Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time Travel: back to the beginning of environmental protection

Strange dream before waking this morning. I've been re-reading parts of "Slaughterhouse Five" to commemorate Kurt Vonnegut's life. His writing shook me up when I took an English elective on him in high school. (In his story, Bill Pilgrim travels in time to witness the Allied bombing of Dresden (a non-military target) in WWII.)

In my dream, I'm in the EPA Adminstrator's conference room in Waterside Mall (I've sat in that room a few times) back in the 70's. (The dream was vivid-- 70's art on the walls; green shag carpet on the floor, goose-neck lamp on the desk. Wide, colorful ties.) The Administrator's assistant (a woman I didn't know) was having a meeting; some of the people there knew I was visiting from 2007 and was there to listen. They were talking about how to help the states reduce pollution from automobiles.

After the meeting, as I was leaving, a young man and a woman asked me in whispered tones what had happened. I hesitated and said EPA had made cars much cleaner, but we'd built everything so spread out that everyone drove even more and even bigger cars and the air pollution got worse instead of better. In the 80s we'd discovered that co2 could make Earth's climate to go out of control but we hadn't done anything to cut down.

They asked, "Why not?" I said the Supreme Court had decided that abortions were protected by the Constitution, and since then, the country had been battling over abortions in every presidential election and had elected religious fanatics who had gotten us into wars and were torturing people and didn't care about much else. And I said, we'd allowed population to reach over 6 billion and that nobody was talking anymore about how having more children meant making other kids miserable or leaving them to starve (as I'd read in "The Population Bomb" in the '70s).

As I spoke, I saw their faces go ashen. I was upset, realized that I'd done something terrible, and tried to think of what to say to reassure them, then woke up.

And today, in 2007, my letter to the editor suggesting carbon taxes as a better alternative to EPA regulation of greenhouse emissions ran in the Post.

OK. As Kurt would say, "so it goes."

1 comment:

Kristen said...

James - CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!

Reading some of your old posts I realized how SIMPLE the carbon tax solution is. Being a person with little time to spend trying to figure out the ins and outs of a government-initiated program to control greenhouse gasses - i don't even really understand what Cap & Trade means. Carbon taxes really simplify the process and ensures personal responsibility - something each person must take in order for us (and/or the planet) to survive.