The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Clean Air and Climate

The U. S. Supreme Court showed it has some sense too, just like the U. S. congress did last week. The high court ruled against the Bush administration by telling the government to look at regulating carbon emissions from automobiles. Who thought that this conservative supreme court could be progressive?

The court had three questions before it. -- Do states have the right to sue the EPA to challenge its decision? -- Does the Clean Air Act give EPA the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases? -- Does EPA have the discretion not to regulate those emissions? The court said yes to the first two questions. On the third, it ordered EPA to re-evaluate its contention it has the discretion not to regulate tailpipe emissions. The court said the agency has so far provided a "laundry list" of reasons that include foreign policy considerations.

Global warming is a HUGE public health issue. What I don’t understand from those who say global warming is not a result of human activity is this. If “natural” activity is causing the temperature to rise, resulting in melting of glaciers and rising sea levels that may result in areas of Florida and Manhattan and Bangladesh (and elsewhere) to become inundated, and resulting in formerly cool areas on mountainsides to be warm enough now to bring malaria carrying mosquitoes to villages that were originally built above the supposed mosquito line…even if all this (and more) is being caused by “natural cycles”…if we have the ability (and we do) and the knowledge (and we do) to reverse the trend or slow it down…shouldn’t we? I mean, aren’t things climate wise pretty neat the way it is now? Why not try to keep it this way and prevent millions of people from having to be displaced? Why not work to improve our air in ways that would decrease emissions, and would also allow those of us with asthma to breathe a little easier. Don’t just deny anything is happening or ignore it so that oil companies and your Texas buddies and Saudi buddies can make a few billion more.

No, this ruling is great. Congress can work on this, the EPA can work on this, and the Bush administration can continue to ignore it because they are being reduced to a non-player anyway.

In a related note, Blues artist Tab Benoit who stars in the IMAX movie Hurricane on the Bayou ( will be at McWane Thursday from 4 to 6 to speak about making the movie, saving the wetlands, and sing a few songs. The movie will be shown at 6. All profits benefit Voice of the Wetlands, and you can learn about their efforts here:

Bobby and I went to a Voice of the Wetlands event in Louisiana last year, held at Southdown Plantation in Houma, LA ( We ate authentic cajun food and listened to foot stomping music, and learned a little about the Louisiana wetlands and what is and isn’t being done to save them. Here’s a picture of the sugar plantation home on that day.

Here is one of the bands playing at the festival.

The 2007 hurricane prediction just came out the experts are predicting an active season, maybe 17 named storms. El nino caused Atlantic hurricane activity to be less than expected in 2006, but in 2007 la nina is developing, and la nina usually causes and increase in Atlantic storm activity. We will just have to wait and see. Read about la nina development here: Will you be prepared? You know these storms affect us here in north central Alabama. Remember Ivan? More on preparations later in the week.


Kathy said...

I'm sure W will find a way to ignore this ruling or spin it so it sounds like a victory -- at least in his mind. Good to know the Supreme Court still has some sense.

Anonymous said...

Joe: I still haven’t figured out how to respond to your blog. So, I guess my ignorance of technology hardly makes me an expert on anything science-oriented. However, you asked the question in your blog related to Global Warming: “. . . if we have the ability (and we do) and the knowledge (and we do) to reverse the trend or slow it down…shouldn’t we?” While I would question whether or not the human race could, even if we all caught the next shuttle to Pluto, keep the forces of Mother Nature at bay, I would ask how much will it cost? As you know, there are places around the world where people die everyday from the lack of potable water to drink and water to irrigate their fields to grow crops to eat. In fact, even here in the Birmingham area we suffer from water shortages, particularly during especially dry seasons. Using your same argument for Global Warming, if we have the ability (and we do) and the knowledge (and we do) to reverse the trend or slow it down…shouldn’t we?

The majority of the world is covered with water; salt water. Everyone would have enough water to drink and grow crops if we could just remove the salt and distribute the clean water that is left over. Certainly, they do it in Saudi Arabia and other areas around the globe. So why don’t they do it in all of Africa or, for that matter, in Arizona or here in Alabama? They answer is simple, MONEY! It costs a tremendous amount of money to desalinate water. I suppose if the cost of water ever gets as high as gasoline (normal water – not bottled water – I think bottled water is already darn close), then desalination may make economic sense. Unfortunately, until that day arrives, we as humans will likely continue to sit by and watch people die of thirst and hunger as their once wet and fertile homes turn into arid wastelands. Again, it’s that stubborn old Mother Nature at work.

Although I agree we need to be far more sensitive to our impact on the environment, including finding viable and more cost effective alternatives to hydrocarbons, I’m not so sure anyone – not even Al Gore – could (or would be willing to) pay the real price of attacking the Global Warming problem in any meaningful way. As I said, we already have the technology to rid the world of thirst and starvation, but we haven’t been willing to pay that price. What makes Global Warming any different?

In truth, I think part of the problem is our arrogance as humans. Arrogance is certainly a contributing factor to our creating pollution in the first place. We treat the Earth like our own personal garbage can, throwing trash out on our streets, releasing harmful emissions into our air, dumping toxic chemicals into our waterways and so on, all because we think the Earth and everything on it is ours to do with as we please. That is obviously not the case. However, it is equally arrogant for us to think that we are so important to the Earth that we have to (or even can) change its normal evolutionary processes to ensure our continued existence. After all, what good would the Earth be without us?

While it may be difficult for us to admit, the Earth was quite happy (perhaps even more so) long before we started killing snail daters or driving gas-guzzling SUVs. No matter what we humans want, think or do, the Earth was here long before us and will be here long after we are gone. Can we extend our time here on Earth? Maybe . . . Maybe not! But, I agree with you, we can make the time we spend here (and that of future generations to come) better. Addressing the issues of pollution, moving toward more sustainable development, finding alternative means of energy, and bringing clean water to people in arid lands are all things that can and will make our lives better. So, if we can afford to do it all, we should. If not, we should focus our attention and prioritize our limited resources on those problems we have the money and ability to actually solve.