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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

REPUBLICANS DENY & DELAY: the Planet Groans...

Winter is beginning to take its toll.  Ask anyone how they are doing, and they will invariably respond with a remark about the winter weather, with a hope that it will soon come to an end!  It has been a terribly brutal winter, and Punxsutawney Phil had no mercy as to its ending – ‘6 more weeks’ he predicted on Feb. 2nd.  Even longer, if you believe the extreme pessimists, or some of our weather forecasters.

This should come as no surprise to us.  The planet earth is reeling from an attack on its atmosphere.  “Air pollution is the introduction of particulates, biological molecules, or other harmful materials into the Earth's atmosphere, possibly causing disease, death to humans, damage to other living organisms such as food crops, or the natural or built environment.  The atmosphere is a complex natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth's ecosystems.  Indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed as two of the world's worst toxic pollution problems in the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Polluted Places report.  According to the 2014 WHO report, air pollution in 2012 caused the deaths of around 7 million people worldwide.”(Wikipedia).

Geenpeace.org spells it out a bit more: “Although carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas in terms of human emissions, human activity is also adding others to the atmosphere that are even more effective at trapping heat. The Kyoto Protocol covers the emissions of five gases besides carbon dioxide: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).”   

It’s quite surprising, and scary, that there are still those in leadership positions who refuse to face reality, and thus refuse to do anything about pollution of the atmosphere.  As we know too well, these human ostriches are hiding from a reality that scientists are proclaiming loudly and urgently.  Why do these politicians continue to argue against the fact that human beings and human enterprises have helped to get us to this point?  Why do they continue to deny the effect of chemicals and gases on the atmosphere when they know perfectly well that chemicals and gases have the power to influence our immediate environment and our own bodies to a life-changing extent?

