Let’s try putting people first

nissan-leafThere are two articles in the  March 11 and 12 New York Times that I am going to comment on.  The first, in the Sunday Business section by Hiroko Tabuchi, “The State-by-State Assault on Electric Cars” describes how various states have moved to make the purchase of electric cars less desirable.  Tabuchi leads:  “When Georgia repealed its generous $5,000 tax credit on electric vehicles in July 2015, and instead slapped a $200 registration fee on electric cars, sales quickly tumbled.In the month before the repeal, nearly 1,300 electric vehicles were sold in the state. By August, those sales had all but evaporated — to just 97 cars.”  Similar bills are pushing through nine other states.   Tabuchi notes that a measure in Colorado is backed by Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded by the Koch brothers.   Furthermore,  “In coming days, the Trump administration is widely expected to roll back stringent federal regulations on vehicle emissions, one of the biggest environmental legacies of President Barack Obama. The changes would give American carmakers less incentive to produce more battery-powered cars. There are also concerns among advocates of electric cars over the fate of a $7,500 federal tax credit on the vehicles, a major catalyst for sales.”

By contrast, in Norway, more than half of all new vehicles are already electric or hybrids.  See Zlata Rodi0nova’s article in The Independent.   We know that carbon emissions are creating an environmental crisis.  The Norwegians and others are showing that carbon emissions can be limited.  In the United States, corporate oil interests  dominate our national discourse and they don’t particularly care about long term consequences as long as they can pump oil and reap profits now.  What is going on is not so complicated really.

Second article, Nicholas Kristof, in a Sunday New York Times  op-ed, “Are Your Sperm In Trouble?”   Yeah, not your usual dinner conversation.  But given where we come from, Kristof has some alarming news.  The human race may not be around to die from global warming caused by carbon emissions or from some ill-calculated nuclear exchange.  Here’s Kristof, “As a couple finishes its business, millions of sperm begin theirs: rushing toward an egg to fertilize it. But these days, scientists say, an increasing proportion of sperm — now about 90 percent in a typical young man — are misshapen, sometimes with two heads or two tails.

Even when properly shaped, today’s sperm are often pathetic swimmers, veering like drunks or paddling crazily in circles. Sperm counts also appear to have dropped sharply in the last 75 years, in ways that affect our ability to reproduce.”

The cause?  “Human and animal studies suggest that a crucial culprit is a common class of chemical called endocrine disruptors, found in plastics, cosmetics, couches, pesticides and countless other products. Because of the environmental links, The New Yorker once elegantly referred to the crisis as “silent sperm,” and innumerable studies over 25 years add to the concern that the world’s sperm are in trouble.”

The problem, in other words, are all those plastics and designer chemicals that corporate industries have sold to us.  As Kristof notes, “What’s needed above all is more aggressive regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals. America has been much slower than Europe to regulate toxic chemicals, and most chemicals sold in the U.S. have never been tested for safety.  The larger question is why we allow the chemical industry — by spending $100,000 on lobbying per member of Congress — to buy its way out of effective regulation of endocrine disruptors. The industry’s deceit marks a replay of Big Tobacco’s battle against regulation of smoking.”

Keep in mind that with DDT alone, the chemical industry nearly wiped out the American bald eagles and ospreys in the 1950s.

Here’s the bigger issue.  Laws and public policies in the United States are overly attuned to corporate bottom lines at the expense of public welfare and benefits.  The same analysis applies to the debate over health care where American corporate interests prevent us from joining the rest of the modern world with universal care under a single-payer system.  It’s why the Right wants to privatize social security.  In their world, no opportunity should be missed to make a buck.   With the Right-Wing corporate Republicans holding Congress, the Presidency, and a majority of state legislatures,  that problem has been getting worse, not better.  Under the holding of Citizens United,  corporations can spend unlimited funds to buy elections.  Just as bad is the public tolerance for gerrymandering and voter restrictions.  The rise of Trump and Bannon are simply icing on the cake.  What is already bad could get even worse.

These warnings do not reflect hypothetical dangers.  The facts are right there for anyone to see.  The environmental hazards get worse everyday.  Venal, short-sighted, and stupid people, responding to venal corporate interests, are in control.  But these are problems that can be addressed.  Other countries have enlightened policies and are searching for solutions that allow us to live in harmony with the realities of the natural world.  Do we let the moronic money grubbers of the Republican right run our lives?  Or do we take them on,  take back our country, and, hopefully, save humanity?  Do we really have any choice?

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