Sunday, June 26, 2005

Interesting article, but it has its delusional aspects:

My Thoughts

Interesting article, but it has its delusional aspects:

Rochester ranks 7th among clean cities - The Rochester area is one of the cleanest cities in the United States, according to a Readers Digest analysis of the 50 largest cities in the country. Rochester scored seventh cleanest, Buffalo was third, and Portland, Ore., won the top spot. Chicago was the dirtiest. Edward J. Doherty, Rochester's commissioner of environmental service, was pleased that the review looked at a variety of categories rather than focusing on just one that could provide a misleading picture. (June 23, 2005) Democrat & Chronicle

Although we have lived in Rochester almost thirty years now and expect to another thirty, because it is a great place to live, there are many serious concerns about how clean Rochester is. On the whole, as American cities, go Rochester, NY may well be one of the cleanest cities in the US. But, before we get too excited about the latest Reader's Digest study, we ought to stop and think. What does 'clean' mean? Looking at some of the facts, we have doubts about Rochester's cleanliness:

-1- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the Rochester region is failing to meet new health standards for ground level ozone pollution.
-2- Rochester is No. 1 in the nation for releases of cancer-causing industrial chemicals, according to a new analysis of 13 years of data on such materials.
-3- "Finger Lakes/Ontario Plain"--including , Onondaga, Monroe, and Erie Counties and many of the neighbors - as the 11th Most Threatened Farming Region in the County
-4- Rochester ranks 12th in the nation: The Sprawl Index
-5-. 'Some studies have placed Rochester among the 10 U.S. cities with the worst lead problems.'
-6-. Local air gets an F for ozone Monroe and Wayne counties cited in Lung Association survey Almost half of U.S. residents live in areas with unhealthy amounts of ozone, the ground-hugging pollutant that contributes to respiratory disease. Monroe County was one of 18 New York counties to receive a grade of “F” -- worse than last year, when the county received a “D.”
-7-“Monroe County is among the top ten counties in the state (9th by gallons, 6th by pounds) for total amount of pesticides reported in 1998.”
-8- New York. Monroe County with a total population of 712, 419 has 9, 443 cases of padiatric asthma, 40,549 cases of adult asthma, 23, 1701 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 7, 721 cases of emphysema 8. The Genesee River gets the distinction of being #2 in this criteria: "Top polluters directly discharging cancer-causing chemicals to U.S. waters.
-9-. 89 spots in Monroe County that have been contaminated by methyl tertiary butyl ether, a gasoline additive and potential carcinogen. To view maps of toxic sites, including MTBE contaminated areas, in towns throughout Monroe County
-10-. "In Monroe County, 48 contaminated sites are without funding, according to the DEC. (see front page for sources)

And if you actually read the Reader's Digest Study, it is a pretty scanty document and divulges no data: http://www.pdc.us/pdf/bus_serv/america-50cleanest-cities_7-05.pdf We have contacted Reader's Digest about how they conducted the study and what guidelines they used and will wait for their response. But in the meantime, we are all for a positive attitude towards a city we love and we wish dearly to see it prosper.

We've invested heavily in time and money to see that it does so. Disturbingly though, this article by the D&C and the Reader's Digest study only raises eyebrows, like finding your average student has been accepted into Harvard University. Something is odd. If Rochester is the 7th cleanest top city in the United States, then how are the rest of the top cities in American faring? By noting that we are near the top in cleanliness, should we let our guard down a moment and not get our air cleaned up, our brownfields cleaned, our water, and get the lead out of our old homes so I kids won't get poisoned? We hope not. We hope we will always feel good about our city and always take a cold hard look at our environment because our environment is our support system and when that goes awry, we'll get in trouble.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Don't Let the Public Broadcasting Service Get Gutted

With all the news on Public Broadcasting Service funding, we are concerned that Rochester's Environment might take a toll. Democracy Now! | PBS TV Station President Warns CPB Funding Cuts Will Launch "Spiral of Death for Public Broadcasting" We hope everyone is aware of the present crisis in the media, where the corporate media (most of the major media outlets around Rochester and the Untied States are owned by only a few corporations) and the growing realization that our environment may not be objectively reported because corporations, as a rule, see environmental regulations as a threat. Regardless of where you stand politically, not having an aggressive media that gives us a absolutely accurate model of our environment and potential dangers is a major threat to our existence. We need to know what is going on in our environment because it is our life support system. Missing important indicators of environmental problems can be catastrophic. We have not seen many stories in the pass few years from our local PBS and NPR stations on our Rochester-area environment and with the new situation of PBS funding, we could lose what little remains of good reporting on our environment. Don't kid yourself. Just because our media is not continually monitoring our environment that everything is OK. Just look on the side panel of this site's front page--there are many problems we need to address--brownfields cleanup, sprawl, air quality, etc and keeping our attention away from these issues just mean that when they do finally get bad enough to notice them, it will probably be too late. The great environmental reporter, Cory Ireland, at the Democrat and Chronicle will soon be leaving our town and with the our coverage of our environment shrinks further and further. So, be concerned that federally funded PBS and NPR and undergoing a sea-change in funding, maybe disappearing from our news channels. Years ago, environmentalism was not a political issue--all side of the isle care about the condition of our environment. But, with the Bush Administration hostile attitude and lack of knowledge about how our environment works our security is certainly threatened. Do everything in your power to make sure Public Broadcasting is not swept away.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is Environmentalism Dead?

