I was about eleven years old when I heard Tom Lehrer’s song “Pollution“. I wondered if the pollution in America was ever that bad — and took some time to research my own question. Pollution in the Cuyahoga River was sufficiently bad that the sludge on top of the water caught fire (not just once, either … but once that received national media attention). Decades earlier, a toxic smog cloud killed a dozen people near Pittsburgh, PA. Not the only occurrences of either air or water pollution in the United States, but some of the most stunning.
Debate climate change all you want; debate human’s impact on climate change. Just forget about climate change – I don’t get how anyone thinks dumping coal mining runoff into the river is a good thing. Or spewing industrial waste into the air. I know people want to make money now … forgetting about compassion for others, maybe they think they’ll have enough cash to a clean environment at home. Work from home, home school the kids. Grow your own food. Raise your own animals. Grow your own cotton and make your own clothes. This is getting to be a LOT of work to avoid the pollutants you want to be able to eject into the environment. And at some point, you’re going to want to leave your biodome, right? Kid might want to go sleep over at a friend’s house? Your fav band is playing a few towns over? Medical problems require a specialist? Seriously, why can we not all agree that protecting the environment from industrial pollutants … yeah, it reduces business profits. Might even reduce opportunity / slow growth. But anyone who thinks unfettered growth is worth any price … please, take a holiday over in Beijing (where, please note, environmental protection is actually becoming a bit of a ‘thing’ as the results of unfettered growth are seen).
Well, the non-suspense is over. The US has been withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement. My concern is not environmental. Companies want to make money, and will need to keep producing more efficient and less polluting products to attract customers. Customers don’t want to ‘waste’ their money on fossil fuels, so will demand more efficiency. And, climate change aside, anyone who tried to breathe in LA or London in the 80s (or has seen Beijing today) will push for emissions regs.
My concern is the precedent we’ve established regarding military invasion when a country contravenes a treat obligation (be that just neglecting enforcement or withdrawal). An argument can be made that spewing toxic pollutants into the air endangers the lives of your civilian population. And the rest of the world population too. That’s a fairly long-standing American criterion for invading a foreign country.
LeBron James left the Cleveland Caveliers in 2010. Players change teams all the time. Even star players change teams occasionally – salary caps, better chance at a championship, whatever. Sucks, but it happens. Making the announcement on a live ESPN broadcast – no matter how much money he managed to generate for a charity – was a terrible way to handle the announcement. From a reality-TV perspective, sure it’s great. Guaranteed viewers, suspense, drama, heartbreak. But as a person it lacks tact, lacks compassion … and as a highly paid athlete who is revered by many, it’s an offensive way to treat fans who bought your merchandise and watched you play. The guy was a kid at the time, and his move back to Cleveland seemed to be handled in a more mature fashion.
I cannot help but think of being in Cleveland during the James announcement (complete with LebronFire events burning jerseys) when the White House declares Trump will be announcing his decision on the Paris Climate Agreement on Thursday. Oh, the drama. The suspense. The heartbreak – because, really, does anyone think he’s going to remain in the agreement? Even if he allows the country to remain in the agreement (an agreement, remember, that was limited greatly by a desire to achieve something that might be acceptable to US Republicans) … does he have any intention of enforcing the agreement? Honestly, the world is better off with America out – re-write the agreement with stricter goals. US companies will need to continue increasing energy efficiency and decreasing emissions or they’ll be unable to sell products outside of the country. Hell, US cities will create their own clean air and water regulations. One impetus behind the clean air act was the cloud of toxic chemicals around Pittsburgh that literally killed people. Practically needed a respirator to walk around LA. London – not a US city, but I remember getting back from a day walking around London to spend an hour blowing black snot out of my nose (and how much of that crud remained in my lungs??). I cannot imagine NYC was any better. And if customers refuse to buy the products — what use is your coal plant if no one will purchase your electricity? Some foreign company’s super-efficient SUV is more attractive even if it costs more up front — pay 100$ a week to fill the tank v/s 100$ a month and you’re looking at a fuel savings of 18k over five years.
Trump campaigned on abandoning the treaty. Look at who he appointed to lead the EPA. Seriously, the only suspense was if we’d officially withdraw or if we’d just neglect enforcement. By indicating that there’s an announcement … I already know we’re withdrawing. But why try to recreate LeBron’s The Decision spectacular?