Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Opinions Are Not An Entitlement

On the Idaho ranch where I was born and spent my early years what we now call lunch was called dinner and what we now call dinner was called supper and no one was entitled to an opinion at either occasion unless you could present a supportive argument.

My parents and especially my late father would have heartily agreed with a post that addressed that effect a few days ago by Dr. Patrick Stokes of Deakin University on The Conversation, which hosts independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.

What makes it hard today for any moderate Independent such as I am is that far too many people along the continuum of other political ideologies spout their opinions as though they were preferences for a favorite color or an article of faith or a loyalty oath that should be sheltered from any need for justification.

I find little of value during sound-bite political campaigns so I turn instead for arguments occurring within ideologies.  Let me give just two examples.

Conservatives today, which comprise nearly all Republicans, appear in lock-step denial when forsaking conservation, environmental stewardship or the use of carbon credits to roll back climate change, which are ironically all  concepts initially spawned by that movement.

Any queries to defend those reversals are usually met only with a repetition of the stance as though everyone listening, including the questioner, is somehow hard of hearing.  And then any further attempt to seeking an understanding is dismissed in a huff as if it were disrespectful.

The best way to learn more about conservatives and the environment is to look deeper within that ideology and the thoughtful counter-arguments presented by ConservAmerica, also known until last spring as Republicans for Environmental Protection, formed in 1995.

There you learn that creating a market solution such as carbon credits which were designed to more rapidly and urgently roll back climate change are not some kind of liberal conspiracy but something proposed by Republican Presidents Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush.

Similarly, just as the majority of Democrats are moderate, not liberal, the majority of those in the environmental movement are far more diverse in opinion than it may at first seem.  Driven by the excesses of resource exploitation, the environmental movement can often seem to take things to an extreme.

Take the move to ban plastic bags for instance.  Beneath the appearance of unanimity of opinion in that regard are voices within the movement who question those such as Stephen Joseph and his seemingly contrarian Save The Plastic Bag Coalition.

Joseph earned his credibility by leading the charge to eliminate trans fats.  Studies show that the more detached people become from deep thinking, the more likely they are to become conservative.  Joseph is challenging liberals to continue to think deeply especially about issues considered to be “slam-dunks.”

“Paper or plastic?” isn’t a trick question and the answer isn’t simple. It has been estimated that we go through 100 billion plastic bags every year, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to produce and costing retailers about $4 billion which is passed on to customers.  Estimates are that Americans use about 10 billion paper bags a year, resulting in the cutting down of 14 million trees if not produced from recycled pulp.

Banning plastic bags in some communities and laws in states such as California have led to nation-wide awareness of the need to recycle not only plastic shopping bags but also dry cleaning covers, shrink wrap and shipping filler used to create composite decking and fencing by companies such as TREX and LifeCycle.

However, paper products are not only the most widely recycled items (more than 63%) but they continue to be the largest single component of municipal landfills where they convert into methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.

Plastic bags, by comparison, occupy only .04% of space in landfills and take much longer to degrade, which is a good thing.  Joseph points out that “even though consumers choose plastic bags 4 out 5 times over paper, paper bags take up 1.0% of landfill space, which is more than twice as much as plastic bags.

It is amazing what can be revealed when ideologies debate within their own belief parameters rather than being frozen into partisan gridlock or when non-experts are allowed to trump experts without being required to present supportive arguments in a news media obsessed with faux-balanced coverage.


Anonymous said...

"..creating a market solution such as carbon credits which were designed to more rapidly and urgently roll back climate change.."

That's the problem right there, Republicans understand that a carbon market MIGHT rapidly and urgently roll back carbon emissions but will not necessarily have any effect on the earth's continually changing climate. That's why Republicans do not support it even though Reagan himself thought it was good idea 30 years ago.

This habit of blaming oneself for something that happens naturally whether Americans exist or not, is a basic requirement of the climate alarmist quasi-religion. Welcome to the faith.


PS Nice bike.

Unknown said...

I would encourage Klem to not buy into the notion that we can pollute as much as we want without consequence. The Ozone depletion problem that President Reagan successfully addressed is just one example of how man's actions can damage our atmosphere.

Consider this. The earth was designed (I happen to believe it was designed by God)with something called the carbon cycle that naturally regulates the chemistry of our atmosphere and keeps it in balance. Part of that process is removing excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it underground in the form of oil and coal.

So are we to believe that we can dig up all of that sequestered carbon from bygone eras, burn it, and send it back into the atmosphere without consequence? That view is as impious as it is imprudent. It is certainly not conservative.

jayzenner said...

I used to tease an associate who wouldn't drink coffee from a Styrofoam cup because it "took millions of years to break down in a landfill." "What's wrong with that," I would counter, "so does granite."

I have often wondered how much oil was required to produce plastics and so was surprised with the figure that all those plastic bags only require 12 million barrels a year. That's considerably less than a day's consumption in the US, where about 46% is used for automobile gasoline. It hadn't occurred to me that paper bags might be worse for the environment than plastic ones.
One reason there are so many looney opinions out there these days is because it is so easy to share one but only marginally less difficult to develop an informed one. And then there's the words of wisdom my old pappy used to share, "There ain't no cure for stupid."