Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Polluters

When I was a young boy in the 50s, I remember how we would be driving down the road, and then my Dad would roll down the window and throw out a bag of trash with maybe the last remains of our hamburgers with the tomatoes and pickles I wouldn't eat.

I would look back from the back seat and see the bag hit the ground, roll along for a moment, and then rest on the side of the road. It seems like I remember seeing the bag explode once, with trash blowing all over the field, but I probably just made that up. I do remember being confused by it though. I could not throw trash into my bedroom or into our yard.

Why could we throw trash out of the car?

I don't know why we did it, surely we knew better.

Maybe it's because Moses didn't put it in the top ten. If he had room for one more, he might have added thou shalt not trash thy neighbors field.

As the 50s turned into the 60s, it was no longer acceptable to throw trash out of the car. Maybe it was because the sides of the roads were beginning to look like trash dumps. Soon, it was illegal and signs sprung up that said Littering is Unlawful.

In the early days of the industrial revolution, the cities in England were significantly polluted from coal smoke. As lung disease and morbitity increased, it became clear that, at the very least, smokestacks would need to be higher.

Even earlier in the 1300s, when England began to use coal instead of wood for heat, there were major air pollution problems. To clean up London's air, King Edward I, outlawed coal burning exclaiming, "…whosoever shall be found guilty of burning coal shall suffer the loss of his head."

Known today as "The London Fog," London experienced the worst air pollution disaster ever reported from December 5 to 8, 1952. With daily temperatures below average, fireplaces and industries supplied pollutants that combined with condensation in the air to form a dense fog. Concentrations of pollutants reached very high levels under these adverse conditions. The fog finally cleared away, but four thousand Londoners had perished.

In 1948, the United States experienced its first major air pollution catastrophe in Donora, Pennsylvania. Effluents from a number of industries, including a sulfuric acid plant, a steel mill, and a zinc production plant, became trapped in a valley by a temperature inversion and produced an un-breathable mixture of fog and pollution. Six-thousand suffered illnesses ranging from sore throats to nausea. There were 20 deaths in three days.

According to the World Health Organization, Global Warming killed 150,000 people in 2000 and the death toll could double again in the next 30 years if current trends are not reversed.

One heatwave killed 20,000 people in Europe alone this year, the WHO said.

Pollution should not be regulated.

It should be unlawful.

Littering is unlawful.

Imagine if other crimes were regulated and not made unlawful.

We could issue robbery credits to all the known thieves and robbers.

Those who were known to rob the most, would get the most credits.

We could initiate a cap and trade system.

If they do not need to rob their full allotment,

they can sell their robbery credits to someone

who needs to steal a little more this year.

And once again,

the miracle of the market is revealed.

Local authorities are thinking about regulating murder.




6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is funny, but not too funny. we cannot make pollution illegal. cap and trade systems using the market are well respected mechanisms for reducing pollution. your comments mock their success. large environmental orgs like E D have supported these market mechanisms because they make a difference and they save lives not trade them.

9:38 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

Perhaps I was a little too toungue and cheek. Sorry.
The point though is this. When do we come to realize that industrial strength mega polluting is hurting people and that to accept that there is no other alternative is just plain wrong. Polluters can control their waste but it costs money. Right now we allow them to externalize that cost which, like it or not, comes out in the end as increased morbidity and sickness.

Why should the weak or the unfortunate pay?

Make polluting unlawful. Then, the true costs of the manufacturing process is included in the cost of the manufactured good and the real market will work because all of the costs are in the price.

Sorry, The Cap and Trade market is a goofy idea that allows polluters off the hook.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so you would outlaw all pollution? Won't that be terribly expensive?

11:35 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

The costs are there. Are you going to account for them or not in the cost of the product or process? That is the issue. Someday, the idea that we allowed the pollution of our water and air, just as we used to throw trash out of cars will seem, well, uncivilized.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you expect too much out of our race.

10:47 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

I mostly hope.

3:26 PM  

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