I remember growing up in the 60's and 70's and hearing all the predictions about
over-population and exotic viruses and epidemics from the jungles and the rainforests, and
all the other dire environmental and bio-medical disasters that we had to look forward to
in the future....
And I remember noticing from time to time that the people on the news mentioned
legislation that would clean our air and our water and protect our forests and deal with
environmental problems. To me, it seemed apparent that there were plenty of other
people who were volunteering and committing their time to being a watchdog on
Like most people, I thought, deep inside, that the issues were not being fully or
adequately addressed, but being tended to in the slow but sure wheels of progress.
It's one of the ways facades - speeches that talk about an issue even though a
commitment or a plan to address it is not on the agenda - are used to make you think
leaders are responding, and that you should trust them to make decisions and policies
while you tend to your responsiblilites as citizens, parents and professionals.
By the way, if you think I'm criticizing politicians for all of that, remember that
it's the responsibility of citizens to inform the government of its concerns and
And it's true, we've cut emissions from cars a great deal, despite the fact that the
average miles per gallon of a new car has decreased since 2000. But there are many
more issues related to maintaining the environment than car mileage and air pollution.
Still, more than 50% of California is said to have consistently poor air quality. And
the levels of lead in the blood of our children are rising to levels considered
dangerous. Asthma in children is on the rise, and drug-resistant bacterias and
viruses are cropping up more often all the time.
When you take a look at all of the issues on a grand scale, you have to realize that we
are not truly addressing the issues, we are responding to crisis after crisis based on
political or economic expediency, driven by public interest on a topic that affects
us all, but is much too subtle to notice.
Still, there's a reason why the world's weather has been so crazy for the last few
Global Warming is a phrase that's lost all meaning or objectivity. It's
interesting how some people actually become angry at the idea of the discussing global
warming, because, as The Heritage Foundation would have you believe, global warming is a
What's actually a myth about global warming is what it has come to mean.
The original concept behind the phrase had more to do with the effects of greenhouse
gases and holes in the ozone layer, and the rise and effects of a general, unnatural
warming of the planets. The warming effect would melt ice packs, encourage bacterial
growth spawning disease and infection, harm organisms in soil and encourage plant disease.
It is truly related to our personal health.
But it has become nearly synonomous with the word environment - and negative
connotations - and all the issues it encompasses. This minimizes the diverse and important
work required to maintain an eco-system that is becoming more imbalanced as time goes on.
The environment requires a holistic approach to the issues, and acknowledging how the
inter-connectedness of humans, animals and plant life can not be ignored.
Whether you attribute it to "global warming" or not is irrelevant. All I need
to do is look around in the world and realize that for quite some time, people we have
historically labeled as environmental activists, extremists and fanatics were trying to
tell us that we were, in effect, creating more garbage than the system (earth's ecosystem)
could handle, and that we needed to do something about it before it got out of hand. They
We all just sort of figured that when the time came, we'd handle it. I don't know know
if you've noticed, but when I look around, the eco-decay that they talked about is
happening before our eyes.
In the case of SARS 50% of Americans believe that we will have to face dealing with a
SARS epidemic in the future.... but they aren't worried about it right now. That's pretty
much been our approach to the environment, in a nutshell.
In a nearly related story... I was once talking to a relative about nuclear power
plants. He was saying that his company, a very large, well known multi-national oil
drilling and distribution company where he was an executive, was considering the
feasibility of putting a nuclear power plant some 30 miles north of Los Angeles.
Now, I've never been a proponent of placing a nuclear power plant on top of one of the
most active fault lines in the world... I asked him, "What if it melts down?"
He said "The likelihood of a meltdown is pretty small, but even if it did, it
would only kill a million people."
I said "That's easy to say when you talk about raw numbers, but what if your wife
and newborn child were included in that million people?"
He didn't want to talk about it any more. After all, bad things only happen to other
Crossing our fingers and hoping everything will work out fine is not good enough. And
we need to realize that eco-decay and its effects are not just happening to other people
hundreds or thousands of miles away. They happen to us, to you, every day. You don't
notice, because the changes are slow and subtle, though just as sure and measurable.
Eco-maintenance is nothing more or less than preventive health care. The
foundations of, and the answers to many of the questions of eco-maintenance are available
today. Unfortunately, they have been left unused due to political expediency and economic
The KYOTO Accord
I'll be among those who will gladly admit that the Kyoto accord is no panacea when it
comes to addressing the issues of greenhouse gasses, global warming and eco-decay. But I
believe it was an excellent first step.