The Failure of Environmentalism

Has the environmental movement in the United States failed on the issue of global warming? ask Sehllenberger and Nordhaus in their upsetting (October 2004) essay, “The Death of Environmentalism.” It seems so, because this article has sent shivers though the environmental community. It is time for environmental groups to “rethink everything,” because “Over the last 15 years environmental foundations and organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into combating global warming.” And they say, “We have little to show for it.” But, I believe their assessment of the environmental movement fails to appreciate the true battle. The failure to “get it” on global warming is not the environmental movements, but the failure of those who deny the primacy of environmental matters.

If one used only our media as a measure of reality, it would seem as though there is a continual battle against growth and free enterprise by a small and persistent faction of self-appointed do-gooders who rarely prevail. But, the question we must ask ourselves (as beings whose continued existence on this planet is not a forgone conclusion) is this: If there is a failure in the environmental movement, whose failure is it? Or, to put it another way, if someone tries to warn you that the benign-looking pasture you are about to drive your tractor on is actually a minefield, and you succeed in brushing him off, what have you accomplished?

Our collective predisposition towards adversarial jurisprudence, competing media, contentious multi-party political systems, and even opposing faiths points to something fundamental in the way we root out most absolute and unconditional truths. For most truths in our corporeal lives, as opposed to the spiritual or theoretical (where mathematics reign), there are no absolutes. Most truths are ferreted out by polemics or suggested through individual or collective experience. Our courts are designed to extract from human events the guilt and innocence of the defendant in the eyes of the law. Not Truth per se, because often the courts know a particular incidence has occurred, a killing for example, but not a crime. For instance, justified self-defense, even though it results in a death, is not a crime. The struggle for truth revolves around the dialectic between the state proving a defendant has transgressed its laws and a defendant arguing for his or her innocence. In other ways, we experience, or our community, discovers a truth, something like getting around town by horse, but another may find a rickshaw more suitable.

The media presents events not as Truths, but situations as reporters report them. Another journalist describing the same event, on another network or from another country’s viewpoint (on the outcome of an election for example) could and often does have a different interpretation. Political systems have been designed to find the best possible candidate, representing their particular set of theoretical solutions, to a country’s objectives and problems at any one point in their history. Therefore, the outcome of elections decides what policies will prevail, not necessarily an unconditional truth, such as what will create a sustainable environment. While the world is full of religions where each contend that theirs is the absolute Truth, the sheer number of contenders shows they cannot all possibly be right.

This is not to say that there are not some absolutes that we can all be assured of, absolutes that are true for all people everywhere on this planet. Some truths are not open to dispute; and yet, because of the way we solve most inter-human problems, we go on arguing them—even at the threat of our existence. Here are some of the truths I am talking about: all humans require clean water and air to survive; the DNA in our bodies must be uncorrupted by poisons for them to produce another viable human being; there is a physical limit to the amount of humans Earth can sustain; and finally, when the climate on Earth warms up it causes a change in the types of animals and plants that can survive in any one biome. These are not truths that I have dictated, or decreed by a court of law, reported from the media, or proclaimed by religious conviction. They are simply the facts as presented by three billion years of life as it has evolved on this planet. It does not matter if you believe in evolution or not. Violate the continuum of life begetting life and it ends. No discussion. Corrupt the basic chemical structure of our DNA and we do not survive. Populate our planet with more people than it can sustain and many will perish. Arguments will not change these facts; they will only drive our species closer to the edge of extinction by blinding us to the truth. Any life on this planet that has violated these truths is not around now to debate them. We are all, plants and animals, programmed for survival, and the test for this does not lay in the courts, the newspaper, or a religious tome. It lies in the survival of the fittest. Get it wrong and Nature will kill you.

So, how can environmentalism fail? It does not make sense to argue about whether or not the environment—that particular narrow band of environmental factors that our species requires to survive–is important to us. That would be insane, just as much as it would be for a fish to flop out of a river and stubbornly give up life there. No matter what got into the fish’s head—a disgust at having to always filter water through gills, or the despair at forever trying to get away from larger fish—if it leaves the water, it dies. Nor does it make any sense to argue that anything, including any principle that we hold, is more important than the environment, because the environment and we are one. The problem of modern human existence is to appreciate our connection to our environment and sustain ourselves within the limits set by Nature. Survival of our species is the point of our existence, for without this there is no past (for who will be around to tell it?), present, or future.

Granted, there are an innumerable ways to solve the problems of clean air, clean water, global warming, and overpopulation. That is the rub. Developers and environmentalists have so long argued about how to solve many of these biological truths that they have ratcheted up the problem to the point of absurdity. At a public meeting on a local development project I recently attended, a man introduced himself as someone who “certainly was not an environmentalist.” Did he mean that he was against clean air or clean water to drink?

The failure of environmentalism, ultimately, will not be the results of debates about what environmental factors we need to survive, for they are set in stone. For example, we cannot decide that we can do without potable water. It will be about what solutions we did or did not choose to act upon. Our humanness presents us with unconditional barriers, specific ones (a full set of uncompromised genes to pass on to the next generation) that come with being human, as it always has. We have adapted to some limits and overcome others, but some are insurmountable and cannot be avoided by military might, manufacturing, and new designs. Overpopulation falls into this category, for although we have not discovered it yet, there is a limit to the amount of humans our planet can support (even if we did not mind overcrowding and doing with less.) Our failure will be to continue to allow our relationship with our environment to be clouded by conflict and the illusion that one group is for the environment and another is not. The similarity our environmental problems have with politics, religion, and most of our other problems ends when you realize that no amount of persuasion, conflict, and moral outrage can affect the indifferent forces of Nature.