Monday, November 08, 2004

This is in response to the discussion started by my venerable Blog colleagues, Tim Pavlish and Ben Knudson
It is also in large part due to the fact that my brain is atrophying at an alarming rate while the brains of my former classmates seem to be rapidly stacking up the neurons, whence my attempt at a reasoned argument on the subject of the environment.

Tim started his post by bemoaning the fact that Bush is still the Douchebag in Chief with an even greater Republican majority which, among other things will gut the environment even further. Ben then countered with a stance that at first attempts to refute Tim's claims that the Bush administration is particularly more anti-environment than the populace as a whole. Ben then finishes his post with a rejoinder for us not just to talk like environmentalists but to buy like environmentalists.

I'm going to first try to respond to Ben's claims about the environment.
1. drilling ANWR is bad

why should i care about the arctic national wildlife refuge. you say anwr will be ruined. ruined for whom. ruined for caribou and marmots. ruined for tundra.
Drilling in the ANWR is bad, not necessarily because of the actual drilling, which could be done to minimize damage to the area, but because exploratory drilling in a park is symptomatic of a bigger problem; oil dependency and in particular foreign oil dependency. The US is the biggest consumer of oil in the world, importing over 54% of the oil that we burn, mostly in our cars. Though it is a somewhat different topic, this oil dependency is, I believe, one of the biggest, most costly risks to our national security. I dare anyone to come up with legitimate reasons to be involved in an Iraq without oil. New exploration and drilling does not address the root probem, that is consumption. Ben asks us to put our money where are convictions lie, is it so different to ask the government to do this as national policy? With a simple increase in the CAFE standards the government could both reduce our foreign oil dependency and spur innovation, innovation that has so far been lacking in the US auto industry. This increased requirement may have a short term cost but a great potential for long term rewards. The potential to sell increasingly fuel efficient cars to foreign buyers cannot be discounted. China, which desperately wants cars, but can absolutely not afford the oil to power the Explorers and the Tahoes and the Caprices that we currently offer, would be a prime market that could be tapped. Yes, drilling in the ANWR is bad.

2. forests should not be logged.

why should forests not be logged. maybe you would retort that logging destroys flora and fauna. why are flora, fauna, and landscape so important to you. is it the aesthetic, the value you give it...
It would be foolish to say that we should never log forests. We have a whole government department devoted to when and how we should log and mine our natural wonders. What does need to be said is that short term profit cannot override long term planning, particularly when we're talking about natural systems which regard years about the same way that people regard hiccups. Bad logging and mining practices can in a short time decimate existing populations of plants and animals, can destroy the landscape that is vital for these systems to regenerate and can introduce destructive and invasive species which will limit the fertility, productivity and diversity of future natural systems. This is a problem if we ever want to use these places again. Mines in the Rockies constantly dribble arsenic and mercury into freshwater supplies, but we want to drink from and recreate in that water. Natural pests such as fungus and pine borer beetles destroy inexpertly logged areas for years, limiting the potential for future use. Logging also increases erosion which kills off tasty species such as trout and salmon, which we would eat. Maybe just as bad is the trend for cabins or second houses which constantly invade natural stands of wilderness by cutting roads and laying electric lines and septic systems. This not to mention the gasoline required for the off-road capable vehicles required to get there. I don't say that I wouldn't love it, but Ben's right on this one. We can't all have the cabin in the woods, there won't be any woods left.

3. global warming is bad.

it isn’t that bad. and remember, humans are the great ameliorators, we can change and fix in a hurry if forced.
Bullshit. Global warming is bad. We already have preliminary evidence of rising sea levels, changing current patterns and crazy weather. When's the last time that Florida got rocked by four huge hurricanes in a year? How about Japan's record 10 life taking typhoons. It's easy to say that global warming won't make that much of a difference when one is a privelaged westerner who works in an airconditioned office, but it's going to be a lot more bleak if any of the predictions of global warming come to pass. Humans are indeed the great ameliorators, it's true, but only the ones with the money and resources can do any ameliorating. The rest of us just die. The Sahara is expanding at hundreds of square kilometers per year, droughts caused by global climate change cripple many parts of the world. Oh yeah, with a couple fewer inches of rain, the Dust Bowl days are not that far off. Now that would really suck for an Iowan, Minnesotan or Nebraskan. I sound apocalyptic, I realize. I simply wanted to point out that when something happens to the earth, it happens to everybody.

So, as a result, I'm not really looking forward to the environmental record of the past 4 years being duplicated in the next 4. Like Tim said, all that it takes is one Yes vote to cancel out all those No's.

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