Monday, March 5, 2007

Giant leaps forwards and small steps backwards

My recent trip was unexpectedly extended by a family emergency. I had lots of time in waiting rooms for reading and idle chatter. It seems that in this week alone, there have been some major announcements and media reports about the state of the environment. And still there are skeptics, I've come to discover.

As a new convert, it means that I've been obsessively focused on the impact that my actions have on the environment. I admit that I am probably a bit "evangelical" about my conversion. But given that I spent the last week in South Carolina, you'd have thought that any kind of evangelism would have been deemed as acceptable behavior. I did find the Whole Foods in SC, but was disappointed to see a parking lot filled with SUV's and other gas guzzling vehicles. And I noticed that everyone in the store seemed to prefer plastic bags to paper or providing their own. And as I am prone to do..... I did take it upon myself to instruct the bagging personnel as to why paper was preferable to plastic. I'm sure my instruction wasn't appreciated in the manner that I meant it. I learned that very few customers bring in their own bags, even with a 5 cents per bag incentive. I can only imagine the attitude at the Piggly Wiggly across town.

I had an unpleasant exchange with the specialist caring for my Mother about why he should believe in any of the "stuff that Al Gore espouses." Seems that he repeated a news report (Drudge Report & Fox News) that Al Gore's lifestyle didn't reflect his environmental platform. I looked up the attacks brought by a group that "promotes personal freedom and limited government." I found a considered response about Al Gore's home energy consumption that reveals his large home (which also is his office and accommodates security detail needs as ex- VP) does consume large amounts of energy, but he purchases most of it from green energy sources and offsets the remainder. He happens to live in a state that produces much of its energy from hydro and nuclear sources. My question to this GI doctor.... "what have you done to help preserve our environment?" I guess if he treated asthma instead of colon diseases, he might not have been so quick to dismiss the overwhelming evidence of atmospheric degradation from CO2 emissions and resulting health issues.

As someone who grew up in the South, I'm often defending my region because of its "illustrious" history. However, the reticence to embrace global warming as a crisis is not limited to the South. The weekend before, I had been in Long Island with friends and was equally surprised to find several deli-style eating establishments that did not recycle glass bottles and thought it unnecessary to do so. So ignorance is not necessarily regionally based.

The media seems to have daily coverage on our environment. Happily, Hollywood recognized "An Inconvenient Truth," by awarding it an Oscar. In the week following, though, the Bush administration is releasing a report (a year overdue) that will show "emissions of gasses by the U.S. that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as in the previous decade." Of course, it's not surprising given the general tepid, if not hostile, commitment of the Bush administration to saving our environment. (New York Times 3/32007)

Happy to report some positive things that I encountered on my trip:

* Novartis (Swiss drug company) is providing Prius cars for their drug reps next year.

* PG&E is converting their crew fleet of trucks to biodiesel and alternative fuel vehicles

* Wall Street Journal, that protector of corporate activities, devoted a section in the 2/12/2007 edition to green energy. And they were quite bullish on it making economic sense.

* I met with a NYC apartment developer who is considering retrofitting his buildings to be more green.

Next posting-- about paint

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