Friday, March 20, 2015

Why the War on Coal is Going to Change America

An article in the NY Times used the term "War on Coal" when talking about EPA regulations on the coal industry. I found this fascinating because I had never heard the term before. The War on Coal is a perfect term to gain attention towards finding a solution to our energy crisis that will benefit the environment and all life on earth.

First of all, the environment is VERY IMPORTANT. If I were a politician, environmental policy would be my number one concern. Coal is a common source of energy for people around the world, but it pollutes the air through carbon emissions. Carbon emissions from coal contribute to global warming, which is degrading ecosystems such as the arctic. That is why the War on Coal is necessary.

The "War on Coal" has the right type of language to elicit a public response. The term "war on" is oft used and seldom questioned. We love it. War on Terror, War on Drugs. War on Poverty. These were and still are all big problems in the US that the government has recognized and tried to correct. The government has been "fighting" against these problems. That's why the "War on Coal" is a necessary term to use: its a fight between sustaining life on Earth and the death of the environment. 

When we make it a "war on" something, that makes it seem like "us versus them", and it really unifies people. For example, the War on Terror really unifies Americans (some would say unjustly) against terrorist groups and unfortunately against middle eastern religious groups. We need to unify people to help sustain Earth's treasures. We need to declare a "War on Coal".

America currently has the opposite way of thinking. It's all about expansion, business, and exploitation of the environment. A Princeton essay called "The Tragedy of the Commons" explains a metaphor for this. There's a pasture that many farmers use. They all bring their cows to graze their, and they are doing this for their own benefit. But no one is taking care of the pasture. They are just using it, so the pasture's soil is destroyed and there can be no vegetation growing on that land. That's what's going on in the world and America (see Keystone pipeline) We can't just exploit the environment, we need to also take care of it. We need to pay attention to the environment. We need to declare a "War on Coal" to save the environment. If we win this War, America will be far better off environmentally.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Opposition to Lakefront Renovations in Wilmette

Signs like this one can be seen on lawns all around the village of Wilmette, a suburb on the north shore of Chicago.

Recently, while driving down the streets of Wilmette, I have noticed many signs saying "Save Wilmette Lakefront, vote no on April 7th referendum". The April 7th referendum will decide whether the village of Wilmette will be able to carry out a $14.5 million renovation of the "Wilmette Lakefront" (Gilson park and Langdon park). Residents have mixed feelings about this plan.  In my opinion, $14.5 million is a steep price for what could potentially be only a million dollars worth of renovations. I am opposed to this project, but I don't agree with criticism saying that there are political motives behind the promotion of this project.

In an interview with the Chicago tribune, resident Robin Baugher, an opponent to the Lakefront Project, hinted that there was some political strategy involved in the Village Board's support for the project. "I think it's hubris…officials are very keen on putting their stamp on the lakefront and leaving their legacy", Baugher said. 

It's clear that she thinks that officials want "their stamp" on the lakefront. She means that the officials want some sort of accomplishment or legislation achieved during their time in office on the Village Board of Wilmette. She thinks that the board members just want this referendum to be their accomplishment during office. According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, the word "hubris" means "exaggerated pride or self-confidence". Baugher is suggesting that the board members are very prideful and want this project as a personal trophy of sorts.

In our American Studies class, we talked about this sort of political motive. Sometimes politicians will try to pass as many laws as possible in order to have their "stamp" on history, so that when they have left office, they can still look back and say "hey, I accomplished this during my time in office". The legacy achieved by some politicians is reminiscent of a school sports record where after the athlete leaves the school, he will always be remembered because of his record for most points. The upcoming $14.5 million beach renovation project seems like just the kind of project that will boost a resume or create a legacy. 

However, there is no solid evidence, no quotes on record to suggest that the village board wants to start this project solely for the purpose of creating a legacy. Although I think that this project is unnecessary, I think without any solid evidence we cannot conclude that the board's hubris has motivated them to complete this project. That would be too cynical of a viewing. My thought is that this may just be an overpriced and extravagant project that could only occur on the city's north-shore suburbs.

Do you guys think Baugher's insinuation is correct?