Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Dialogue Between Robert and Todd (Part 2)

Robert: What if we study how to combat emissions in our air?
Todd: I'd like to believe that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. It is proven that we can reduce emissions by doing certain things that help Americans save money. When we invest in public transport, carpooling promotion and cheaper fuel alternatives we can help raise standard of living while reducing emissions.
Robert: So far there are no cheaper fuel alternatives.
Robert: Ethanol is far from an answer.
Robert: Without government subsidies, right now nothing save perhaps nuclear power has shown promise as a viable alternative.
Todd: We (as a government, I suppose I'm saying) will invest billions in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and various Cancers. We do this because everyone can more or less agree that using public money to try and save lives around the world is a good thing to do. This public funding makes sense for drug companies and health care conglomerates because it helps them make money.
Todd: I would argue that providing that same type of public health, if not on the same scale, is just as reasonable when we talk about reducing mercury emissions from coal mining operations, for example. We know that Coal Miners are going to be able to make more money, employ more, expand more and produce more energy more profitably if we can make it more worth their while to make the considerable investments in cleaner technologies.
Todd: Now we know mercury in the air ends up in the soil and water. We know it poisons fish, and it poisons humans eventually and disproportionately poisons children. When the coal companies make more, and our air, soil and water get cleaner, we now have an opportunity for all sides to step back and say, "Y'know, we think that's a pretty good thing."
Robert: So what we need to do is help corporations get benefits from using those technologies, instead of penalties from failing to.
Todd: Right now, the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts regulate without proportionate investment. That's one-sided and shortsighted. We should keep in mind a conservative (Nixon) saw the potential in reducing emissions, but unfortunately the public will to push public money toward cheaper technology is simply not there.
Robert: And here's the question that has to be answered: is it the place of government to take our money and spend it on things we, as a public, do not want?Todd: The voting public seems to collectively think that the only assistance should be to the individual, and markets won't work that way. Public investment SHOULD help the corporations that pollute, but vilifying polluters is a much easier way to get votes. Kyoto has some good market-based principles in it, but the encouraging of public investment falls short of what it needs to be in a nation like the USA.

(to be continued tomorrow)


Julie Pippert said...

LOL, you hit the point I tried to make in my comment to you on the last post: encourage and support rather than penalize. We know this works better, adults or children.

However, I think we need to villify pollution, make it totally unacceptable. Right now? We use words to suggest lack of acceptance but our actions speak louder and there is no real consequence or motivation to cease and desist.

People just can't grasp or believe, and I think the barrier lies in resistance to change and fear of transition, as well as ties to current MOs.

My concern with some public funding---such as with health research---is its limit of scope.

And again I agree with Todd: we do need to reduce emmissions but that requires a lot of small changes...not just one change in fuel source.

le35 said...

I agree with Julie. We need a lot of small changes, but we also need something big to get attention from people. Unless people can directly see the consequences of their actions, they aren't going to do anything about them. Like Todd said, we're too short sighted. We live in a fast food society. People want everything just the way they like it: with everything perfect, no work from themselves, and right now. The fast food world is a great definiton of our society. Full of problems (i.e. fats, fatty acids, and preservatives) but we throw a little money at it and think that things are great. The cheaper the deal, the better it is. We have lost the idea that things can take awhile. If we can't completely see results in six months, then whatever the plan was, it's not working, regardless if the plan included six months of no results. I want it now is more than a two year old tantrum in our society. We need to grow up, gain a little patience, and work for what we want.

Robert said...

Julie, again, this whole chat took place in one night, but I broke it up. I didn't fully realize that part of the chat was not posted when you wrote that we needed to encourage. We came to the same conclusion. As I said to your comment before, we definitely have more common ground on things than the media pretends.

Pollution needs to be attacked and global warming needs to be tabled for the time being. That would at least speak to the real issue. Pollution was being responded to more, in my opinion, towards the end of the 80's before the Global Warming Movement came up and overshadowed it. By trying to cross-promote those ideas, they've tied them together and made many people think "well, I don't believe the one is true, so the other must not matter". The disconnect has meant that some recycling programs have been scrapped, and other such programs have gone by the wayside. We need to be reminded that pollution is a bad thing regardless of whether it causes Global Warming or not.

As to the health and the fuel comments you've made, Todd and I definitely covered some of those issues more in the posts upcoming, but I agree. One fuel source is not the solution. Reducing the emissions of a gasoline engine is not the solution, either. It may be a part of it, but it is not the end-all-be-all. We need a practical solution to energy needs or we need to demonstrate a willingness as a society to slow down. Ellie's right on the money about what I call the "microwave society" - it didn't really start with the Me Generation in the Eighties, but that idea exemplifies where we are today. Everyone expects their quality of life to be improved quickly by this drug, this diet, this new job, whatever. They expect immediate results, when very often the thing they want should take years (especially in health issues where it takes years to cause the problems that someone is facing). Our society definitely needs to relearn how to commit to long-term goals. This concept speaks to something Eric said before about corporations making short-term decisions that are not what is best for the long-term but it suits the managers because they'll be gone then anyway. Somehow, we need to educate people (and incentivize people) to do what is right for themselves and not expect everyone else to clean up their mess.

I know this post is all over the board, so I hope it makes sense. I'm a tad fried from a great information session that my brain is still trying to absorb.