By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
This week, the ban on issuance of plastic bags in supermarkets and other stores went into effect in New York State. It is inconvenient, to say the least. Customers must now either bring their own reusable bags or deal with the more cumbersome paper bags that these retail places will substitute. Yes, life is tough.
But science has proven that the billions of plastic bags in circulation poses a serious threat to our environment. They are not biodegradable. And when they inevitably find their way into our water systems, lakes, rivers, streams and oceans, they do major damage to our already fragile ecosystem. Aquatic life below the waves are choking and suffocating. This carnage to sea life damages the fishing industries. These plastic wraps is also a cause of massive pollution which adversely impacts the environment and us all.
Next year, new regulations are scheduled to be issued which will implement congestion pricing in New York City. It is intended to reduce the number of vehicles entering and clogging Midtown Manhattan. Private vehicles would be charged a new toll when entering the zone. This is intended to be a deterrent to driving in congested areas of Manhattan and instead encourage the use of mass transit.
This too will be very inconvenient or expensive for those persons who are used to motoring into Manhattan for business or pleasure. However, the congestion and pollution caused by these vehicles, especially those that idle in the inevitable gridlock, are causing enormous air pollution and are clogging our transportation arteries. The science is undeniable.
These are some of the relatively small things that New York is doing to combat climate change and the damaging impacts to our environment. It stands in stark contrast to the anti-science regressive posture of the federal government.
Resigning from the Paris Accords, the international cooperative endeavor to slow global warming and climate change, was bad enough. The Trump Administration’s new policies to roll back tough emission standards on cars, promote a new generation of coal mining, and repeal tougher standards on air and water pollution is inexplicable except as it may be convenient when bidding for political support in coal producing states and from big business interests that loathe regulations and limitations on their means of production and profit.
Instead of putting a scientist or medical expert in charge of America’s effort to combat and contain the Coronavirus, President Trump chose his loyal and fawning Vice President with no medical or scientific background. If anything Vice President Pence has proven to be hostile to science based facts. Rather, it seems that his role is to vet and control the dissemination of any bad news which might reflect poorly on this Administration. For that he is eminently qualified.
The irony is that the President Trump slashed tens of millions of dollars from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health and limited their independent scope to advance public health and safety. A case in point is these agencies are now forbidden from conducting any studies documenting gun violence as a national health threat at the behest of the National Rifle Association. Enough said!
Now the CDC with depleted resources is being tasked with coordinating efforts to find a cure for this virus before it takes a toll on American lives. This administration, which has opposed global cooperation when dealing with problems that transcend national borders, now sees this health crisis as a threat to winning re-election if they appear unprepared or unable to respond to this pandemic, so they are mobilizing for their political survival. Too bad they don’t show the same concern about the long term survival of our planet.
It will take some degree of sacrifice and mutual cooperation from the international community to mitigate global disasters. Modern communication, transportation and commerce has forever altered the nature of multi-national intercourse. No longer can fortresses, moats, oceans or even walls keep a country safe and separate from the rest of the world.
Sadly a President who believes in “America Only” is lost in a time warp.