September 30, 2019

Are Young People Our Best Hope?


You probably recognize the young lady in this photo. Recently, Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders at a climate conference at the United Nations. That would be noteworthy for anyone; at age 16 it is breathtaking.

Her recognition and power to motivate others has grown almost faster than someone can track. Harnessing the power of social media and the building awareness of the mess we are in, she has started a tsunami of attention to a problem that threatens our very existence: climate change.  

Unafraid, and mature beyond her years, she shamed her elders at the U.N. In a speech that is worth watching on YouTube she asked the audience of decision makers, "how dare you" ruin the environment that they are leaving for young people. How "dare they" allow money and politics to remain more important than the survival of large chunks of the human and animal population.

Soon after her speech, the president of the United States mocked her on Twitter. Again, emphasizing her intelligence and passion, she responded to his slur by making part of it her Twitter profile. A commentator on Fox News called her "mentally ill." That statement triggered an apology from the network and a promise to avoid that person in the future.

At this point, to "not believe" in climate change is about as head-in-the-sand realistic as continuing to claim the earth is flat or the moon landing was a fake. Saying something equally as silly as the climate is always changing is just as bad. Humans are making that natural cycle much, much more severe and damaging our only home. Don't even get me started on "climate change is a hoax started by China."  

Unfortunately, refusing to admit the dire nature of the problem and continuing to claim that jobs and politics are more important than the planet that allows for those jobs and lifestyle, too many adults have turned their collective backs on their children, their children's children, and all future generations of both human and animal life. I guess the hope is the problem is not as severe as it is, or that someone, the mythical "they," will find and implement a solution just before we foul our own nest to the point of no return.

I mean, really, what the heck does a "good job" matter if big parts of the world are unlivable, the water undrinkable, the weather too destructive, and societies in turmoil? Who do these people think are going to buy whatever is being produced? How do they think a normal marketplace will even function on a toxic plant? Isn't the threat to our food supply and clean water availability, cities disappearing under a relentless rising sea, and millions upon millions of people forced to wander the earth trying to find a place to survive a bit more important than a new smartphone?

And, speaking directly to the whole premise of this blog for the past 9+ years, who cares how satisfying a retirement is if the environment and future is at ultimate risk? Our day-to-day concerns will become so trivial compared to the destruction of large portions of our planet...the very air we breathe and water we drink.

My generation and the one that came before it are responsible. We have only our selfishness and lack of will power to blame. Our "leaders" have fiddled while Rome (and the rain forests) burn, the seas rise, the air becomes fowl, and the weather becomes increasingly destructive and unpredictable.

I am pining my hopes on the people represented by Ms. Thunberg and every one of the millions who are marching, protesting, and taking concrete steps to save their lives and their planet from our blindness.

Are young people our hope? Can motivated people of any age learn from their example and finally say, "enough is enough? We will not take your destructive, selfish harm to our lives any more?"  Will we wake up to the end-of-the-pier seriousness of our situation before we all walk off the end?

For the sake of my children, precious grandchildren, and everyone else's families everywhere in the world, I can only hope so. 


46 comments:

  1. Great post Bob. But I kinda doubt that the MAGA folks were impressed. We are very close to a tipping point so someone has to reach these folks or at least mute their power to prevent the changes that must be addressed.

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    1. At some point to deny reality ceases to be an effective approach. At some point truth overwhelms wishful thinking. Will it happen too late in this case? I am afraid we are about to find out.

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  2. I wonder what happened to all the flower children of the 60s? I don't have the answer but it makes me wonder what this generation will do when they get older.

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    1. Power corrupts. Settling into a certain lifestyle and belief system with the levers of power firmly in our grasp tends to lessen the desire to shake up the system.

      The younger generations? I hope a decently liveable world still exists for them to pick a different future.

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  3. Well said. It is depressing that the world is in such a horrible state. Rainforests burning, political upheaval, democracy waning, Trump rolling back Clean water act,... It's just awful. I hope that young people like Greta and others stand up to these autocrats and do something.

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    1. The protests of the 60s and 70s changed many of the power structure's plans.

      Now, another set of crucial problems face us all. Just like 50 years ago, the shape of our future very well might depend on millions of motivated younger people who are "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore."

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  4. I've seen a few Trump supporters on Facebook mock Greta and the kids leading the fight for tighter gun control laws and I just don't get how adults can do that. Do these kids make them feel guilty or uncomfortable about the world we adults are leaving them? Well, good if that's the case. When we know better, we do better and now is the time to do better before it's too late.

