Pollution is a global problem, but the costs are paid neighborhood by neighborhood. Now that California has adopted an ambitious, cover-all-bases greenhouse gas reduction plan, it is being widely touted (this happens to us a lot in California) as the model for a national plan. Most of the provisions..
Pollution is a global problem, but the costs are paid neighborhood by neighborhood.Now that California has adopted an ambitious, cover-all-bases greenhouse gas reduction plan, it is being widely touted (this happens to us a lot in California) as the model for a national plan. Most of the provisions would bring tears of joy to any environment-loving person who's waited out the last eight years. Unfortunately, the plan relies on cap-and-trade to achieve the largest share of reductions-despite vehement objections from low-income communities and a raft of public health professionals, along with a blistering response from the state Air Resources Board's own environmental justice advisory committee.Note to the Obama administration: Nearly every environmental justice group in the United States and abroad opposes carbon trading.Why? The strategy allows industries to pollute as much or more in some places if they pay to reduce pollution elsewhere-anywhere-and it's just not that difficult to predict that these "some places" will be the low-income areas that already suffer the worst industrial pollution. While the CO2 itself isn't toxic, every carbon source also emits a standard toxic list of co-pollutants-the sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter that have wreaked such havoc on people's health in these communities.So why are so many wonderful, principled, justice-loving environmentalists brushing aside these objections? Well, cap-and-trade is rooted deeply, and counter-productively, in environmentalism's enduring "we" problem."We are all in this together" rhetoric dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, when the environmental movement as we know it powerfully came of age. It remains one of the basic pillars of environmentalist culture-of the fundamental, practically instinctive, ways we understand the causes of environmental problems. We, as a species, are destroying the earth, and we, homo sapiens, must fix it. Humanity is the problem, right? How many times did An Inconvenient Truth inform us that Humanity is destroying the Environment?The "we" rhetoric has always tended to obscure a few sub-planetary inequalities in who creates pollution, where it happens, and where it gets cleaned up. It has encouraged the assumption that any environmentally destructive act-anywhere-is bad for all of us, and that any environmentally positive act is good for everyone. And it's encouraged a great many of even the most enlightened environmentalists to continue to see inequities as a secondary, or at best separate, problem.And that's why the "we" problem has helped to perpetuate the vast environmental devastation.