basically threatening to move out of the US and punish us for doing what's necessary for our nation's health and survival. This shows that they care nothing about the long term future of this country, which, since we are one of their biggest customers, would affect their long term survival too. The short term pursuit of profit as the focus of oil companies demonstrates just how much intervention on this issue is needed. They are taking no responsibility for the affects of their industry's actions and are perfectly happy to abandon our nation should it prove to be more profitable. Someone needs to take the long view on the issue of energy and climate change, because no one else is going to. If the industry isn't, the market isn't, or the public at large isn't, that leaves the government to step in and do what's necessary.

My third issue is the comments by those in authority that run along the lines of "we shouldn't have to do it unless they do it too". Whether China or India do the right thing to prevent climate change or not does not remove our duty to act responsibly. We are not a developing country, we cannot say we don't know better, and we cannot say that we can't do anything to stop it. We all know what we need to do- we need to take our heads out of the sand, ante up a bit, and stop being so lazy and greedy. If we don't do it then China and India, who still don't produce as much greenhouse gas as we do, will only point to us and say "if they don't have to do it, why should we?" Someone has to be first and do the right thing. Even if it IS only us alone that acts, then at least we will have lowered the amount of greenhouse gasses created and slowed the process down. That's better than nothing.

This is a time of reckoning; a time to show what we are made of, what we believe in and practice. The US has always prided itself in being the innovators and visionaries of the world. Now is the time to demonstrate those skills in the service of the future of mankind and our planet. We want to be leaders; don't let other nations lead the way on climate control regulation and environmental issues.

Laura Bramble

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Siphoning Off the Future

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This article was published on 2010/04/02
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