Saturday, February 18, 2017

Paul's Grandfather and the sky blue sky.

It's a beautiful Saturday morning here in Vermont. It's gone from 29 degrees Fahrenheit when I started writing this blog entry, to 36 degrees; wispy cirrus clouds spread themselves over portions of a sky that can't seem to make up its mind if it wants to be light blue or Columbia blue.  The piles of snow reflect white, unless they are near the roadside, in which case they are topped with shades of sooty black, and disturbed dirt gray, an effect of automotive exhaust and road/sidewalk plowing. They remind me of the days when snow was generally mixed with soot, when hanging icicles at my father's house were multi-colored thanks to the Dupont plant about an hour's drive away. Memory drifts to my days at the beach, summer in Ocean City, and one particular trip to New York City. I was too poor at the time to afford more than an occasional visit to the laundromat, and having few "good" clothes, hand washed much of what I wore on a day to day basis. I washed my best non-suit shirt for a day trip to New York. The next morning, I washed it again. The water turned black, darker than the color of a well used cast iron frying pan. The black was from the soot in the air. That was the era when smog hung over our major cities and industrial areas, when breathing problems began to be noticed amongst the populace. The daily news programs on the tv reported a smog index. In 1970, under the administration of President Nixon, a Republican, the Environmental Protection Agency was created to deal with such problems. The concept for the EPA had been pushed by Democrats, and modeled on the suggestions which Representative George Miller (a Democrat) had put forth in 1959. More conservative Republicans, as well as major industries, have been attempting to discredit the agency, and gut its regulations, ever since - often using incredible distortions of the truth, and outright lies about the agency and its actions. In the meantime, due to the work of the EPA, the severity of smog was reduced in the United States to such point that it is barely mentioned anymore. This is not true of other countries, like China.

To help consumers make purchasing decisions based on cleaning up the environment, the Safer Choice label was created. Years later, the Energy Star ratings were added to consumer products such as air conditioners and heaters.

Our drinking water has been cleaned up and protected by the EPA. Legislation covered over 80% of our nation's drinking water supply. Reports often seem better than the actual situation, as a number of pollutants never came under regulation. And smaller streams are still used as chemical dumping grounds by corporations which refuse to foot the bill for proper disposal of their effluent. Stories of various areas of the country being told not to drink their water can be found a few times a year. That problem would be much worse if it weren't for the EPA.

The EPA's Clean Air Act was amended in 2011 to include greenhouse gases. Last year, the hole in our planet's ozone layer began closing.

These are just a few of the many things the EPA has accomplished. It is now an agency under siege. Within a day of two of President Trump's inauguration, all of the EPA's research on climate change was deleted from their website. A gag order was imposed by the President preventing any release of information from that agency. It gets worse; I'm only glazing the surface of what has been happening.

Yesterday, Scott Pruitt was approved by a vote of the majority Republicans in Congress to run the EPA, and sworn in as the head of the agency. As close as I can gather, this was done during the President's contentious news conference, in which he castigated news reporting as being unfair to him, mentioned his imagined margin of victory, insulted minorities, and comported himself in such a manner that his denial of creating chaos in the government was obviously a falsehood. Mr. Pruitt was yet another of President Trump's picks to run agencies which they have actively opposed or called for dismantling. Mr. Pruitt has described himself as a ""leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda". Over the last 6 years as Attorney General of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA 14 times over water standards, clean air standards, coal emission laws, and etc. (all of his suits have failed). He also fought for "religious freedom" laws (which would allow someone to refuse business or other service to anyone whose existence violates their religious beliefs - i.e. legalized discrimination), and against the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights, and gay marriage (he even tried to claim that the ruling of the Supreme Court allowing gay marriage did not affect Oklahoma).

I could, and probably should, go on, but I won't.

Today's post was going to be about last night's screening of 'A Hard Day's Night', the 1964 movie which starred the Beatles. I guess I shouldn't have mentioned the blue sky, for that sent me off in another direction. I should probably note that part of the thread of the plot of 'A Hard Day's Night' centers on Paul's Grandfather, a cranky old man who spreads dissention, chaos, and creates arguments wherever he goes.


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Hi-ya. I popped over because Laura referenced this post on her blog. I couldn't agree with you more. It's unimaginable that it's now going to be okay for coal mines to dump their waste into our waterways again. Let's hope this administration implodes sooner rather than later.

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

Hi, Susan, glad to see you here again. I'm sorry to say I lost track of your blog and how you were doing. Last I recall, your book had been published. Congratulations! I hope things have been good for you and yours. Best Wishes, always. Thanks to Laura for posting the link.