Think Globally, Suffer Environmentally
Global warming has been with us since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. It has remained unnoticed until Al Gore (remember him?) won and then lost his 2000 presidential bid due to a technicality. Suddenly, he found himself with nothing to do. With too much time on his hands, Mr. Gore decided to become the leading spokesman for global warming rather than fade gracefully in history. In so doing, he won the Nobel Peace prize in 2007.
Global warming is technically more of the result of human activity. Every human activity uses some form of energy that, to a lesser or greater degree, releases anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the air. The intergovernmental panel on climate change has concluded that “most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
By the way, have you noticed that Al Gore has gained weight since the start of his crusade? It’s likely because he has stopped going to the gym on a regular basis. After all, exercise is a human activity that requires energy.
As I see it, we should follow Mr. Gore’s lead to resolving global warming. But it should be done in a reasonable manner and not carried out to the extreme.
Obviously, one way NOT to do it is to avoid human activity at all cost. For example, should we avoid exercise that makes us run out of gas? Should we ban lovemaking because it uses up too much energy? Five million couples around the world are engaged in this favorite past time every hour of the day. Or should we make farting illegal because it contributes to the release of unwanted gas? Absolutely not. It’s a privilege that even the Supreme Court would uphold.
However, any other kind of human activity that relies on the use of fossil fuels, such as, petroleum products and natural gas, should be monitored and reviewed more closely. Most of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the world today can be traced from the use of these products. This includes Mr. Gore’s jet fuel guzzling travels around the world promoting his views on global warming.
Globalization is on the top of human activities that harms the environment and contributes significantly to global warming. As the integration of world markets for goods and services continues to grow, so does the dependence on fossil fuels.
Andrea Hricko, Director of Community Outreach and Education at the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, studied the environmental effects of goods movement on environmental health.
In her article in Environmental Health Perspectives dated April 2006, she used a $9.97 doll import as an example. She wrote:
“… A $9.97 doll is made in Asia by low-wage workers under conditions that may subject them to a myriad of unregulated hazards. This doll is packed with 10,000 others into a container and loaded onto a marine vessel holding 4,000 other containers carrying dolls, shoes, and electronics. Fueled by low-quality bunker fuel, the ship leaves one of the world’s largest ports in Asia, chugs across the Pacific, discharging nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulates, and other pollutants into the earth’s environment. Arriving at the Southern California ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach (where 40% of all U.S. imports arrive), the container is unloaded by longshore workers, who breathe exhaust from the idling ship as well as emissions from a row of idling trucks with drivers waiting for their loads. The next leg of the trip is via truck to a rail yard, situated less than one-quarter of a mile from schools and homes, where the container is placed on a freight train, pulled by a diesel locomotive. Alternatively, the doll may be placed on a big-rig truck and sent for repackaging to a mega-warehouse 50 miles from the ports, an area that was formerly all dairy lands that has now given way to million-square-foot warehouses for consumer goods (drawing thousands of diesel trucks a day into formerly rural communities). Finally, the doll is trucked to her destination, a big-box retailer in suburban Chicago. By this time, she has traveled more than 8,000 miles—on diesel-burning conveyances the whole way.
“This itinerary is not unusual for shipping. Today, nearly half of all imported goods sold in Chicago take a route like this from factories in Asia through Southern California ports before heading east. But the low price a mother in Chicago pays for her daughter’s toy reflects none of the human and environmental tolls (referred to as the ‘externalities of transportation’) that the doll’s manufacture and shipment have taken during its travels”.
Sometimes, thinking globally is not a good idea.