Before we answer these questions, let us refer to some examples of the effects of chemicals on our lives and our immediate environment. 
·         First, let’s be clear that the chemicals causing emissions into the atmosphere are already affecting our immediate environment before they even ascend into the ozone layer.  Consider this from sfgate.com:  “Although the atmosphere includes a layer of ozone, ground-level ozone is harmful. Not only does it add to global warming, ground-level ozone is detrimental to human health by causing or worsening respiratory problems. In addition, it negatively impacts ecosystems by damaging vegetation. Each year, ozone causes $500 million worth of reduced crops, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Factories involved with industrial processes, like manufacturing metals or chemical solvents, contribute to ground-level ozone production. Power plants, vehicle emissions and burning fossil fuels also produce ozone. Although these processes do not directly release ozone, they produce nitrogen and volatile organic chemicals. When these chemicals combine in the presence of sunlight, they form ozone” at ground level.
·         Why was DDT banned?  It was a heavily used pesticide that was used generally throughout the Western World prior to 1972.  It made people ill.  It killed flora and fauna.  It killed people.  More specifically, it is likely to:
o   Be a probable human carcinogen
o   Damage the liver
o   Temporarily damage the nervous system
o   Reduce reproductive success
o   Cause liver cancer
o   Damage reproductive system
·         What are some of the results of chemo-therapy in the attempt to kill cancer?  It’s so toxic that an incredible protocol has grown up around its administration.  It’s so toxic that people often say that the treatment is worse than the cancer.  It’s so toxic that recipients often vomit, feel weak, lose their ambition, and lose their hair.  It is so powerful that it often kills cancer – a good result all-in-all, but let us not forget that cancer is a malignancy that requires a devastating treatment to kill it.  Those chemicals are strong – and not just strong; they are overwhelmingly invasive.
·         Some of those cancer-curing chemicals are now being used to attack and retard other physical illnesses like the auto-immune disease, Multiple Sclerosis.   Some physicians are now using a cancer drug as chemo-therapy for some MS patients in the early stage of the disease to retard the process of the killing off of cells in the myelin sheath of the brain, which lesions are the loci of MS symptoms.  Again, the strength of these drugs administered intravenously, is strong leaving the recipients with some of the same symptoms that cancer patients often suffer.
·         Have you ever thought about those TV ads for strong drugs that have myriad side effects announced?  Other than the obvious requirement that such drugs must be advertised with side effects made clear, there is a message here about the effects of strong chemicals on one’s body.  Drugs today are stronger than ever, and the chemicals that go into them are ever more toxic for the human body.
·         Then we come to illegal drugs taken by some people as “recreational” or “mind-blowing” or just plain fun.  Here again, we find a basic denial of their devastating effects upon the human body and mind.  Even when we see people wasting away, or displaying effects like speech difficulty or memory recall challenges, or an effect upon motor skills, there is denial of what the drug – like heroin, ecstasy, hash or pot – is causing over time.  Of course, addiction to some prescription drugs can end up with the same effects – oxycodone and Xanax - to name just two.
·         But let’s not stop there.  Let’s move on to farming; dairy farming.  In his book, “Republic, Lost”, Lawrence Lessig talks about the government subsidies that are given out to protect certain products or crops such as sugar and corn.  He states that such government subsidies are harmful to small farmers and even to cows!  Then he launches into a story about cows not digesting corn well, farmers feeding them corn because it’s cheap, and having to supplement their feed with antibiotics because as cows eat corn, certain bugs brew in the poorly digested mix stewing in the cow stomachs.  Farmers use 25 million pounds of antibiotics a year or eight times the amount consumed by humans.  And guess what?  This overuse of antibiotics causes the growth of superbugs with resistance to the original antibiotics, so guess what children are drinking in their milk these days?  E coli and salmonella.  So, we should expect to hear about a three-year-old who died after eating a hamburger and a 22-year-old dance instructor who can no longer walk.
·         Chemicals in our food and beverages in quantities far exceeding anything resembling reasonable amounts (if there are any reasonable amounts for some of these chemicals like phenylketonurics which contain phenylalanine, aspartame and potassium benzoate, etc.).  Are these chemicals necessary; are they safe; are they having side effects we have not even considered?  We have to ask, is there any connection between the growth of heavy chemicals in our food and beverages and in our water that have any connection to the spike in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS,  and in a condition like autism? 
·         Finally, we must point to chemical spills, chemical uses in natural gas exploration (hydro-fracking), many oil spills, explosions; and, the leaking or dumping of industrial effulgence in streams and lakes, lead in old house paint, asbestos left over in older houses and the left-over deposits of chemicals from old chemical plants over which housing developments have been constructed (with cancer outbreaks in those areas are much, much higher).
My point?  My point is that we are already experiencing in these attacks upon our own bodies and minds and our immediate living environment, the deleterious effects of chemicals and industrial wastes.  A similar assault is taking place in our atmosphere above the disasters created right here on the Earth, and yet somehow the non-thinkers and non-listeners find a difference between the chemicals attacking us here and the chemicals and effulgence attacking our atmosphere.  Somehow, nitrous oxide or bromine does not wreak upon the ozone layer and the atmosphere what heroin or anti-cancer chemicals or DDT do to our bodies.  It is a shameful lack of logic and common sense - to say nothing about denial of scientific method – for the climate change deniers to keep us in a state of denial and non-action so that our planet screams out with heat records and winter monster storms and low temperature records taking their inevitable toll on our quality of life and our well-being.  Why do politicians continue to deny the effect of chemicals and gases on the atmosphere when they know perfectly well that chemicals and gases have the power to influence our immediate environment and our own bodies to a life-changing extent?

We are being bamboozled by the oil and fossil fuel industrialists.  They know that denial and delay are not just to be contrary.  They know that this is part of their plan to keep us dependent on fossil fuels for as long as it takes to make many more billions of dollars (as the Koch Brothers have been heard to admit).  This is not just a denial of climate change; this is their approach to milking us of dollars that go into their pockets and their industries and their indulgences. 

Let me just remind you briefly of the positions and actions taken by the Koch Brothers:

“Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch have a vested interest in delaying climate action: they've made billions from their ownership and control of Koch Industries, an oil corporation that is the second largest privately-held company in America (which also happens to have an especially poor environmental record). It's timely that more people are now aware of Charles and David Koch and just what they're up to. A growing awareness of these oil billionaires' destructive agenda has led to increased scrutiny and resistance from people and organizations all over the United States.
“The Koch brothers, their family members, and their employees direct a web of financing that supports conservative special interest groups and think-tanks, with a strong focus on fighting environmental regulation, opposing clean energy legislation, and easing limits on industrial pollution. This money is typically funneled through one of three "charitable" foundations the Koch’s have set up: the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation; the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation; and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation.

