Category Archives: Environment

Couch Potato Curse: Where’s the real danger?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I try to eat well. I know that I should exercise, and I frequently do, although certainly not as often as I should. I don’t smoke and I know that being around people who smoke is harmful. But toxic chemicals coming from my couch? That is a little more than my brain can digest.

Two articles in the New York Times this week (Eat Like a Mennonite and  Warnings from a Flabby Mouse) give me pause. They both reference endocrine inhibiters, whatever in the world those are.

Apparently, these are chemicals that can mimic or disrupt hormones and, while the science is still evolving in this area, these chemicals appear to be closely linked to several cancers.

We are always hearing about new things that are bad for us – and frequently, those things have become fundamental aspects of our modern culture.

If it turns out that plastics really are bad for us, just think of all of the things we use every day without even thinking about it that are made from just this material. It boggles the mind.

And then they talk about things like toxins emanating from car interiors, and shampoos, and couches, and cosmetics. It is exhausting.

I live in Colorado. It is unbearably dry here and I have a lotion and some sort of lip product in extensive use at all times. Is this dangerous? And does that mean sunscreen is dangerous? Which is worse for me – wearing sunscreen or not wearing sunscreen?

I don’t have children and can’t imagine trying to work through all of this to make sure one is doing the best one can for a child -just trying to navigate these waters for myself is overwhelming. I know my new year’s resolution is to let it be – and I am trying to do that. But I hope that there are some smart grownups somewhere in some agency who are helping make sure that my chapstick is not killing me.

Suzie chapstick always looked pretty healthy to me, but does anyone know where she is now????

What do you think? How do you navigate all of the health information that comes your way, especially about things that are non-food related? Does any of this worry you? Have you taken any steps to change your eating habits or other lifestyle choices because of this type of information?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Fitness, Food, Health, Parenting, Role of Government

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

WordPress’ weekly photo challenge this week is “Green.” Green happens to be my favorite color – because I am Irish? Perhaps!

When I think of green, I think of rainforests, springtime, nature and Latin America. These are a few photos from ziplining through a rainforest in Nicaragua that I think really highlight the color green.

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Copyright JC Politi Photography

Coffee beans
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We were told these little guys were pretty poisionous, but I couldn’t help snapping a shot.
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What do you think? What are some of your favorite green things?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Other Interpretations of the Theme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Environment, International, Photography, Photos, Weekly Photo Challenge

Travel Theme: Bright

Ailsa, at Where’s My Backpack, has issued a fun travel theme this week: bright. I happen to love taking photos of bright colors and am excited to share a few of my favorites here.

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Fall in Colorado

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More Fall Colors

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Joan Miro Sculpture, Barcelona

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A Taste of Summer

What do you think? What is your favorite bright thing to photograph? What is something that, when you see it, automatically brightens your day?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Other Interpretations on the Theme:
http://goomfh.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright-2/
http://esengasvoice.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://managuagunntoday.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://ledrakenoir.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://windagainstcurrent.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://sheladyanne.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-brights/
http://juliedawnfox.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright-shiny-portugal/
http://theeclecticeccentricshopaholic.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://annarashbrook.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://kattermonran.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://imissmetoo.me/2012/11/02/2145/
http://patriciaddrury.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://beyondpaisley.net/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://the-serenity-space.com/2012/11/03/travel-theme-bright/
http://etolbagam.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://learning2hear.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://shaanthz.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/travel-theme-bright/
http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://photovignettes.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/travel-theme-bright/
http://theretiringsort.com/2012/11/02/big-bright-fireworks/
http://artifactsandfictions.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/bright/
http://quotidianhudsonriver.com/2012/11/02/11-2-12-travel-theme-bright/
http://seamlessstyle.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/weekly-travel-theme-brights/

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, Colorado, Environment, Food, Photography, Photos, Travel Challenge

Greenest Companies in United States: Does Anyone Care?

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Perito Moreno Glacier, Calafate, Argentina

With the silence coming out of both political parties about the state of our natural environment and its future, I thought it would be helpful to share Newsweek’s rating of the greenest publicly traded companies in the United States.

This election has been all about the economy. And the environment has been only tangentially mentioned as a way to boost the economy by investing in clean jobs and clean energy. The campaign talking points have all related to building the US economy.

I know that people are struggling to find work that pays a living wage. And bankers should be brought to justice for the fiscal recklessness that caused the recession.

I understand why candidates are focusing on the economy and I truly believe that both parties are doing their best to come up with strategies to rebuild the US economy.

