The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 21, 2001 · Page 11
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 11

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Saturday, April 21, 2001
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THE SALINA JOURNAL SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2001 All. OPINION Tom Bell Editor & Publisher Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: S J Letters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "We don't allow murderers to buy access to the public podium with the blood of hundreds of imiocent Americans." John Ashcroft U.S. attorney general, expressing the hope that Timothy McVeigh will not draw much public attention as his execution nears. Crossing the gulf to Cuba THE ISSUE Cuba THE ARGUMENT It's time to close the gap S en. Pat Roberts is right about Cuba. It's too bad more of his Republican buddies in Washington don't agree. In a lecture at the University of Kansas Wednesday, Roberts pointed out the numerous advantages of softening our restrictive policies with a neighbor situated just 90 miles off the Florida coast. For decades Cuba relied heavily on financial, military and trade support from the former Soviet Union. That assistance has all but disappeared, and Cuba's failed Communist economic policies, plus U.S. trade restrictions, leave this small island nation with shortages in food, medicine and durable goods. Cuba is badly in need of cash and new alliances. The United States can help provide both. But first, we must reverse old policies that go back decades. As Roberts said in his comments, Cuba could become a new customer of U.S. agriculture products, yet embargoes restrict and discourage trade with U.S. producers. Instead, Cuba imports from Europe, China and South America. U.S. tourist travel could infuse cash into the local Cuban economy, but travel restrictions on U.S. citizens prevent it. The United States could engage future Cuban leaders who will move into place once the aging Fidel Castro yields control. Efut instead, our reticence pushes Cuba into the waiting arms of countries that do not have our best interests in mind — such as China. Our current policies with Cuba made sense when it was an outpost for the Soviet Union and while Castro was exporting military muscle to developing countries. But that is the past. Today trade and travel restrictions create wasted opportunities for both nations. President Bush was 14 when the United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1960. Many things have changed for the better since then, except for U.Si. trade policies with Cuba. Now is a good time to heal that breach — for the betterment of both countries. ROBERTS — Tom Bell Editor & Publisher EDITORIAL NOTEBOOK Here's a refreshing idea T POINT OF VIEW Earth winning battle with pollution H ome Depot did it. DuPont did it. Now it's time for Coca- Cola to step up to an environmental challenge posed by some of its stockholders. A proxy proposal presented for a shareholder vote at Coca-Cola's annual meeting Wednesday called for the company to adopt a comprehensive recycling strategy The proposal called for using 25 percent recycled plastic in Coke bottles and recycling 80 percent of cans and bottles by 2005. It was opposed by the company management, which said it wants to increase use of recycled materials but that specific goals would have to be based on local market conditions and emerging technologies. (Coke has also opposed making consumers pay deposits on bottles.) The shareholders' recycling proposal was overwhelmingly defeated — to no one's surprise. Seldom do shareholder resolutions receive much support. But that wasn't the point. The purpose was to raise the consciousness of corporate management and investors. In fact, similar failed proxy proposals relating to environmental concerns have recently generated sufficient stirs to cause major corporations to change the way they do business. Two years ago. Home Depot was faced with a proposal that it halt lumber purchases from old-growth forests. Though the proposal received only a small percentage of the shares voted, the company subsequently en- for Scripps Howard News Service Expect Earth Day to be full of end-of-the-world Chicken Little pronouncements R ecent invectives directed at the Bush administration obscure a significant but ignored story: the steady and continuing improvement in U.S. environmental quality That trend is certain to continue during the Bush years, despite demonizing by groups that ^ view the president as the equivalent of an Exxon- STEVEN Valdez oil spill every day HAYWARD The Sierra Club claims that Bush's environmental policy is "returning us to • the 19th century" Not to be outdone. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility claims that Bush will return us to "a new environmental Dark Age." With few exceptions, the media echo this line uncritically We can expect that Earth Day April 22, will be full of Chicken Little pronouncements about the end of the world. But contrary to this apocalyptic gloom, the improvement in the environment is perhaps the single greatest public policy success story of the last generation. The decline in air pollution in American cities, for example, dwarfs the decline in the crime rate or the decline in the welfare rolls over the past decade. We are justly proud of the decline in crime and welfare, but we seem not to notice or express pride in our environmental progress. Environmentalists are afraid they will lose political clout if they acknowledge this progress (even though their movement helped make it happen), and the EPA is also afraid to trumpet these results because it fears having its budget cut. While air pollution is the most significant success story, major progress has been made in other areas as well. Back in 1969 the nation was shocked when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire, and the degradation of the Great Lakes was a scandal. Today rivers no longer catch fire, and in most locations the water of the Great Lakes is safe for fishing, swimming and drinking. Long- term data also show a major decline in chemical residues in wildlife in the Great Lakes region, and several bird species that were once in decline are now flourishing. Meanwhile, the decline in wetlands has been halted, and the national goal of restoring 100,000 acres of wetlands a year seems within reach. Figures show that wetlands are already increasing in the T POINT OF VIEW 1 Dramatic high-speed ch^se after culprit of Global Vl ^rn \iT \ai (©ZOO) T\(S SoFMi-o MS>-JS DID SOHESOPV . western states. What has been responsible for this happy story? Regulation has certainly played a role, but regulators can only command what is technically and economically feasible. Economic growth and technology are the key ingredients. As people get wealthier, they want more environmental improvement. What the uproar over the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 proved, since the river had caught fire in the 1930s and 1950s without much comment, is that the affluent society does not want to be the effluent society None of this is to imply that our work is done, or that we don't have to worry about the environment, any more than the sharp •decline in the crime rate means that we can lay off police officers and stop fighting crime. There remain a number of environmental problems where we are just beginning to devote significant attention, such as curbing "non-point" sources of water pollution. There are two difficulties in solving these kinds of problems. The first is the scarcity of good information. Unlike air quality which has been consistently monitored and measured for more than two decades, we have very poor statistical data on water quality and several other areas of concern. Even though the EPA spends more than $400 million a year on research, it does not have even basic trend information on water quality Without better information, policymakers are working in the dark. The second difficulty is where these problems are best addressed. Up to now, we have emphasized national, Washington- based regulation. The time for this is over The next generation of environmental policy will have to be based in states and localities. The EPA recently had this to say: "We believe that people know what's best for their own communities and, given the facts, they themselves will determine what is best to protect public health and the environment." That sounds exactly like what President Bush says, so it is surprising that the author of this statement is not Bush's EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, but her predecessor Carol Browner Perhaps Bush is not so far off track after all. • Steven Hayward is senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, and author of the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, released each year on Earth Day Globed warming has real effects The romance of fishing is timeless, but the Earth's rivers and fish are not E acted a policy prohibiting the purchase of lumber from the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia and other ancient forests. And, DuPont, the international plastics and paint giant, announced this month that it has nixed for good its plans to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp. The company began to reconsider the controversial mining following a shareholder proposal opposing it. The recycling proposal on the Coke ballot this week was submitted by shareholders representing $50 million in company stock and included well- known socially responsible investment funds like Trillium Asset Management and Domini Social Investments. Atlanta shareholder Lewis Regenstein, a supporter of the resolution, expressed faith that Coca-Cola would become a soft drink recycling leader, noting Coke Chairman Doug Daft's leadership on environmental concerns. Other supporters pointed out that in Daft's native Australia, the company already uses 25 percent recycled plastic in its bottles. The Georgia-based Grassroots Recycling Network says Coca-Cola creates 2 million wasted bottles and cans every hour and that beverage container waste increased 50 percent in the United States between 1992 and 1999. "Life tastes good" is Coke's new slogan. No reason it won't taste just as good in a can or bottle made from recycled materials. —Atlanta Journal-Constitution ^ ach year, around the time of Earth Day April 22, anglers of all persuasions make their way to a favorite fishing hole or trout stream in an ancient ritual. Corporate executives and construction workers alike answer to the call, for the romance of spring and fishing is universal and timeless. The fish and even the rivers themselves, however, are not. Global warming is gradually redistributing water around the world. Freshwater sources that many species of fish depend on for survival are drying up, the cold water that other ^ species require for breeding is becoming tepid and REBECCA R. rising sea levels are de- WODDER stroying the coastal estuar- for scripps Howard ies where fish spawn. It is Newsservice difficult to grasp that pollu- « tion from fossil fuels could ruin the Earth's waters and their aquatic life, but it's true. Some people rashly dismiss President Bush's ^bout-face on capping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and his subsequent abandonment of the Kyoto global warming treaty as a mere international flap. But the certain knowledge among wildlife biologists that continued global warming will absolutely eliminate some highly sensitive cold-water fish species from many of our lakes and rivers —or that higher temperatures will turn fast- running brooks full of life into listless trickles — is quite another matter Rivers and freshwaier fisheries across our country will suffer far-ranging impacts from global warming. According the United Nations scientists who serve on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Earth's average-temperature will increase anywhere from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century Water temperatures will rise, too. This, Dramatic changes in both the timing and intensity of rain and snow across the U. S. could cause erosion and floods, washing sediment downstream, clouding water, destroying fish breeding areas, and harming plant and animal life. according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency will produce a loss of 50 percent to 100 percent of coldwater fish such as trout, salmon, and bass in some Northeastern streams, and up to 50 percent of such fish in the West, over the next century. Freshwater ecosystems are extraordinarily complex, and the impacts of global warming on rivers will vary from region to region. In some areas, extended droughts will tax freshwater resources — already under pressure from agriculture and urban sprawl — beyond their capacity Even now, many of these rivers are in danger, according to our most recent report on "America's Most Endangered Rivers." The Great Lakes, too, will face problems as warming makes water evaporate faster Last May Lake Michigan and Lake Huron dropped 19 inches below their 80-year average. 'The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that by 2050, global warming could lower water levels in Lake Michigan another two feet, dramatically reducing flows in the basin's groundwater-fed trout streams. The agency further warns of dramatic changes in both the timing and intensity of rain and snow across the U. S. This could cause erosion and floods, washing sediment downstream, clouding water, destroying fish breeding areas, and harming plant and animal life. DOONESBURY The U.S. Interior Department also reports that glacially fed streams in the northern Rockies are drying up, due partly to rapid snowmelt in spring and higher average temperatures. In Alaska, where permafrost has already begun to thaw, river basins are especially at risk of losing native plants and animals. In coastal areas, the steady drop in freshwater levels will allow rising seas to intrude, gradually turning aquifers brackish. This will be especially problematic in low-lying areas such as the San Joaquin delta, which supplies most of central California with fresh water, and parts of southern Florida where spring-fed water levels could drop below sea level, almost certainly causing saltwater intrusion. A hundred years ago, the Northwest seized on the expediency of hydropower without giving much thought to its drawbacks. Now it has become clear to people besides anglers, conservationists, and scientists that dams have all but eliminated the salmon industry in the Pacific North-: west. In warmer parts of the world they can • even release large amounts of methane! and carbon dioxide — both greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming — from trapped and decaying vegetation. In a similar way shortsighted leaders who focus on the crisis of the moment, may overlook the long-term damage from global warming. Instead they ought to be investing in simple, low-cost solutions, including more efficient energy use, converting to lower emissions fuel sources, and conserving forests that absorb greenhouse gases. This Earth Day if you find yourself drawn to a trout stream or salmon run, rod in hand, count yourself fortunate. And:as you wait for the first strike of spring, con: template the future and pray that something is done to preserve the water and the fish from the harm of global warming. • Rebecca R. Wodder is president of Amer-; icon Rivers, the national environmental group that helps Americans restore, protect, and enjoy their hometown rivers. By G.B. TRUDEAU mYYOUR&ieeepoN YCm CAMPAIGN PL£l?6B^ TDUMIT002 eimsioNs?^ /eA Ftai ^on ^iFe. cmep sKHAUN&.f

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