What the Kyoto Accord really represented was a declaration of a global commitment to
addressing eco-decay, and developing eco-maintenace standards and practices that would
meet progressive environmental strategies, provide economic opportunities, and avoid
implementing policies in such a way that gives any country, industry or sector
economic or technological advantage. This allowed for a sincere focus on the problem, and
the opportunity to begin a process to address a global issue in a way that
acknowledges when a problem and its solution is more important than power or profit.
When the Bush Administration withdrew President Clinton's commitment to sign the Kyoto
Accord, many countries took on a clear commitment to economic growth and
environmental quality, as well as the potential political ramifications, for the good of
They simply wanted an even playing field when it came to considering the cost of
equipment and systems to improve emission levels, knowing those investments would likely
require a price increase to consumers and distributors at all levels.
The economic impact of the Kyoto Accord was significant enough that numerous developing
nations requested exemptions or deferred implementation of emission equipment in order to
meet global standards.
I might agree with you about cheering for our companies for being able to land those
contracts and grow our economy if it wasn't for the fact that our government very eagerly
promoted treaties such as the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and the soon to be
fulfilled negotiations on the FTAA.
Those treaties, in effect, say that we agree not to place tariffs on imports or give
favor to contractors in such a way that it provides an unfair competitive advantage to
American or other specific groups of interest. The question is, will the United States
actually abide by the rules of the programs we so vigorously promoting, or are we simply
setting up rules for them to follow while we take advantage of their integrity?
For example, the United States is currently facing probable, legitimate suits
regarding the tariffs we have placed on imported steel. (I'll be glad to discuss any
strategic and economic relevance to protecting our steel industry at some other time as a
separte issue, but it certainly helps to highlight the thorugh examination and wisdom in
the trade organizations and treaties we enter into). They threaten to ask for 40 billion
dollars in reparations for lost sales (or, anti-competitive practices). And they have a
good case... if you give merit to the rules we say we'll play by.
What will be interesting is watching whether the complaints are filed, and whether the
Bush Administration complies with the determination as provided under applicable treaties.
After all, these treaties are considered to be the foundations of global free market
To go against these agreements would undercut the legitimacy of free-market economics,
and the sincerity of those promoting it, because it either proves that the free market
system does not work, or that we, as participants, refuse to play by the rules we demand
that others adhere to in order to gain unfair advantage.
I'm not affixing blame. I won't even say that our tariffs policy is incorrect at this
juncture of this conversation. It's simply an interesting test to see if the United States
will employ a policy of breaking rules and paying more cost-effective fines in order to
protect national security interests, or will we be sure to enter into agreements that
ensure that our free-market commitments do not encroach upon the sustainability and
self-sufficiency of our infrastructures. Further, that we are a reliable partner in free
You might wonder how I went from talking about the environment to the WTO, steel
tariffs and free market economics. It does seem to run pretty far afield. But
if you step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture, you can see how the
complexity of international policy and law have a rippling effect... from the organic
environment to the economic environment and the diplomatic environment.
This is another area the United States has been an unreliable partner in treaties and
agreements made under previous administrations. Our willingness to pick and choose which
we will honor, and our dogged pursuit of those who will not honor those that would be in
our best interest, is at the heart of the uneasiness about U.S. leadership and the
intentions of the United States. It's very much at issue with our relationship with the
The Kyoto Accord is one more example of our unwillingness to honor mutually beneficial
agreements in ways that negatively impact international relations as well. It also
displays a lack of sincere concern for the quality of the air you breathe, the water you
drink and the health of your family and friends.
It's time for the United States to be a leader in eco-maintenance on a global level. If
we expect other nations to honor treaties and cooperate and participate with our goals,
then we must set the example by honoring the agreements we enter into, as well as the
intent they were made to fulfill.
Is Global Warming Real?
If you were to ask me that question in a generic sense, I would answer yes without
But, in actuality, it depends on what you mean by global warming.
Q: Do I believe that global warming is a natural thing?
A: In many ways, yes.
Scientific evidence would suggest that the earth is currently experiencing a
temperature peak that could finally be determined as much as a 1 to 1.5 degree warming.
This global warming is caused by the intensity of the burning of the sun. It
can cause more rain, as well, just as with the concept that winter occurs when the sun is
closest to te earth. The evaporation that occurs because of warming actual filters the
sun, generates rain and cools the air, but not the planet.
This happens on an 11 year cycle, but climactic changes caused by this natural event
have typically only been readily apparent for 7 years of the cycle.
Put more simply, if you have a gas barbecue or stove, if you turn up the gas it gets
hotter. It's really the same principle.
So far, I'd have to say I'm all for that kind of natural global warming. That's
the kind that, unhindered, is part of the magic of a functioning, regenerative environment
that we might otherwise call the slow but steady cycles and evolution of our planet.
It changes coastlines, the courses of rivers, the shapes of lakes and other natural
manifestations little by little. For humans, that part of nature and the natural
environment can be inconvenient, but adapted to.
It's the same as understanding that natural forest fires are mostly beneficial as part
of a system that naturally regenerates itself. We, people, clear the land before planting
new seeds too, after all.
Natural evolution and natural global warming are good things when the
"machine" is working properly, and things are in balance. Ultimately, mother
nature will always win. So, you have to learn to work with it. Even better, to encourage
Q: Then why worry about global warming?
A: The "global warming" part I'm concerned about has to do
with unnatural global warming as a result of pollution we create. It's like aging quickly
because of stress.
To an extent, I can understand why some people would say that the earth can withstand
it and that people and animals and plants will adapt. Where I grew up, there was no one
else around for miles, so you could dig a hole for an outhouse anywhere, and probably
benefit the environment in the long run. The earth would process the refuse to minerals
and inert matter long before those same things would harm the environment or people. Over
a longer period of time, it was actually a benefit to the environment.
While this is a somewhat graphic example, it takes little imagination to understand
that what I'm talking about is whether or not we exceed the earth's capacity to fully
process and recycle our own garbage.
Greenhouse gases are pollutants that can easily be reduced, and it would be incredibly
beneficial to do so. And, no, I didn't say it would be cheap. But I do believe that
part of the cost of doing business is keeping the workplace clean and disposing of waste.
You can believe that I will be a warrior in making sure that purposeful industrial
pollution is no longer less expensive than the penalties for illegal dumping and ignoring
It's really no different than expecting your children to clean their bedrooms, why you
take out the trash, and why you have a garbage can.
I thought the reaction to the ads for www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org
and ads by Arianna Huffington's group The Detroit Project
that mocked the antidrug.com ads that try to convince you that buying marijuana supports
terrorism was rather telling.
Their point was that 1) We complain about being dependent on foreign oil and 2)
Large, low gas-mileage vehicles comprise 25% of auto sales, and that figure is rising 3)
That more efficient, as well as hybrid powered vehicles that would double and triple gas
mileage and could substantially reduce oil imports from nations that have involvement with
And yet, many owners of suv's would not only refuse to discuss it, they would actually
become hostile at the idea of having to consider a smaller or more efficient vehicle.
I would never argue with anyone's right to drive a vehicle that is legally sold.
The question is, is the government providing leadership that encourages lower fuel
consumption for the obvious potential benefits, or is our policy one of denial because we
don't want to upset the voting public?
I doubt that anyone would rationally argue that endangering themselves and their
children with poisonous chemicals is a smart thing to do, even if it is more convenient.
And, yet, that's what we allow to happen, day to day. But, because citizens
believe there's nothing we can do about it, we just call it politics or big business and
shrug our shoulders.
Do we really want to reduce imports and pollution? And, here's the kicker, is the issue
a diminishing oil supply, a cheaper oil supply, the environment, corporate politics or
simply suppression of technology?
In a way, it's all and none of the above. We supposedly have a reliable oil supply for
65 years. The question is, do we buy it from other countries, or do we drill it
ourselves from much smaller reserves? What actual policy should we adopt?
Hydrogen cell power technology is available, but undeveloped. And, it could take 10-20
years before practical implementation could be accomplished.
This power source still relies primarily on fossil fuels for its processing - natural
gas and coal - but also has the ability to be fueled by biomass fuels (corn and other
vegetation, waste byproducts). And there are other methods available for the hydrogen
With fossil fuels at the heart of hydrogen cell power, greenhouse gases would be
reduced to levels less than 10% of current output. Using biomass, wind and solar sources,
emissions would be reduced to practically nothing. The emissions would occur at the
point of processing it into hydrogen fuel, and not as exhaust from vehicles, so the
pollutants could be captured and disposed of (though that does not appear to be a
consideration in the Bush plan).
And, finally, it is estimated that the fossil fuel supply for this kind of power system
would last approximately 125 years. The best news, though, is that we would not be married
to fossil fuel.
The Bush administration brought this energy source up in the original 2000 election
campaign. His January 2003 speech finally returned to the subject. But the funding for
research and development of this technology has been reduced, due to the priorities of
larger, less productive deficit building programs. We'll see if his speech produces
results, or if it's simply another one of those facades created by the writers of the
George Bush Show.
