By ROBERT SANDOW
Special to The Sun
The joke used to be that “everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” No longer.
The environmental community believes that we can and must control the weather. Each day we are confronted with multiple stories or articles about global warming.
But before jumping on the global warming bandwagon, consider how often the environmental community has gotten it wrong in the past. The following is a small list of examples ranging from the trivial to the tragic.
Does anyone remember the artificial reefs that were constructed from millions of used automobile tires? These were dumped into the ocean off the coast of south Florida in 1972. Intended to create a zone rich in marine life, they have proven to be a huge ecological blunder instead, creating a vast dead zone on the ocean floor. The tires have leached chemicals toxic to fish and coral polyps. Moreover, the tires, once bundled together, have broken apart.
Individually, they are much too light to remain anchored to the ocean bottom. Storms and ocean currents have scattered the tires over a large area, scouring the bottom of any life. Environmentalists are now demanding that governmental agencies remove the tires – at taxpayer expense, of course.
Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences applies as much to foolish environmental policies as it does to all other human endeavors. I have to look no further than my own home for proof of that principle at work.
When I laid plans to build my home, I allowed myself to be talked into selecting “environmentally friendly” toilets with smaller tanks to reduce water consumption, the 21st century version of the 1960s admonition to “put a brick in your toilet.”
Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the design engineers who conceived these monstrosities that pressure from an appropriately sized water tank is necessary to complete the flush cycle and send the waste down the toilet’s discharge pipe. As a result, my toilettes have the unpleasant habit of stopping up, which is especially embarrassing for guests.
Ironically, to avoid the charm of an overflowing commode, it has now become necessary to flush each toilette multiple times, thereby causing more water, not less, to be used to complete each bathroom “event.”
In 1973, environmentalists, using the Endangered Species Act, were able to temporarily shut down the Tellico Dam project, a hydroelectric power plant that was 95 percent complete and designed to bring cheap, reliable and clean energy to the Tennessee valley area. Unfortunately, the Tellico Dam was alleged to pose a danger to the snail darter, a nondescript minnow that had somehow found its way onto the Endangered Species List, and the Tennessee River was alleged to be its only home.
It literally took an act of Congress to put the dam back on track to completion. Much later a proper scientific inquiry determined that the snail darter was neither unique to the Tennessee River nor endangered. In 1993, it was removed from the Endangered Species List altogether.
National Geographic magazine recently estimated that 3,000 children die from malaria each day in Africa. Once upon a time, humans had the scourge of malaria on the run. Early in the 20th century a wonder chemical was discovered. Nothing in history had ever controlled insects as effectively as this chemical.
It was called DDT. Minute quantities killed mosquitoes for months, long enough to break the transmission cycle. The chemist who discovered its properties was even awarded a Nobel prize – by the same organization that just gave Al Gore a peace prize for an environmental documentary. Unfortunately for the children of Africa and elsewhere, DDT also harmed peregrine falcons by thinning their shells and reducing their offspring.
The environmental response was so savage that DDT was outlawed for agricultural purposes. Though an exception was made for malaria control, DDT became virtually impossible to obtain and politically impossible to use. Malaria returned with a vengeance. Robert Gwadz, who studied malaria at the National Institutes of Health, estimated that the banning of DDT may have killed 20 million children. But the falcon population is healthy.
Environmentalists, like physicians, should have as their ethos “First, do no harm.” But, they are by their nature alarmists. For them, we are always on the verge of environmental catastrophe.
Believe what you want on global warming. But at least take the time to look at the past. You might start by Googling “global cooling.” You’ll find a series of newspaper and magazine articles from the 1970s breathlessly citing scientific studies showing the ominous approach of global cooling – yes, global cooling – and the possible onset of a new Ice Age.
Robert Sandow lives in Gainesville and works in Live Oak.
Copyright © The Gainesville Sun
“almost all of the increase in global maize production from 2004 to 2007 (the period when grain prices rose sharply) went for biofuels production in the U.S.
50 percent of LA workforce are immigrants
LOS ANGELES, April 21 (UPI) — Los Angeles is at the leading edge of a U.S. demographic trend, with half of its workforce immigrants, many of them unskilled and speaking little English.
As baby boomers retire, the same pattern will emerge across the country, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Demographers estimate that by 2025 most of the growth in the workforce will be from immigrants.
Ernesto Cortes Jr., Southwest regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, said Los Angeles is at a crossroads.
“The question is: Are we going to be a 21st century city with shared prosperity, or a Third World city with an elite group on top and the majority at poverty or near poverty wages?” he asked. “Right now we’re headed toward becoming a Third World city. But we can change that.”
The Migration Policy Institute used U.S. Census data to determine that one-third of immigrants have not graduated from high school and 60 percent do not speak English fluently.
Cortes, with former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and others, is to participate in a conference this week at the University of Southern California on how to train and integrate immigrant workers.