Democratic Underground

Environmental Solutions from an Idealist
August 13, 2001
by Sandra Skolnik

The threat to our environment is in my mind the most pressing problem we - as a country, as a people, as part of a global community - are facing today, and one that should be given the highest priority in our affairs. Certainly, the issues of election and campaign finance reform; health care; education; and all the other modern day problems we face as a country are important. They can and should be addressed as quickly as possible. If necessary, any adverse actions by the Bush administration may be repealed at some future date. However, the environment will not wait for Bush, it will not wait for Congress, it will not wait for bipartisan cooperation, and it will not wait for us.

I may be an idealist, but ideals comes from a vision of the way things could be versus the way they are and the belief and hope that progress can be made if the will is there. Although realistic solutions are usually somewhere in between; I choose to keep the ideal in view to remember to stay on the path toward what could be and in actuality, must be; or we may end up facing a bizarre and uncertain existence on our Mother Earth.

In determining how to counter the efforts of Bush Corp. in his foolhardy path toward environmental degradation, we have to define the problem before coming up with viable solutions. If we don't understand the problem, we certainly can't formulate a solution. Following is my ‘idealistic’ and simplistic take on the problems and solutions.

Problems:

The earth's environment is being damaged, possibly beyond repair; and this is happening at an exponential rate. Global warming, extinction of species, unsustainable consumerism and overpopulation are all contributing factors. These four factors are called ‘spikes’ in ‘God’s Last Offer – Negotiating for a Sustainable Future’ by Ed Ayres, Editor of World Watch magazine, a book I highly recommend for those concerned about our environment and our future. He calls them spikes because charts plotted for these factors over thousands of years and based on scientific data, show these factors to have increased so drastically within the past 100 years, that they are depicted as huge spikes on the charts, and they are rapidly increasing with each passing year.

Global warming is mainly the result of the use of fossil fuels and the release of their byproducts, particularly CO2, into the atmosphere. Due to overpopulation and unsustainable consumerism, more and more of earth is being stripped bare causing the extinction of hundreds if not thousands of species of animal and plant life every year and creating a large imbalance in our ecosystems. Remember, trees absorb CO2 and produce O2. As the forest cover is removed from our planet, the buildup of CO2 is compounded. The unusual weather patterns that have been increasing in frequency, such as monster storms, drought and floods have been correlated to the imbalances. Continuing pollution of our air, water and land by 'dirty' industries are threatening the health and lives of all living species on earth.

While the exact nature and effect of the combined factors on the global ecosystem are unknown, it is irrefutable that there are major changes happening. What is not known is how fast and how soon these changes may affect us in a catastrophic way.

Solutions:

1. A commitment by America to cooperate with other world nations in efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels and make a substantial investment in alternative energy technology. If done in cooperation, this can be accomplished very quickly. I don't consider nuclear an alternative because of the risks involved and the irreversible effects. I believe much of the technology for alternatives is already there, but it has been obstructed by the influence of the polluting industries and by the dependence on fossil fuels instilled in the peoples of industrialized nations. Fossil fuel use must be phased out by cleaner, alternative technologies for means of transportation and to produce light and heat. This can be done economically by providing large subsidies at first to reduce the costs of alternatives, making it more beneficial for producers to produce and consumers to consume alternatives rather than the outdated technologies. Jobs involved in the old industries can also be phased into the new. Fossil fuel industries should not be given special treatment, and if it becomes unfeasible for them to compete, they will naturally turn their attention to the new. I believe if the will is there, this can be done quickly.

2. Increase efforts to clean up and abate continued pollution of our air, water and earth. This can be either done by providing substantial tax incentives for companies to do this, or penalizing and shutting down companies that continue to pollute on a grand scale. Companies should be held totally liable to the people and communities they harm as a result of their polluting activities. However, the people in the communities must bear part of the burden, since they have contributed by approving the companies to operate.

3. A commitment to reduce nuclear armaments in cooperation with all countries; and a global network to ensure nuclear material does not land in the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. In addition, this will lower the amount of killer radioactive waste we must dispose of.

4. A serious effort must be made to reduce population growth in America and throughout the world. Since the main reason for population increase in America at this time is immigration, this is a sensitive area that must be discussed with sensitivity, honesty and openness. Increase assistance to developing worlds by providing funds, materials or services for family planning, education and a means for them to improve their own quality of life.

5. Unsustainable consumption is based on perceptions fostered by the PR departments of corporations and the current structure of our society which creates artificial needs and promotes those ‘needs’. I'm not sure how to change these perceptions, except to foster community and spiritual values over material ones. This may be the hardest one because it involves the way people have been raised, led to believe and a tendency of humans toward acquisition of possessions and associating them with esteem and power.

6. Increase protection of species, and ensure that natural parks and wilderness areas are protected to the fullest. Activities overly disrupting the ecosystems should prohibited. Plan our communities better with open space and consideration of local ecosystems in mind, rather than mass bulldozing, blacktop and sterile suburban jungles. The overpopulation and consumerism problem is tied in with this too, since with the unsustainable increase in population, more and more land is developed to provide homes, roads, etc. etc., creating an ever-shrinking land mass uninhabitable to anything but humans, who may not survive long anyway in an ecological disaster.

In my mind’s eye, Bush et al. are doing everything in opposition to the above in attempts to continue with the status quo and are even promoting increases in the spikes. I believe he and his supporters are motivated by self-interest and are determined to maintain a premise based on the past, rather than look at what is needed to adopt to the changes we will one way or the other need for our future. I believe they are blinded by a narrow focus, and in denial of the truth because of this, and so are many Americans. Bush's agenda and his purposes pose a threat to our future, and it is up to those who can see and care enough to help define and bring about what is needed.

Speak out for the ideal, and perhaps workable compromises that effect change and reduce environmental risk will be possible.

 
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