But I continue to be baffled about the fact that more than a few politicians put their heads in the sand when it comes to the environment. I am no scientist, but I can’t even imagine the frustration scientists must feel when, in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change exists and that humans have accelerated its progress, the environment is not a key point of discussion on both sides of the political divide.

This is an issue that crosses party lines and transcends global borders. I had a friend I worked with in a women’s rights organization who used to say, “it won’t matter if women have rights if the planet is destroyed.” That really stuck with me.

The current economic struggles are in our face every day and people are feeling the immediate impact of this crisis. The devastation of the environment is a slower burning problem, but no less consequential.

This is why I am sharing the list of the greenest US companies here. We can vote with our pocketbooks.

I hope you will take a moment to look over this list and see if you might be able to swing your support to some of the greener companies and away from the worst polluters.

That is change I can believe in.

What do you think? Have you been struck by the lack of dialogue around the environment in this election cycle? Why do you think that is? Are you more likely to support a company if you learn that they take the environment into account? Why or why not? And what do you think about the future of green jobs in the United States? Do you think we should make investments in this economy? And do you feel that we are ahead of or behind other countries in making these investments?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Income inequality, International, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

Watching this video is a great way to start any day. I hope you will take a few minutes and watch. You won’t regret it. Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude: http://on.ted.com/jDMc

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Filed under Art, Culture, Environment, Love, Peace, Photography, Photos

Our Disposable Culture and the Gentle Giants of Music

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Who would throw away a piano? And why does the mere thought of this make me sad?

There is an article this week in the New York Times called “For More Pianos, the Last Note is a Thud.” The article explores a new trend, in which pianos are being abandoned or destroyed at an alarming rate.

Some of the more disturbing excerpts from the article include:

 “Instead of spending hundreds or thousands to repair an old piano, you can buy a new one made in China that’s just as good, or you can buy a digital one that doesn’t need tuning and has all kinds of bells and whistles,” said Larry Fine, the editor and publisher of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, the industry bible.

“In wintertime we burn them,” he said, pointing to a round metal stove. “This one has eaten many pianos.”

Maybe it’s because I played the piano when I was young. I remember countless hours sitting at the piano, staring at the picture on the wall wondering when my practice session would be over or sneaking into the kitchen to change the timer that was set to document my 30 minute practice.

But there is something that makes me melancholy when I think about these gentle giants turned into firewood.

Learning to play the piano takes work. But the relationship between a pianist and her instrument is special – if a person puts in the time on the piano bench, the piano rewards her with the beautiful gift of music which she is free to share far and wide.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Edwige Lombardi-Munhoven (cat called Gina)

We have become too cavalier about destroying our history. I am reminded of neighborhoods across the country where people tear down gorgeous historic houses to build McMansions. It is heartbreaking.

And the people building those McMansions with three bedrooms for each occupant can’t find the space for a piano?

What is this world coming to?

What do you think? Does this story make you sad or do you think I am just being nostalgic and resistant to progress? Are there other items that you grew up with that are now being disposed of that you hate to see discarded? Do you see any hope for reversing this trend?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Piano Adoption (A great resource from the article noted above, where people can post pianos for adoption or can adopt a piano)

Romance in Paris: Why Do French Bookstores Continue to Thrive? (newsofthetimes.org)

Times Are Rough – I’ve Got Too Much Stuff!  (newsofthetimes.org)

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture (newsofthetimes.org)

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Love, Music, Relationships, Technology

On the Road: Opportunities for Personal Growth through Solo Travel

Patagonia, Argentina
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Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
– Alice Koller

Have you ever traveled alone? Would you? Why or why not?

An article in Lonely Planet tackles this issue and provides some tips for women travelling alone. The article is called, “Conquer Your Fear: 4 Tips for Solo Women Travelers.

This article made me think about my own experience traveling alone. When I was in my mid twenties, I lived in Austin, Texas and spent a few years learning how to be alone, getting to know myself better outside the constraints and expectations of family and friends, truly learning how to savor opportunities for solitude.

To further my personal growth, I planned to travel alone to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion national parks. But at the last minute, I got cold feet and asked a friend to go along. That turned out to be a bad decision; this person is, sadly, no longer a friend for a variety of reasons.

The chemistry on the trip was not good and it put a dark cloud over the whole experience. I was disappointed in myself for chickening out and promised myself I would not let that happen again.

Ocean City, Maryland
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About a month later, I took my first solo trip. I drove up the west coast on the Pacific Coast highway in a rented convertible. This trip was absolutely life-changing and ignited my passion for solo travel.

After that trip, I took many trips by myself, including a month-long trip to Guatemala before I spoke a word of Spanish.

While I love traveling with my husband or with friends, solo travel will always hold a very special place in my heart.

