Clean Up Costs
My own coming of age coincided quite nicely with that of the environmental movement. I turned 14 the year the first Earth Day was held. I remember the famous public service announcement featuring the Indian with a single tear coursing down his cheek. The nation was aghast at the news Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 when I was 13 (and, no, the nation was not aghast that I’d turned 13, although it probably should have been.)
Imagine what a powerful image that was: a river — which, in case you’ve forgotten, is comprised mainly of water — burned. That might have been the incident that kicked the populace over the edge. We’d known for years, decades even, that belching factory smokestacks had fouled our air, we’d heard about acid rain, we knew better than to take skinny dips in urban waterways. Pollution was becoming a one of the scary words for kids. But when newspapers and magazines broke the jaw-dropping story of the Cuyahoga burning, Murricans really started thinking, Hmm, mebbe were screwing things up around here.
Over the next few decades, we’d stopped burning leaves in huge piles by the curb, we began recycling, we demanded factories put scrubbers on their smokestacks and municipalities treat their sewage before dumping it in our drinking water. We’d turned so air and water conscious that even Pres. Richard Nixon, who couldn’t have cared less about such things, was compelled to sign an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency. We became a nation of Rachel Carsons.
All the while, we were told that cleaning up our environment would cost money. Maybe big money. We were warned that adding federal and state taxes for the express purpose of cleaning auto emissions up might double or even triple the price of a gallon of gasoline. City sanitation departments would have to institute recyclable separation programs which would cost good dough, natch. Building nukes to generate “clean” electricity would entail an enormous initial outlay. And surely companies forced to clean up their operations under new environmental regulations would pass the costs along to consumers.
But, by golly, we’d have to bite the bullet and yank out our wallets, otherwise our dearly beloved planet would become a scene out of Soylent Green. Save for a few cranks and crazies who shrieked to high heaven about taxes and spending, the rest of us bought in; yep, we’d have to pay, perhaps through the nose, to reverse the effects of decades — centuries, fer chrissakes — of fouling the planet.
“Soylent Green” Or Beijing In 2014?
I needn’t inform you that the cranks and crazies have become a major moving force in politics and what passes for “thought” in this holy land today. An entire demi-party has arisen, underpinned by a philosophy based on fever dreams. The Me Party-ists — oops, sorry, Tea Party-ists — and their confreres view the expenditure of even a single red cent for anything other than big battleships, corporate tax relief, the installation of the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse, or the fight against sluttiness as the absolute worst sin a society can commit.
And those erstwhile extremists, those crazies who are now mainstream, have dragged the sane among us closer to the Far Right with them.
To wit: Indiana House of Representatives member Cherrish Pryor — a Democrat — no less, has written a strong letter to the state Utility Regulatory Commission protesting that body’s okay of a statewide electricity rate increase to fund an Indianapolis electric car-sharing program. The rate increase, Pryor writes,”is the living definition of taxation without representation.”
First, she’s awfully shaky on the meaning of that sacred American t. without r. meme. What she’s getting at is people in Ellettsville shouldn’t have to pay for a program that benefits only those in Indy. Which, BTW, is the operating justification behind perhaps 90 percent of all state programs. City A needs a new dam for its river ergo, cities B through Z must pony up.
That has nothing to do with a distant parliament imposing taxes on some colonies w/o allowing said colonies to send a rep. or two to said parliament.
So let’s forget that. Let’s concentrate on the fact that actually doing things to clean up our air and water are going to cost real cash, something we’ve known since I became an adolescent, which is a very long time indeed. An electric car-sharing program seems a nice step in the right direction. We need to get it off the ground. We also need start-up capital for it. And where to we get such scratch? From the taxpayer and the utility rate-payers, of course.
If the Indy program works out, it just may begin to pay for itself. And even if it doesn’t, some good will arise from it because there’ll be fewer exhaust-flatulating SUVs tooling around the Circle City. Maybe one day Indy’s air will become only twice or three times as noxious as that in Ellettsville.
But no, a Democrat — got that? a Dem! — is all huffy because folks in the hinterlands will have to pay a few pennies more a month to power their TVs, all in the cause of cleaning up the environment.
Man, things have changed since I was a teenager.
A Single Tear
Here it is, that groundbreaking Keep America Beautiful PSA from my youth: