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Not every senior citizen thinks like Sen. Inhofe

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While Sen. Inhofe, of OK, last week bragged that he should have been listed as the planet’s # 1 enemy. Inhofe was named #7 on Rolling Stone’s list of the planet’s worst enemies.

Inhofe took this as a slight. “I should have been number one,” he told KFAQ radio in Tulsa, “I guess [Warren] Buffet has a lot more money so he went first.”
Inhofe also aired his grievances in an interview with the Tulsa World. “My first response was I should have been number 1, not number 7,” he said. “I am serious about that. I have spent now literally years on this thing, and it has been a long, involved thing.”

Sen. Inhofe’s antiquated thinking is reminiscent of the 19th Century English Academy of Sciences when faced with evidence that contradicted their long held beliefs. Their reply in those circumstances, regardless of overwhelming evidence, was, “We refuse to believe it.” Their refusal, like Sen. Inhofe’s, is not much different than the early Renaissance Church’s refusal to accept Galeleo’s theory of the sun being the center of the Universe, rather than the earth.

However, not every senior citizen in this country thinks or believes as Sen. Inhofe does. The following letter was sent to the Good Human by 64 year old Gene Steele.

Earlier this month, I received this email from reader Gene Steele: “I would like to submit an article regarding the need for the older generations to step up and teach the youth about the damaged earth that we created for them with disposable plastics and plastic bags and the efforts of many senior citizens to reverse the damage done.” Well, I gladly accepted the offer and below is the article that was submitted. Enjoy!

My name is Gene Steele, I live in Oakland, Ca. and I want to change the world. I was born in 1945 and have lived through several horrific wars and the ever present threat of man’s self destruction through global nuclear conflict. Yet, I have never felt so vulnerable as I have since becoming aware of the measure of damage that has been done to our planet, mainly by those of my generation. This is my letter to the young people so that they may not make the same mistakes my generation made.

When I was growing up there was no such thing as recycling, everything went into the same garbage can and got hauled off to the same landfill. Television sets, furniture, food waste, every kind of household item you can think of, all thrown into one big heap at the dump. I honestly think we thought that stuff thrown away at the dump was somehow absorbed into the earth. I can remember being shocked to learn that twinkies were still found to be intact a few years after being discarded. Who knew that twinkies weren’t the only things still unchanged and sitting in landfills around the globe.

In my adult years came the arrival of the most innovative substance known to man…..plastic. Plastic changed life as we had known it. Toys were made differently, carmakers began using it in their designs, it changed the way we packaged our food, there are so many ways that plastic changed peoples lives I could be writing forever. Even now, plastic continues to be utilized in the manufacture of everyday items.

Now that I am retired and have more time to pay attention to things other than making a living and supporting my family, I began to hear more and more about global warming and climate change. The more I listened, the worse it got. Oceans rising, glaciers melting, marine life and sea mammals literally swimming in garbage, mostly plastics; everything from hard bottle type plastic that never breaks down to plastic bags which break down into smaller pieces that birds, sea mammals and fish ingest and have been found in the stomach and tissue of these same creatures.

Plastic is not a substance that was meant to be introduced into the digestive system of any living thing. Once taken in it wreaks havoc. If it gets that far, sea birds and mammals usually choke to death trying to swallow it mistakenly thinking it is food. The very thought of it breaks my heart.

The one thing that keeps me motivated in this fight to reclaim our planet is the fact that it is not too late. We as seniors and our youth should unite to get the middle generation (our sons and daughters and youth’s mom’s and dad’s) to work harder to enact laws that regulate manufacturers and consumers to develop alternative methods, greener, safer ways of accomplishing things without plastic or at the very least with the reduce, reuse, recycle credo becoming a plastic industry commitment.

This is my plea to other seniors to join in the fight. Utilize the free time you now have to give back to your community. Start a youth campaign against global warming, or give a talk at your local elementary school teaching the reduce, reuse, recycle credo. You will be doing yourself and the generations to come a great service.

Gene Steele is a noted Oakland, Ca. inventor and environmentalist and creator of the green bagman shopper, the high quality reusable shopping and/utility bag.

Trying to convince people, like Sen. Inhofe, who stubbornly continue to believe the accuracy of their ideas despite all evidence to the contrary, is like trying to change a turtle into a dolphin. Fortunately, more and more companies like Proctor and Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Nissan – even Apple, Google, and IBM – have accepted global warming as real. In changing their manufacturing processes and investing in alternative energy, they’re not only reducing the waste going into landfills which are already overwhelmed with waste but they’re saving millions of dollars on lowered energy consumption.

This month Google announced it’s petition to the state of California to become an energy producer. The company plans to invest in solar energy farms from which they can power their massive needs for energy to run their server farms. If Google generates enough energy, they may be able to sell whatever solar energy is not needed by the company to consumers or utilities. Johnson & Johnson invested in methane conversion plants, using the methane energy created in landfills, to power their plants. Meanwhile, P&G reformulated products and repackaged products to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 40%. And Nissan is betting its future on electric cars.

Inhofe is not the only person who disbelieves global warming and want verifiable evidence of it. The problem, though, is to obtain incontrovertible evidence, major catastrophes must be suddenly, absolute, and irrevocably linked to global warming, such as island nations suddenly sinking beneath suddenly, dramatically rising oceanic levels. The problem is that planetary systems are deceptively gradual and there are few absolute historic models upon which to base accurate models.

caption: This image compares differences in ice-covered areas between September 12, 2009, the date of this year’s minimum, and September 16, 2007, the record low minimum extent. Light gray shading indicates the region where ice occurred in both 2007 and 2009, while white and dark gray areas show ice cover unique to 2009 and to 2007, respectively. (Credit: Sea Ice Index data/National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Beyond the obvious need to change how we live – exporting trillions of dollars for oil, increased smog, higher rates of asthma among children, increased rates of environmental allergies and illnesses (i.e., sick building syndrome), increased levels of chemicals and animal waste in water supplies – there remains the fact if global warming is a reality and we do nothing to arrest or slow it down, the people and animals of this planet may suffer catastrophes beyond calculation. Is that risk worth betting against by doing nothing? To put it another way, if you saw your child blithely stepping out into street into the path of an oncoming truck, would you stand by and watch, calculating that the truck would never hit your child or would you reach out and grab your child to ensure the child’s safety? That is the essential question now being posed in the argument for preventive measures on global warming: better safe than sorry.

Yes, changing how we live to adjust to the reality of global warming will require more of us than recycling and composting. It will require reinventing our lives, our homes…and our workplaces. But that’s not all bad. There is much to be gained in lowered costs and increased productivity from these changes. So maybe gas guzzling, 8 miles/gal SUVs go the way of Mammoths. But is that bad? Is it really so bad that coal-fired, polluting plants innovate to less polluting energy sources? It can be done, but the management of these companies – as well as their communities – need to change.

They need to see the benefits of changing. The horse-dawn carriage did not go down easily with the advent of the automobile. But those business models changed because it had to change. Stables became garages or car dealerships to remain in business as the public changed. Business changes to respond to customer demand, just as carriage maker employees changed to build automobiles. Old industries die and new ones are born. That is the nature of truly free market, innovative economy. That free, innovative, open, investment-oriented economy is what drove the massive industrial changes and consumer products, combined with federal R&D monies from DARPA, NIH, and various other federal agencies to universities and other research organizations following the Korean War.

Currently, there are new energy-saving or creating technologies being developed all across this country in Universities and scientific institutions as well as in cutting-edge companies. All they need is for old dinosaurs like Sen. Inhofe to get out of the way so they can get the funding they need for their research. The U.S. led the world in R&D for over a hundred years. Are we to give it up now to China and India and Brazil because of senators like Inhofe? Or are we to continue to our historic proclivity towards innovation?

Senator Inhofe – and his ilk – are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of American business. If Inhofe had lived a hundred years ago, we’d all be riding in horse-drawn carriages or driving cars made in Germany. AT&T would be a British company, and IBM would have started in some other country, probably England!

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Written by Valerie Curl

January 19, 2010 at 9:13 AM

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