Month 3, Day 16: Personal Habits and Public Policy

This one goes to the National McNewspaper. Some days I just look through the big publications to find something worth writing about. USA Today had a good interview with retiring Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), and he made a lot of excellent points about the need for changes in our energy use patterns. Read the comments if you’re a fan of idiocy. Climate-change news seems to bring out a particular kind of mindlessness that is absolutely resistant to information or logic.

So USA Today heard from me. Plus which, I put this letter up in the comments, which should earn me a bunch of derision from the clueless denialists who’ve stunk the place up. What fun.

Brian Baird has the right idea. We need to make big changes in our habits of energy use if we want to avoid the worst effects of global climate change. Shorter showers, better equipment maintenance, more careful driving — all of these can go a long way to reducing our national level of greenhouse emissions.

But it’s not enough. Why? Because some of the worst offenders aren’t individuals. A massively polluting corporation cannot reduce its carbon footprint by taking a shorter shower or driving at the speed limit. As long as energy conservation leads to a lessening of profit in the short run, no corporate entity can be expected to go along with it. If wasting energy becomes more expensive, corporations will find ways to conserve. Which is why we need laws and enforcement mechanisms.

Neither voluntary behavioral changes nor legislative strategies are sufficient by themselves. Once America recognizes the severity of the crisis, we will have a genuine national response to the looming climate emergency — bottom-up (from the citizenry) and top-down (from the government). There is no time to waste. All of us need to change our habits, and all of us need meaningful climate legislation on the President’s desk.

Warren Senders

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