 Total Koch money to the Climate Denial Machine, 1997-2011 = $67,042,064.”  (GreenPeace.com)
 
In 2013, the Koch’s enlisted “Republicans to make it unlikely any bills regulating carbon emissions ever become law, and because they are requiring accompanying off-setting tax cuts, they guarantee their anti-climate change policies will remain the law of the land. The Koch brothers’ pledge is the work of their tax-exempt Americans for Prosperity, and the “No Climate Tax” has successfully prevented Republican lawmakers from addressing climate change particularly by thwarting efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by killing cap-and-trade energy bills in the Senate.
The No Climate Tax pledge…garnered signatures from 411 lawmakers nationwide including the entire House Republican leadership,  one-third of the members of the House of Representatives, and a quarter of U.S. senators. According to a New York Times report on the Koch pledge, “Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign onto it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.” Roadblock is putting it mildly, and it means regardless the threats from climate change, there is little Americans can expect from Republicans in the way of relief because they are beholden to follow directions from the Koch’s and their source of power ALEC.”

In a complicated ruling June 23, 2014, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Koch Brothers by not overturning the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses.  The utility industry, the Chamber of Commerce, and 13 states led by Texas argued that the EPA does not have the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but by a vote of 7-2, the court ruled that the EPA does have the authority to regulate emissions at facilities that already release pollutants.”  (politicususa.com)
Nonetheless, there is still the basic factor that the SCOTUS has ruled that individuals (and corporations) can continue to give huge amounts to these foundations and think-tanks and PACs anonymously, so that the public will not generally know who or what is backing the deniers.

In an article written for HuffingtonPost.com, dated 10/02/2014, Mike Lux reminds us:
“It is no wonder why the Koch brothers hold their political retreats with their fellow millionaires and billionaires in highly secretive sessions, the things they say and the agenda they lay out, while ‘inspiring’ to Mitch McConnell, is repulsive to most Americans.  They say that they want to decrease regulations so they can make more profit’.”
            “Even more absurd is their offensive overall agenda (laid out clearly and unequivocally at the Koch secret meeting at Rancho Mirage in California in June of 2014).  The Koch’s VP for Policy and Research described “an ideal society where the only government would be the military, police, and court system. Government is thus limited to a small but absolutely critical number of tasks, basically keeping our neighborhoods and cities safe from crime, defending our country from those who might violate our national territories, our commerce at sea, and providing justice in a fair and apolitical court system.  In this ideal system, there would be no water safety protections, no national park system, no public roads and bridges.  There would not be taxes on corporate profits or on the wealthy at all.  There would be no consumer, homeowner or worker protections from Wall Street banks, big energy companies, pharmaceutical plants, health insurance companies, fast food companies.”
So, the climate-change-by-human-hands deniers will continue their quest to stop legislation, to prevent new regulations and to block actions by the EPA and others.  The Koch Brothers and their followers do not take orders from anyone, including the Supreme Court.  They are intent on destroying their opposition and they know that, in most cases, money will win, not hubris or unfunded persuasion.

Have I thus written this in vain, as one more meaningless contribution to progressive opposition to money in politics and the rise to power of individuals and corporate entities that make up an elite cabal of governance of this country, mostly done in secret?  Perhaps.
However, bringing awareness of environmental dangers in any form to the public forum is never a waste of time.  Hopefully, drawing a parallel of the effect of chemicals on our own individual bodies and minds will serve to remind us that chemicals and gases with carcinogens being spewed into the earth’s atmosphere are also exceedingly dangerous to our planet and our planet’s atmosphere.   Just as we have made people sick, we are making our planet Earth sick and perhaps threatening its very existence.  After all, we are a part of an expansive universe full of planets, suns and moons, and other celestial bodies of matter.  Are we too parochial to believe that our planet, like others before it, might become too toxic to support life, unless all its many systems and essential life forms are nurtured, cared for and protected? 

The Koch brothers and their ilk, with all their earthly treasure and political agenda, are as nothing compared to the vastness of our universe.  The physical and scientific laws and systems of that universe will determine our fate in the long run if we choose not to act in the interests of the preservation of life and eco-systems that exist here and now.  Time is running out….