Some of you may see this and pass on reading as it does not apply to your state or country. Yet, I would hope you would give it a few minutes, as it shows examples of how little by little, the leadership (or lack thereof) of a governmental entity can slowly chip away at good environmental stewardship. The word stewardship is one of my favorite words to describe how leaders of any group are obligated to be good stewards of its resources. Those resources must include our air, water and land assets which are our most dearest resources. A few posts ago, I referenced the book called “Water” by Steven Solomon who noted how civilizations rose to and fell from power based on their ability to manage water resources. This water stewardship was vital to the success of the populace and those in power.
In the past six months, the North Carolina (NC) legislature has taken three actions which are antagonistic to the environment and our future success. These actions fly in the face of other actions that are being taken to make NC a more alternative energy state, some of which have been reported in earlier posts. One of these recent actions was so ludicrous, Stephen Colbert did a bit on his show lampooning the decision, which you can find on his website – more on that later. Each of these has been written about previously, but a recent decision and how it was accomplished was about as un-American as we can get.
The first of the big three environmentally antagonistic actions are allowing billboard advertisers greater freedom to clear trees, so that they can put up even more billboards on interstates and roads. They even went to the trouble of usurping authorities given to towns and cities on tree clearance within their city limits. Several cities are contesting the local override, yet we still have to contend with advertisers taking down even a greater swath of trees on the interstates and highways. So, we will have fewer oxygen creating trees and a great driving hazard with the various distractions. But, rest assured, you will be able to clearly see the multiple advertisements of when the next “We Bare All” truck stop is. As a father of three, this has always been important to get to explain what those signs mean to my children.
The second action is the one Mr. Colbert lampooned. Please look on his website and search on global warming or climate change to find the video of the piece on rising sea tides. In short, a study was performed and reverified at the behest of twenty coastal counties that indicated the expectation the sea level off NC will rise 39 inches by the turn of the century. This projection is consistent with what has been accepted in Virginia (which borders NC), Maine, Louisiana, California, etc.Yet, the legislature would not accept a report that showed acceleration due to climate change impact and would only accept a “looking backwards over the last 100 years” estimate of 8 inches. The concern is it would be harmful to development of property on the coast. The fact that the sea is consuming houses on Bald Head Island on the tip of the Outer Banks and that risk managers see climate change as the greatest threat to business and government is irrelevant. So, rest assured developers, the state of NC is literally holding back the tide with legal briefs. Best wishes on your development and good luck finding insurance if you build to close to the shore.
The third action truly disappointed me as we had a chance to make a clear statement and dropped the ball big time. The legislature overturned the judicious move by the Governor to veto a bill to further enable fracking for natural gas. If you refer to an earlier post on “The Perils of Fracking” this is probably the worst thing you can do to get at natural gas. Since I wrote that post, I have learned there is documented evidence which shows a causal relationship between the disposal of the chemically laden fracking water and earthquakes (in Arkansas and Ohio). In fact, a British company ceased fracking as a result. Note, this is on top of the toxins that are released into the air and leak into the water supply. Yet, forgetting all of that, fracking takes 2 to 5 million gallons of water per fracking well. So, my big question is this what we want to use our dear water for?
The veto was overturned by one vote and here is where it gets un-American. During the vote, a legislator hit the wrong button and can be overheard saying she messed up and needed to change her vote. After several tries to change it and get the attention of the vote gatherers, she was blocked from changing her vote. The reason was various versions of “tough luck” and “you should have known better.” To provide some further context, the Speaker of the House last year took a midnight vote on another issue after telling legislators there would be no vote and calling his alerted party legislators (and others in the vicinity) back to the chamber for a vote. Those who had gone home rightfully called foul. I would add there was another legislator who had changed her vote on the fracking bill after voting against it the first time. She apparently received a concession on another bill benefiting her district. That is politics and is her right as a legislator, so I am OK with her change. Yet, I am offended by the denial of the legislator noted above the right to change her vote. That is un-American.
The sad part of all of this is NC is a leader of solar energy development and is doing great things in various pockets around bio-mass and conservation. NC is poised to do more with wind energy and Charlotte, its largest city, is becoming an alternative energy location with over 27,000 jobs. It was reported in today’s Charlotte Observer that Germany (who has a lot of North American operations here in NC) will be free of nuclear power by 2022 and by 2050 will have 80% of its energy from bio-mass, wind, solar and hydro power. And, just to show further seriousness of purpose about what can happen, they have created 370,000 jobs in alternative energy in the last twelve years. Please keep that in mind, when our Oil/ Gas industry lobby, which is the strongest lobby in our country, touts that only jobs in the non-renewable sector can be created.
So, as a tax-paying citizen of NC (and US) who cares about our children and environment, we need to challenge ourselves to be better environmental stewards as we make our eco-energy decisions. And, not that this is important, but since the author of the NC fracking bill calls his opponents “liberal tree huggers” and the Exxon Mobil CEO likes to say we are “manufacturers of fear” let me be crystal clear – I am an Independent voter who reads and tries to take the time to find out the dangers in what we are doing. Based on what I have read, each of these three decisions is unwise and taken together show poor environmental stewardship.