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    1. Those who mock and belittle these activists are scared...scared their selfish, self-contained warped vision of society is changing, and they are powerless to stop it.

      There have always been groups of people desperately holding onto "what was." Ultimately, they lose.

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  5. Hi Bob! I completely agree that it it sort of silly to even consider a "satisfying retirement" if we don't have a planet where there is fresh water, food and air for everyone? I don't have kids but I seem to care far more about the future of our planet than many in the conservative crowd. I can only hope that Greta and other young people are so persuasive that they not only trigger political change but also the mindsets of their parents! Thanks for being outspoken on this! ~Kathy

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    1. It is the ultimate irony that conservatives don't have much of a relationship to conservation. The two words are only different by a few letters, but worlds apart in meaning.

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  6. Animal agriculture causes more environmental harm than all forms of transportation combined. I have removed all meat, dairy, and eggs from my diet. My husband and I are making other changes, like getting along with only one car and using environmentally friendly products in our home and yard. We continue to look for ways to help preserve this planet for our children and grandchildren and all those who will be their neighbors.

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    1. I will have a followup post in the next week or so about this part of the issue: what we can do to help protect what we have been given.

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  7. As baby boomers grow older and will have to relinquish their leadership roles , I am counting on the younger generations..as they step up and address issues of importance for the survival of our planet and our humanity, perhaps we can still save Mother Earth! The time is growing short, the window of opportunity is closing! So, I am happy to see young people stepping up NOW. If we can mobilize young VOTERS we can oust the old fogies , the head in the sand politicians, and the old style of leadership and politics which is poisoning our country right now. I have incredible faith in young people to make this happen!!!! IT IS THEIR WORLD!! I am an age-ing baby boomer and I don't "march" anymore--I feel my BEST WAY to help this country is to spend my time in the coming election season getting young people and all citizens, to VOTE..so that is where I will focus my efforts.

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    1. I marched on Washington and helped occupy the dean's office during my 20s. I don't know how much that accomplished but I felt good about being an active participant in the important issues of my time.

      Now, the best our age group can do is change our lives in a way to halt some of our worst impulses, vote the dangerous people out, and encourage everyone to participate. Change will not come from wishing or hoping.

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  8. Bob, I am interested in understanding who you feel are "the dangerous people". If I read your post and comments to other posters on this topic then I can make a leap that you may feel anyone who disagrees with the belief that humans are the primary contributor to climate change and we have the ability to stop climate change are "dangerous people". Am I understanding your perception accurately? I applaud you for taking a stand on what you believe, but I also encourage you to not assume people who may hold differing viewpoints are "dangerous". The beauty of this country and our free speech and belief principles should allow for differing viewpoints and perspectives to come together and discuss opposing viewpoints. Some times, these people will agree on parts of each other's viewpoints, and at other times, they will agree to disagree but should not use derogatory labels to describe their different viewpoints. I do believe the next generation is definitely our future and should not be chastised for expressing their beliefs, and I also subscribe that the next generation also does not yet have some of the experiences the older generations have to effectively govern alone; they need the inputs from all citizens. I do believe that humans have an impact on climate change and that we can make changes to clean up our wasteful tendencies and help curb growing pollution. Can we make a real impact on global climate changes without the cooperation of China, Russia, India, and other nations who may not subscribe to the same principles we may hold dear in the USA? What I see are small incremental changes that we make in the USA and many parts of Europe that make us feel good but have little to no impact on actual climate change. We need to find a way to get these other countries who have little incentive to make changes to change. Just my 2 cents worth...

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    1. How can someone hold "different views" on facts? Is the climate changing and are we a large part of the problem? Unless there is an attempt to spin "alternate facts" there is no other conclusion. Facts can't be changed just because they may be inconvenient.

      Hundreds of years ago people were executed for believing the world was round or the sun didn't circle the earth. None of those executions changed reality, inconvenient as they may have been to the religious order of the day.

      China, Russia, and others are a huge part of the problem. But, the U.S. is the biggest polluter in the world. Our response can't be to say if other countries don't step up we'll show 'em...we won't either. That'll teach them!

      I very much appreciate your response, but disagree with your basic premise. Unless you are wiling to throw out the scientific facts of 98% of all reputable professionals, the "dispute" is over: the climate is changing to the point of irreversible damage to humans, plants, and animals. No longer can we pass the buck or refuse to take personal responsibility for our part in the impending disaster.