Once again, I'll bet you can see the complexity of addressing the issues, but that the
solutions are available if we are willing to use them. And, there really are a number of
options in the works. Among other things, the U.S. and China have signed agreements to
develop a nuclear type plasma reactor that roughly emulates the energy emitted by the sun.
This too is expected to take up to 20 years. And, it's efficacy is seriously in question.
There are solar panels that can be used as windows in high-rise buildings that last
from 30-100 years - primarily made from sand.
But there are scores of new technologies and methodologies available that are not
being used and promoted. Things that individuals and eighborhoods and communites could
implement in order to generate and co-generate power, or purify water, in
ecologically sound ways.
My Bottom Line
I am by no means an environmental "fanatic". At the same time, when you
observe the diseases and viruses in human and wildlife, droughts in some places and floods
in others... this week (5/8//03) there were 300 tornadoes so far... There are millions of
indicators that make it readily apparent that we must be more responsible and more
vigilant if we are to maintain an environment that is healthy for our planet and all of us
who live on it.
Scientific data supports the assertions that many negative meteorlogical events are
impacted or generated by changing weather patterns resulting from Global Warming and
There is clearly much more to this issue. I could probably write a book on this issue
alone, filled with all the facts and figures that would put most people to sleep, as well
as make them thankful that some people (and many people much more informed than me) are
Although I have to admit, studying the effects of fossil-fuel pollution on the shape
and size of rain-drops leading to sustained torrential rains leading to devastating floods
in Europe and Asia, and drought in Africa, offset by the effect of sun-filtering of crops
because of air pollution, and the global effects that actually can explain the strange
weather we've been having in the United States... can be fascinating.
I'll simply say that this should give you a basic indication of where I stand on the
issue of the environment, eco-decay, and eco-maintenance. I'm no fanatic. But, I'm
also clear, we can not continue to ignore the issue.
When I say I'm no fanatic, that's no apology or disclaimer. I'm from the country.
I understand a great deal about the imperatives of a balanced environment, and taking
preventative steps to be sure we do not exceed the capacity of the planet to support us.
But I do want you to know that I am committed to identifying and addressing the issues
as aggressively as possible in a an organized way that provides a systemic institutional
On the Edge: The Future of Fuel Cells
Europe slips on greenhouse targets
Greenhouse gases 'at record levels
Sun fuels global warming debate
Arctic ice 'melting from below'
The Quality of Drinking Water- An In-Depth Report
Hydrogen fuel may disturb ozone
Touchstone Energy Coops
a good example of how independent organizations work on their passions, as you
work on yours.
'Massive' wind farm plans hailed The prospect of
huge wind farms off the British coast have been welcomed by environmentalists. New
turbines, to be sited at three sites off the North West coast, the Wash and Thames
Estuary, will generate as much energy as about six nuclear power stations, and create
How King Coal lost his throne If
all goes to plan, the UK in 2020 will look and feel a very different place from today.
Round the coast will be wave, tidal and wind farms, generating huge amounts of renewable
energy. Buildings will use solar power for heating and ventilation, with perhaps enough
left over to sell to the grid. It says: "Solar-generated power could provide 10,000
times more energy than the world currently uses. "If we covered a small fraction of
the Sahara desert with photo-voltaic cells, we could generate all the world's electricity
requirements." The answers are there. Using them would also destroy any argument for
securing access to foreign energy supplies, whether Gulf oil or North African gas. All
that is needed is governments prepared to think small and to help individuals to make
incremental changes. Perhaps it will happen.
Tapwater Dangerous? This June 2003 NRDC study of drinking water quality in 19
U.S. cities finds that pollution and deteriorating, out-of-date plumbing are sometimes
delivering drinking water that might pose health risks to some residents -- and unless
steps are taken now, tap water will get worse. The report issues grades to each municipal
water system studied in three problem areas -- water quality and compliance, source water
protection, and right-to-know compliance -- and outlines a plan for protecting the
nation's drinking water supply.
VOST - Vertical On Site Treatment A single
compact water treatment system will service a town, a subdivision or a multi-family or
commercial development of any size right on the site.
puts whales at greater risk On May 5, the Navy vessel Shoup used its
ear-splitting sonar in the waters of Haro Strait, the heart of our local orca whales'
habitat. Scientists observed the entire J-pod of orcas reacting in distress and a minke
whale desperately trying to flee. Similar sonar use in the Bahamas in March 2000 killed
rare whales and dolphins.