Monday, July 27, 2020

Vote as if it Your Life Depends on It

Greetings All:

Following up on my recent "rant" about the I-495 & I-270 Environmental Impact Statement, below is a link to a Washington Post article describing how the proposed Pebble Creek Gold Mine in Alaska has been "fast tracked" by the Trump Administration.  This project is like the Freddy Krueger of environmental catastrophes.  The Obama EPA had, for all intents and purposes, put an end to it.  Well, it's back!!!!  And if Trump is reelected it will happen, as well as every other mining project, pipeline or highway project any venture capitalist ever dreamed of.

At the heart of my dismay is the present administration's proposed dismantling of the most venerable and foundational environmental law:  the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires the federal government to consider the "environmental impact" of any project which receives federal funding.  Over the 50 some years since its enactment, a significant body of regulatory case law has evolved establishing limits on development.  The tide has gone back and forth between Republican and Democratic administrations but there has always been a requirement that the decisions be supported by data.  If Trump's proposed "streamlining" of the regulations goes through, the "environmental impact" determination will be in the "eye of the beholder." 

I am not exaggerating here, environmental protection in this country will go the way of the Amazon rainforest under Brazilian President Bolsonaro, or air quality in Iraq when Saddam Hussein set fire to the oil wells, or so many avoidable CoronaVirus fatalities today.  Policy decisions (granting permits etc) must be based on verifiable data.  Scientifically verifiable data takes time to develop.  The proposed changes to NEPA regulations impose totally unrealistic deadlines.  They are akin to requiring that all the evidence in a homicide investigation MUST be gathered within 48 hours or it is inadmissible.

We must vote in November as if our lives depend upon it.

Bernard A. Penner

[Webmaster Note: The website promotes the right to vote, and is an excellent resource. You can request an absentee ballot from that site, as well find links to local voting offices and resources.]

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Don't Use Logic to Persuade Climate Change Deniers

The author of the book "Global Warming Primer,” Jeffrey Bennett, breaks the climate change discussion down to logic, using two facts and a conclusion:

1.       Fact: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, by which we mean a gas that traps heat and makes a planet (like Earth or Venus) warmer than it would be otherwise.
2.      Fact: Human activity, especially the use of fossil fuels — by which we mean coal, oil, and gas, all of which release carbon dioxide when burned — is adding significantly more of this heat-trapping gas to Earth’s atmosphere.
3.       Inevitable Conclusion: We should expect the rising carbon dioxide concentration to warm our planet, with the warming becoming more severe as we add more carbon dioxide.

I buy that. Seems simple enough to follow, so why doesn’t everybody else buy that?  Logic was my favorite class in college, and the logic here summarizes the science I was learning.  But in his Fast Company article, Per Epsen Stoknes suggests that when the rational argument doesn’t work, we should embrace the irrational mind.[1]

He suggests that people respond better when the message is localized. Charts showing global numbers and facts don’t persuade people as much as relating the problem to local situations. In Maryland’s anti-fracking campaign, I think it was successful partially because people could visualize some of the local problems that would have occurred in the western counties targeted for fracking.

His other suggestions such as keeping the message positive and not making people feel guilty make a lot of sense. He suggests that people respond to peer pressure and react positively when they see and hear about what others are already doing. That leads to government leaders responding accordingly and stopping from obstructing efforts to stop climate change.  

I need to change my 3-minute elevator speech. I thought I could persuade people about the perils of relying on non-sustainable energy sources with a couple of simple facts about carbon dioxide. I won’t stop using logic, but I will try to be more cognizant of the psychological reasons why many people resist accepting the reality of climate change.