      I am sorry, but people who believe it is a hoax or just normal are dangerous...to everyone, every thing, and every bit of of life on earth.

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    2. OK, so let me be sure I understand your point. I understand you stating that since you believe that 98% of reputable professionals support a premise that humans are the main cause of climate change, then that premise must be accurate. Is that correct? I would state that ideal a little differently. I would state, "with what evidence we have today and what we understand today about our climate change, that we feel humans have a major impact on our climate". I do not subscribe to absolutes with any premise that today's experts have all the knowledge needed to make any absolute statement (and this is not a statement about climate change but in general). As you stated, at one point in time, the leading experts believed the earth was not only flat but was also the center of the universe and the sun and stars revolved around the earth. My point here is that today's leading experts will surely have their premises revised as more information is gathered and new items are discovered. I am not stating climate change is not real. What I am stating is that I take the cause, as being published by today's experts, is only a part of the cause, and I do not subscribe that humans can impact these changes one way or the other in a substantial manner without understanding the role the Sun, our planetary orbital position and tilt angle,and other naturally occurring events all correlate along with human activity to change the climate. Climate change is real. We have climate records going back a few hundred years that show evolving climate. We have beliefs based on our current scientific knowledge that show climate changes have occurred for millions if not billions of years. What we do not have proof of is what have been the causes of these historical climate changes and their actual time lines. We have hypothesis about the causes of these historical changes and that is all we have at this point in time. Can we make an impact? Yes, I believe we can but the amount of impact humans can make is only a hypothesis at this point in time. My vote is we try. Also, I disagree with your premise that the USA is the biggest polluter in the world. I have been to SE Asia and China and have seen first hand the pollution these other countries are creating, and the USA is no where near those levels. I feel that the alarmist statements that have been made about the climate of immediate doom and gloom over the past 60 years that have not come to pass are a lot of what is keeping more people from believing in the impact humans have. I do not believe much of anything coming out of our media regardless of the topic as the media is no different than the rest of corporate America. They are in the game for profit regardless of the validity of the items they report on, and as a friend of mine recently reminded me, "If it bleeds it leads". (My comments have no ties to political beliefs).

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    3. Without getting into a big back and forth, you know there are still some scientists that don't believe smoking causes cancer. Does that mean we wait until we have 100% of everyone on board to ever act proactively on anything? Is a 98% certainty good enough? Absolutely.

      The countries you cite have much smaller populations, obviously not nearly as many cars or factories or power plants poisoning the air. Hence, their total impact is substantially less. Should they be urged to clean up. Yes. Does their situation have anything to do with our response? Absolutely not.

      Don't mistake visual pollution for invisible stuff like CO2, one of the major drivers of global warming.

      I believe your argument is flawed and, yes, dangerous. But we have discussed this with civility and respect. Thanks for your thoughts.

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    4. I guess, Bob, that you forgot what the Olympics were like when they were held in China? The pollution was so bad the athletes couldn't breath nor swim in the ocean. China has 1.4billion citizens. India has 1.3billion citizens. America has 330million people living in it both legal and illegal. Until China and India, who really are the biggest polluters, change their evil polluting ways, anything anyone else does is nothing more than a single missing grain of sand on the beach. In other words, Americans are just wasting their time, money,energy and effort to have any affect on climate change whether real or imagined. Greta looked like a mean and angry little girl whose mind had been poisoned by misleading adults who haven't a clue. Want a cleaner planet? Concentrate on China and India. Not America.

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    5. Dan P, thank you for your reasonable, contrary response. I find myself in the minority here by agreeing with you.

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    6. Dan P, I also appreciate your position and the gentlemanly way you expressed it. Bob, thank you for always welcoming different points of view and keeping the discussion civilized. Funny thing, you guys are both on the same page, you just see potential solutions differently. For sure, we all need to do our part, even if it seems small in the scheme of things. Conflicting messages permeate our society on everything climate change to how much WINE is good for you. I just want good information from credible sources without the drama!

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    7. I stop respecting someone else's "opinion" when it collides with fact.I am afraid I might have a not- so- great regard for someone who told me they don't "believe" in gravity, too. Climate change is too big an issue to ignore.Thankfully, I believe the MAJORITY of humans understand the facts.. but they are not DOING something about it that's for sure. .so our youth, who do understand science, will be the ones to get this done,. I believe the young folks need to ignore some of the old folks and get into government and make some radical changes. I am counting on them!

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  9. We don't have children or grandchildren, but I applaud and support the passion of these young people. Afterall, we'll be dead and gone when they are dealing with the fallout of our ignorance, malfeasance, and the dissemination of self-serving misinformation. It also drives me nuts when I hear people talk about this magical technological fairy dust that will fix everything for us so we don't have to suffer any inconveniences as we try to save our planet.

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    1. As humans alive right now I believe we have one important responsibility: to leave things in better shape than we found them. At the moment we are failing miserably, and have been for quite awhile.

      Those younger than us have every right to call out our failures, all while working to fix the mess we are about to leave them.

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  10. We have already passed the point that we can stop global warming in time to prevent climate change and mass extinctions. We have already put processes in place that will continue to release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the air for years to come. We have a ten year window to make radical changes or the ecological changes will be so extreme that we might be facing the end of human civilization.

    I applaud the actions of young people in bringing the problem to worldwide attention and articulating it so well. But we can’t afford to wait for young people to grow up and clean up our mess. We don’t have that much time. Nor can we sit back and hope that someone else fixes things. As Greta says, it has become a climate emergency. In order to shift our trajectory, every one of us has to step up and do our part. We can educate ourselves and take individual actions, like flying less and replacing heating and cooling systems in our homes with green alternatives. We can join groups like 350.org to work toward changes in policy and practice in our communities. We can get involved politically and vote for parties with sound environmental platforms or run for office ourselves. We can advocate for laws to regulate the irresponsible actions of transnational petroleum corporations. Recycling and refusing plastic bags are necessary steps but not nearly enough.

    A really good website that provides good information about the scope of the problem and what to do about it is: https://www.drawdown.org/

    Thanks for writing about this topic, Bob. Of all the challenges in our world today, this is the one most important thing facing us, and if we don’t get it right, nothing else will matter.

    Jude

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    1. This will be the defining struggle of our lifetime. No act of terrorism, political malfeasance, or anything else humans can inflict on each other will have the type of mind-boggling damage of our refusal to accept this challenge.

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    2. Jude, EXCELLENT post and bravo Bob. As Jude says, we have only a window of about 10 years before it's entirely too late. We don't have time to put all our hope on young people...they're not in charge and don't have the power to change anything. It's up to our generation. At least Jude has given a number of ways WE in our generation can be active. Thanks for that.

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  11. Our generation changed the world in the 60s. I'm looking to this young generation to do the same. Good for them!

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    1. I am afraid we changed the world, and then forgot our on-going responsibility to what we created.

      I pray that those fighting to save our planet now not only force us all to change, but don't lose sight of the need to stay focused.

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  12. I completely disagree with your premise for many reasons, but unlike you will not describe those who have a different opinion as dangerous.
    At the outset of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, about 0.03% of the Earth's atmosphere was comprised of carbon dioxide. What is it now?

    About 0.04%
    That’s A fact.
    As of August 2015, 31,487 scientists, including 3,805 with degrees in atmospheric, earth, or environmental science and 9,029 Ph.D.’s in varying scientific fields, have signed a petition stating:
    There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

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    1. Obviously you and I view science and the future of our planet very differently. I won't attempt to change your views but hope against all rational evidence and projections and for the sake of tens of millions of human lives, that you are correct.

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    2. George Carlin is/was humorous, but we can hardly claim that we have left nature alone. And therein lies the problem.

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    3. NASA admits that climate change occurs because of changes in Earth’s solar orbit, and NOT because of SUVs and fossil fuels

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    4. Not even remotely true in our current situation. NASA official web site says odds are 95% that humans are a major cause of this climate shift. If you read past the first paragraph you knew that.

      I can respect disagreement but not spreading false information.

      Any further comments by you will be deleted. This blog will not knowingly spread falsehoods.


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  13. Interestingly, of the comments so far 29% have taken the position that it isn't happening, other countries are worse, or global warming is good for the planet. I am not counting the 5 comments that attacked me personally so were not printed. I am OK with opposing points of view and have used several above that did not fall into hateful slurs. Free speech is vital and no one has a monopoly on perfect certainty.

    Recent research studies that show 70% of Americans believe human-influenced climate change is a serious problem, while 30% do not. In 2008 a similar study showed just 47% held the view that global warming is of concern. So, in some measure, awareness and acceptance has shown a strong increase.

    Now, if we could just transfer that awareness into action.

