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Climate 'controversy' is over

Dear Editors,

Golly, Roger Cohen tries to insert himself into the news cycle with the regularity of such other luminaries as Joe the Plumber. But as it turns out, the climate change skeptics and their arguments have been rendered irrelevant, regardless of the degree of human-caused global warming.

Why is this? To paraphrase our president, it is because the ground has shifted beneath them - the stale scientific arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. Society has moved past the "debate" on this issue and is now engaged in new discussions about how we generate and use energy, as well as how we structure our lifestyles. Because when you actually take a look at it, all of the measures that have been suggested to counteract the putative effects of climate change turn out to be just good ideas anyway!

Although most Durangoans are up to date on green issues, I'll briefly recap. Proposed climate change mitigation measures fall into three main categories. These are energy efficiency, energy conservation and green energy.

Energy efficiency is using less energy without changing your basic style of living. Some examples are better weatherstripping, increased insulation, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, signing up for LPEA's Green Power option and, if you can afford it, driving a hybrid or electric car.

Energy conservation means saving energy by altering your behavior in various ways. This might mean turning down your thermostat in the winter and up in the summer, not peeling out of intersections in your car, taking the bus or bicycling to work, and separating out and depositing your recyclables.

Green energy means getting our electricity from sources other than the combustion of fossil fuels or the fission of radioactive isotopes. Burning coal is the most common (and dirtiest) method of generating electricity in the United States, with natural gas a close second.

Green energy would concentrate on displacing these power sources with non-polluting alternatives. Foremost among these alternatives is wind power, where modern large wind turbines are now about cost-competitive with coal. Following this would be solar energy, typically not the PV or water heating panels you see on many rooftops (although these certainly reflect forward-thinking personal choices) but rather "solar farms" using vast mirror arrays to concentrate the sun's energy. Both of these energy sources are abundant, with available supply exceeding our national energy use by orders of magnitude.

All of this makes sense to do and should be started soon. I assert that Americans of all ideologies can get behind policies and actions to encourage all of these things. If you are an environmentalist, then of course you would support any of these actions as moving the United States toward more responsible use and generation of energy, with positive impacts on the environment that would benefit humans as well as the great diversity of animals and plants essential for our common survival. If you're not an environmentalist, then surely you can support these same measures on the basis of their effect on our energy independence and thus our national security. The less energy we use and the more green energy we generate here in the U.S., the less we are dependent on importing oil and natural gas from countries run by dictators with policies not always in line with American priorities. This means we can spend less money on importing these resources and maintaining a global military presence to ensure their safe supply.

So let's now engage in dialogues on how to best generate and use energy, and how to "live lightly" upon our Earth. Let's all get to work implementing energy efficiency, energy conservation, and green energy. All three make sense on their own merits, and many specific measures will create new, long-term jobs for Americans that cannot be outsourced. Producing clean energy, making the best use of it and energy independence are things we can all support and which will leave a better world for generations to come.

- Walter Venable, Durango

Warming up to reality

Dear Soap Box:

In your Feb. 5 issue, Roger W. Cohen writes of those politically motivated people who would take drastic measures to curb so-called global warming and suggests a set of eight rules for them to consider. Parts of Rule #3 were especially illuminating, Cohen writes: "(They) avoid unpleasantries such as the fact that 2008 in the contiguous U.S. was simply a typical year temperature - wise, relative to the 20th century average: there was no 'global' warming in 2008." He also cautions against "cherry picking" contrary information. It needs to be stated that we're talking about global warming and not just U.S. temperature data. We also know that a sample of one has no significant scientific value.

In the Jan. 8, 2009, issue of the Christian Science Monitor there was a column entitled "Horizons." One of the articles asked the question: How hot was 2008? The article says:

"Last year was the coldest of the 21st century. But 2008 was also hotter than all but two years in the 20th century and was the 10th warmest year on record. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the worldwide average surface air temperature for last year was 57.76 degrees F. That makes it the coldest year since 2000.

