In New York City, people have different ways of connecting. It's a pre-Twitter version of Tribes. There are individuals you know from the building, office mates, dog friends, politicos, even store owners. One guy I regularly talk to fits into the latter two categories. I'm not sure how our relationship got started -- probably with a random comment. Now whenever I go into his establishment, we do a brief rundown on national and international events. After a full review of this week's topics (which featured a few doozies), we settled back into our familiar positions.
He is a self-avowed cynic who believes the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Best description -- shades of Bogart as Richard Blaine in Casablanca -- before he decides to rejoin the fight. A middle-age man with a seven-year-old daughter, he likes to boast that he is raising her as a "skeptic."
I am in the mold of the Streisand character, Katie Morosky, from The Way We Were -- constantly insisting that people have to speak up about what is wrong.
The powers that be thrive on a defeatist populace giving up. "You didn't send Obama to the presidency," he told me flatly. "The money people did. You just voted for him." Great, I thought as I walked out of his place. Not exactly what I wanted to hear early in the morning, on the first sunny day after ninety-six hours of continuous rain.
The bottom line is, I don't' agree with him.
Yes, there are all kinds of things that go on in the world that I don't understand -- about decisions people make at the highest levels --for economic gain or to benefit themselves. However, I don't want to cede to the '70s version of paranoia that the game is rigged, so we all might as well pack up our bags and go home quietly.
There's too much at stake.
This week I took part in a Mom's Clean Air Force webinar on Clean Air. What I learned from the presenting speakers on the call was information about how mercury is poisoning both our air and our water -- big time. Even if you don't live right near a coal plant (the safest state is Idaho), the wind drifts. I've already alerted readers to how they can get the story on their air quality. For those of us in urban areas, it's not good news.
An EPA graph that was presented during the call showed how in other sectors, specifically Hospital Incineration and Municipal Waste Combustors, there have been huge strides in reducing mercury emissions. Why have coal-powered plants lagged behind when there are facilities that have made changes through the use of a technology called Activated Carbon Injection (ACI)? Stats from these power plants show that on the average, tested boilers were able to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the EPA is trying to move forward to Reduce Toxic Air Emissions From Power Plants. Members of Congress (I won't tell you what color their hats are) are pushing back, trying to strip the EPA of its powers. A favorite strategy is to pull the "fiscal card," as in "It's bad for the economy."
During the webinar, many people got into my Twitter stream through the Green hash tag. They wanted additional information and asked, "What can we do? How can we learn more?" The EPA website is an excellent source for current information on their activities. There are PDF downloads of rulings, as well as facts sheets.
I'm not leaving the fight for clean air, safe water, and a non-toxic environment to the cynics. Cue the Frank Capra script, even if his films were often dismissed as "Capracorn." I think "the small people" can make a difference.
As Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."
This article was written for the Moms Clean Air Force blog.
Graph Courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Source: EPA National Emissions Inventory data for Hazardous Air Pollutants (1990); National Air Toxics Assessment (2005)