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  14. I support Dan P.'s response. I do not deny climate change; I do not deny that humans are great polluters. I do think there are bigger natural influences at stake that we lowly humans will not impact. I will continue to make the changes I can at a personal level. The consumerism that so many of us subscribe to certainly has an impact on world pollution and waste. I think back to my rural, subsistence lifestyle and can only appreciate electricity, motorized vehicles, running water and central heating.

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    1. I understand your point but agree with virtually all scientific evidence that humans and our lifestyle are the major drivers this time.

      No one is saying do away with electricity, running water, or heat...just stop burning fossil fuels to provide the energy.

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  15. Great post, Bob. Could not agree more. I think the crazy weather patterns - flooding, increased hurricane/typhoon action, hotter and hotter record temps, melting ice caps, etc. - are starting to wake people up, but the fossil fuel industry is a powerful entity and we're hooked on their drug. One thing that I didn't realize until I saw the data is the enormous pollution and waste created in the fast fashion industry. So many feeder streams to this problem, it's hard to know where to begin. And every change will affect jobs, the economy, etc., for someone. It's a frightening topic.

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    1. Think back to the battle against smoking and its cancer-causing properties. That battle took 30 years and fighting government, big business, lobbies, and human habits to finally accept the dangers and severely restrict the dangers.

      Climate change and our part in it will be every bit as tough, but much more serious because of the effect on every one of us who live on this planet.

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  16. wow. You really stirred the pot here, Bob. And, I'm glad you did. It is time to wake up and smell the carbon pollution. All you have to do anymore is look at the weather maps every day/night. None of it seems 'normal', whatever that may be today. This week we are going from mid '90's mid week to 60's by weeks end. I can't remember seeing more flooding than we've seen recently, and often in places that haven't flooded in ages. I'll support Greta and all of her generation for having the intelligence and strength to stand up to the deniers.They are smarter than anyone in the White House, that's for sure!
    b

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    1. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the number of people who absolutely refuse to accept reality...but I am.

      What I don't understand is why, even if someone says there is still doubt, those folks don't take reasonable steps to curb damage on the off chance they are wrong. They disagree with 95% of the scientific community by rejecting every possibility 100%.

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  17. When one starts naming names one cuts off conversation. I look forward to your scientific solution and the solutions if others. Personally, I am pro nuclear. Greta's home country is 40%. There are huge advances in that area. You imply this is a new fight, but the conservative Midwest has been on this issue since I taught there in the 1980s. Farming practices have changed a great deal.

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    1. CO2 levels in the 80s were in the 200s ppm range. As of this August CO2 measured at 411 ppm, or the highest concentration in 80,000 years. Above 350 ppm comes warming that melts ice caps, raises sea levels, increase storm frequency and intensity, changes rain patterns and growing seasons.

      At last count at least 55 countries will become unliveable due to rising water or drought and heat by 2100, uncomfortable and stressful by 2050.

      I am pro nuclear, too especially using the new ones developed by people working with Bill Gates. These are completely safe, use spent fuel that is now lying in dangerous storage facilities, and cannot have a meltdown.

      This isn't a new fight, just one that now involves the survival of hundreds of millions of us.

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    2. I understand. What I am stating is that many of us started fighting when it was a blister- chose different lifestyles, cultivating,moving to better forms of power without using up the surface water, urged our children to go into research, etc. But few were engaged. Now that it is Mersa, there is an emergency.
      Most quick fixes do not/will not work. Calling people, who have ideas and have been working on the issues, dangerous because they "get it" on a different level is not helpful. And now climate change is back out of the news instead we have impeachment. If the environment is important, put the energy there...on both sides.
      It is a world thing, not just US. The Chinese signed to peak their pollution by 2030. I think the world is supposed to end about then, right? Maybe that is why Virgin Air is planning colonies for the rich in space. Most made their money thru pollution- so leave it...

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  18. I am also pro Nuclear. There are many people here who have expressed opinions much better than I. I would only offer two thoughts: first that while I admire these young people, what they are doing shouldn't be their jobs. We are the adults, after all. It's our responsiblity to prepare the world for them. and secondly, I see multiple comments about other countries including China. Let's remember that doesnt happen in a vaccum. A large majority of the manufactuing in those countries is manufacturing of items that will return to the US, that we will buy and that often are more cheaply produced than in the US. When we outsource manufacturing we outsource pollution as well, so we carry an equal responsiblity evenif said pollution happens elsewhere. Those of us who bought Imacs and Iphones for the twenty years before Apple deigned to return production to the US certainly helped cotnribute to that pollution-just to name one example.

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    1. Excellent point about manufacturing outsourcing and its contribution to the overall problem.

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