These lower temperatures were primarily the result of the La Niña that developed in the Pacific Ocean, reports the WMO. This period of cold ocean temperatures in the Pacific began in late 2007 and continued through May 2008, a year that was significantly cooler.

But the only reason that this year seemed so cold is that the rest of this decade has been so hot. Some climate-change deniers argue that "global warming stopped in 1998." While it's true that 1998 was the hottest year on record, few mention that the next seven hottest years were, in order, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2001, according to Britain's Met Office, which has tracked global temperatures since 1850.

NASA, which also measures surface temperatures, offers up slightly different numbers, but the big picture is the same: "The globe is undergoing the warmest decade on record."

My friend and mentor, Roy Craig, once said "Educated people don't argue facts." Roy had a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and was also very conservative.

If we're not the bad guys, we need a coherent explanation of whom or what is!

- Chet Anderson, Durango

An aggressive bounce  

Dear Editors,

I have been a patron at a local music venue here in Durango for about eight years and have enjoyed attending events there very much. However, on Sat,, Jan. 17, I dealt with the conduct of a door man (who I believe was an employee at the establishment) who verbally accosted me yelling obscenities for inquiring about which door I needed to use to re-enter the venue after using the bathroom. The employee, who was male, was not only rude, but was verbally aggressive and exhibited frightening behavior. Not only did his actions cause me to have a horrible experience at the venue that night, I was actually scared to exit the venue for fear of possibly being assaulted by this man. While both the owner of the music venue and the show's promoter did, to their credit, apologize for the employee's conduct, the door man was unfortunately allowed to work the remainder of the show - much to the dismay of many of the venue's patrons, myself included. I am writing this letter with the hope that local businesses can learn from my experience and respond more appropriately and quickly to these types of situations.

- Thanks, Estella Moore, via e-mail

A Democratic challenge

Dear Editors,

The inauguration of Barack Obama is certainly an exciting and historic event, but I am concerned that those patting themselves on the back for voting for him as well as those whiners who belong to an upper income bracket may be assuming that their democratic responsibilities ended Nov. 4. I would contend that our responsibilities have only begun. We can be assured that Obama will be under constant pressure from the military industrial complex that has hijacked our democracy to continue its agenda of pursuing money over life. In the face of this, we cannot afford to sit idly by and think that Obama is going to be able to follow through with all of his campaign promises.

The Democrats say "Yes we did!," I beg to differ. When we are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, when we can all afford health care, when Palestinian children are no longer being slaughtered by U.S.-made weapons, and when the rest of the world doesn't believe the United States is the greatest threat to world peace, then we can say "Yes we did!." I implore everyone on all sides to not let Obama forget his promises and maybe we can even get him to make some new ones. While Bush only listened to his puppet masters, we can hope that Obama will listen to us.

- Thank you, Carsten Almskaar, via e-mail

Selective politicking

Dear Editors:

In recent interviews, George Bush, Dick Cheney other former administration officials and Republican apologists have struck three main themes: 1. Everything is great! 2. We're not to blame for anything that's gone wrong. 3. The current disaster is mainly the fault of Bill Clinton, somewhat of Jimmy Carter, but largely of Franklin Roosevelt, whose policies not only caused the Great Depression, but also brought about the current economic cataclysm.

Now, this could just be dismissed as the usual witless malice of Republicans. But I think there's a deeper and more disturbing explanation. Earlier this month, six candidates vying to be chairman of the Republican National Committee were interviewed. (Only six? With the entire Republican Party available, they couldn't find a seventh dwarf?) Almost every candidate one-upped the next with the number of guns owned, their size and variety, and eagerness to use them. (C'mon, boys, drop the coy symbolism - just unzip your trousers and show us whose caliber is the biggest!)

All six were unanimous, however, naming their favorite Republican president: Ronald Reagan. (Not even a nod to Abraham Lincoln or Theodore Roosevelt?) We all know that Reagan succumbed to Alzheimer's disease. Apparently that affliction has gripped the entire Republican Party. How else to explain the dissociation, memory lapses, babbling, delusions, ranting and other verbal tics that bedevil Republicans. The disturbing part is that, should they ever regain power, Republicans could again drag the entire country back into Ronald Reagan's senile fantasies.