There is a beauty to being able to control every aspect of a trip, from what sites to see, to what time to wake up.

You can even control bathroom breaks without worrying about disrupting someone else’s plans. Such luxury!

Venice, Italy
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Getting over the initial nerves of a solo trip can be a challenge, but it can also be one of the best opportunities for personal growth.

I am glad I overcame my fears and would love to hear readers’ stories about their fears or passions for solo travel – or both.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a solo trip? Where did you travel? If you haven’t done this, do you have fears of this type of experience? If you have done this, what did you learn along the way? Why do you think we have a fear of traveling alone? Do you prefer to travel alone or with another person? Why?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Around the World in 80 Days: Would You Do It?

What Makes Amelia Earhart So Captivating?

Is There Room at the Inn? The Eternal Quest for the Perfect Getaway

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Filed under Culture, Education, Environment, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, social pressures, Stereotypes, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

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Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

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But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

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There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

An article on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times called “The Busy Trap” is getting a lot of attention this week.

This article explores the notion that the frenetic pace so many of us engage in on a daily basis is self-imposed. While the author’s approach seems a bit self-indulgent and impractical, he has a point.

So many of us rush from place to place or appointment to appointment and collapse at the end of the day in front of the television in exhaustion. It appears that we are encouraging our children to do the same. There must be another way.

While I understand that most of us cannot live lives devoid of professional work, finding a balance within this reality has become my personal quest.

One of the lines that spoke to me in this article was this:

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

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My most creative and innovative ideas come, not when I am rushing between meetings, but during times of relaxation, sometimes through exercise or through conversations with friends. I know I am not alone.

Some companies, I believe Google is one, reserve 20 percent of their employees’ time for creative endeavors that interest that particular employee. Some of the most innovative ideas have come from this unstructured time.

We all know this. And yet, we fill our calendars to the brim, feeling inadequate if we have a Saturday evening without plans. In fact, that Saturday evening may turn out be the exact time when you discover the key to your own fulfillment, simply by being, instead of doing.

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
Douglas Pagels

What do you think? What is it that makes us feel the need to stay busy? Do you think this has to do with a general discomfort with being alone? Have you struggled with this? Do you have any tips to help people stop the constant spinning?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, social pressures, Technology

Times Are Rough – I’ve Got Too Much Stuff!

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A friend recently shared an interesting article from the New York Times entitled “The Way We Live: Drowning in Stuff.” This article raises a number of interesting issues about family dynamics, many of which I explored in blog posts earlier this week.

The article discusses a new book coming out next week called, “Life at Home in the 21st Century.” This book is the result of a study in which anthropologists followed families with at least two small children in the home to document how these families handle their “stuff.”

One of the findings of the study which made me chuckle was this one:

There was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.

When I married my husband, he and I both knew – in fact, anyone who ever has known me for any period of time probably knew, that “stuff” would be our marital conflict. I like my stuff. My husband prefers a space that resembles a zen meditation center – without the meditation.

I come from a long line of pack rats. I feel a certain comfort when surrounded by things that remind me of people and places I love. My husband, on the other hand, feels comfort when surrounded by clean, flat surfaces without piles.

Having just faced the concept of having to pack only what would fit in my car to flee a wildfire, I was forced to think about all the stuff that surrounds me.

Somehow, when faced with the possibility of losing everything, I was not as panicked as I expected.

I think that was because I knew that I would be able to get myself, my husband and my teenage pup to safety and that we would all be fine, no matter what happened. Apparently, that is the stuff that matters.

What do you think? Are you a pack rat or a minimalist? Do you have emotional issues about your stuff? Do you regret having eliminated something that you thought was clutter, only to realize later that you needed that item? Have you had to work through these issues with an aging parent? Do you have any advice for those of us who like to hold on to things? And why does it seem that when I come back from a long trip, I feel much more willing to get rid of things that were not needed and used in whatever bag I took? That seems to be the best time for my husband to discuss this issue with me, when I am most open to changing. Finally, how many refrigerator magnets are on your refrigerator?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Books, comedy, Culture, Environment, equality, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, Stereotypes

The Hazards of Mountain Living: Colorado Forest Fires

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(First, a quick note for my family: The photos in this blog post make the fire look closer than it is. We are fine. I promise.)

Without question, the news of the times in our house right now is focused on forest fires. I have lived in Colorado for the better part of 10 years. I have followed news stories and inhaled smoke when winds changed from countless fires over the years. It is a part of living in the mountains.

But yesterday, while driving back from a business meeting, I saw the first plume of smoke that was much too close for comfort. This fire is different. This fire is 3 miles from our house, right behind the foothills that have provided us with the most spectacular view for years. People say fire does not usually travel down a mountain, which provides some comfort, since this fire is currently on the other side of the mountain.

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We do not live nestled into the mountains. There are streets and even a small neighborhood between our house and the fire. It is highly unlikely that anything will happen to our house. But we are in the pre-evacuation zone and the winds are picking up. And the plumes of smoke are ominous.

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While we honestly do not think that any harm will come to our home, these types of experiences certainly make you think. If I had to leave with only what would fit in my car, what would I take? How would I walk away from all the comforts that surround me knowing that it may all be gone when I return? Does any of the “stuff” even matter?

What do you think? Have you ever been in a wildfire, tornado, flood or hurricane? Did you evacuate? What lessons did you learn through this experience?  If you had to leave with only a few things, what would be on the top of your list? What advice do you have for me or for others who may face this type of experience in the future?

I hope you will share your thoughts. And thank you for reading.

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Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Colorado, Environment, Forest Fires, Health, Photos

Are There no Limits? Tough Season Ahead for Everest

The New York Times ran an op-ed this week about the dangers of mountain climbing this season on Mount Everest. The author points to global warming and the increase in the number of climbers as contributing factors to the heightened risk of an Everest attempt this year. He goes on to applaud an announcement by the leader of a highly respected climbing outfit who, in a highly unusual decision, has decided to cancel climbs for the rest of the season.

I can’t help but feel that mother earth continues to send signals that the time is now to do something to protect the last remaining natural habitats and wild places in our country. But will we listen?

I have always been fascinated by people who go to the ends of the earth to climb the highest peaks. Being a bit of an adventurer myself, I understand the drive to test oneself and the exciting challenges that only nature can provide.

My only experience with this type of mountain climbing has been from the comfort of my couch, through documentaries on the Discovery Channel or National Geographic.

I have always been struck by the ease with which the sherpas make it up the mountains, with very little fanfare or glory, while the climber gets all of the accolades. I am intrigued by the risks that mountain climbers are willing to take – frequently risks to themselves and to others – to reach the sacred peak.

Climbing Everest has become a highly commercial activity; perhaps this is what concerns me most. I am sure the climbing outfit who cancelled the rest of the season will pay a significant financial cost for that decision. In the long term, however, perhaps climbers will respect that owner’s concern for the safety of his climbers enough to boost the demand for his outfit in the future.

What do you think? But should there be limits on what money can buy? Why do we feel the need to conquer wild spaces for commercial use? And what is it that makes people want to risk their lives in activities like climbing Mount Everest? Have you ever done something like this? What made you want to do this? Do you think that there should be limits on commercial activity in certain wild areas? Or do you think that the market will regulate itself to keep places pristine?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Environment, Fitness, International, Privatization, travel

Human-Created or Not, Why Not Try to Stop the Warming?

The New York Times op-ed by James Hansen, who is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies should give anyone pause about the future of our planet.

It never fails to amaze me when I hear people question whether human activity is impacting global warming. There is no question among scientists that the planet is warming – the scientific evidence is conclusive on this. And even if, for the sake of argument, human activity is not causing global warming, why would we not want to take action to slow the warming trend?

It seems that attention to this issue has lessened in recent years and I am not sure why. In the meantime, we have seen a devastating proliferation of hurricanes and tornadoes and heat waves and wildfires. I am no scientist, but I put a lot of faith in the knowledge and understanding of experts.

Given the persistent outcry from the scientific community about the perils of inaction, why don’t more policymakers stand up and take action on this issue? Is it because the corporations who are funding political campaigns are afraid that caring for the environment will negatively impact their bottom line?

It reminds me of the smoke-free movement in some ways. Bars, restaurants and casinos consistently proclaimed that they would have to close their doors if a state passed a smoke-free law. We all know that that is not what actually happened once laws were enacted.

The science was clear regarding the harms of tobacco, much like the science is clear about climate change. But the arguments for smoke-free laws were related to harming to people’s health; stopping climate change is just about protecting mother earth.

Perhaps environmentalists could link their arguments more to the impacts of climate change on people’s health. I know that some groups have made this connection, but it seems to get drowned out by the ongoing debate about the science and whether or not global warming is actually occurring.

Sometimes it seems that the environmental messages are too varied, maybe because the implications of inaction are so broad. If there was a way to focus the message on the impact climate change will have on people, the arguments might get more traction with the public.

I am just thinking out loud here and know that there are a lot of people with much more knowledge about the politics and science of this issue than me. I would love to hear your thoughts!

What do you think? And thank you for reading!

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Filed under Environment, Health, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Uncategorized