- Juris Odins, Farmington

Plenty of blame

Dear Editors,

Regarding Michael Lubin's letter on the Israel/Palestine conflict, there are a few points he breezed over that I feel need detailing, but let me be clear, I am not defending or sympathizing with either side; there is plenty of blame to go around.  

The "20 to 30 missiles a day" that were lobbed at Israel were a global attention-getting stunt in response to Israel's blockade of the borders for food, medicine and water shipments. When Israel agreed to open the borders to such shipments, the Hamas missiles slowed to very few, and these were concentrated in low-populated areas. Israel did not follow through with its agreement and kept the borders choked to a trickle of supplies, so, Hamas started firing the missiles again. Then, as we all know, Israel came in with state-of-the-art American made and funded bombs, guns and rockets and did their deeds (now the American government is pledging money to help rebuild the damage in Palestine - we pay to blow it up, we pay to rebuild it, no wonder we're broke).  

It's no surprise Israel never actually opened the borders because they knew Hamas would exploit it and smuggle weapons, but it seems clear - not just to me - that Israel is trying to punish the Palestinian people for electing Hamas (Bush's legacy of exported democracy). The current situation suggests that this is not working, since Hamas is still popular (this could have something to do with the fact that Hamas beats and tortures Palestinians connected to Fatah - yet another issue), and yes, Hamas will probably never recognize Israel's right to exist, but doesn't someone have to extend the olive branch? Israel is not going to expedite the return of Fatah to power in Palestine by dropping more American bombs on Gaza.  

Mr. Lubin is correct in stating that Osama bin Laden's grievance with America is not just tied to Palestine, but once again, it is the American military presence in the region that has been exacerbating the tensions for decades; the primary difference being that Saudi Arabia actually pays for our bombs rather than getting them for free like Israel. And further, when Mr. Lubin questions Americans' lack of outrage toward Muslims killed in Srebrenica and Chechnya, perhaps it is because they were not killed with American dollars.  

In Israel, they don't even talk of peace anymore, they only talk of "conflict management." Basically, Israel is an American-funded settlement in the midst of Islam, and just like Israel has to defend or abandon its settlements in Palestine, we will have to make the same choice. Abandonment is not on the table, so America is in for endless conflict management of our Jewish Levantine settlement. You would think we might have some say in the matter, but judging from the Bush years, the only influence we had was providing the bombs. Perhaps a firm word from Obama might nudge Israel to allow more food and water to cross the border and then maybe the Hamas missiles will stop.  

- Paul Iverson, Mancos


In search of GOP responsibility

Dear Editors,

All of us can likely remember the child on the playground who, when things didn't go his or her way in the game, took the ball and left in a pout. This childish behavior is eerily similar to what we are currently seeing in our nation's capital as the Republican leadership in the Legislature has apparently advocated its responsibility to the American people and left the difficult decisions involved in solving our current financial crisis to the president and the Democratic majority. This, after being the party responsible for many of the problems we now face.

Since being inaugurated, President Obama has tried to turn our ship of state around. In my lifetime, I cannot remember a president of either party working as hard to find common ground with the minority party as President Obama. He held out his hand in cooperation only to have it slapped away by partisan politics.

It seems as if now that they are out of the majority, the Republican leadership not only refuses to take any responsibility for where we are currently, but steadfastly refuses to help get us out of the mess we are in. I do not have a crystal ball, nor does our president, his advisors, or the many leading economists who support the stimulus package being debated currently. However, common sense dictates that something needs to be done, and soon. Also, that the tired old policies that have led us to this precipice did not work before and will not work this time. I truly hope that moderate Republicans will finally have the courage to break from their leadership and vote for what is best for our nation. In a time of national crisis, we all have to join together to solve our differences and do what is best for our country. As we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday, that first and greatest Republican president, let's hope the Grand Old Party will again help to keep our nation united. It is time for the Republican Party to stop pouting and get back in the game.

- Donovan Porterfield, via e-mail



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows