Francis Koster: No sense and non-cents

Published 12:52 am Sunday, September 3, 2017

By Francis Koster

At the same time all eyes are on the flood victims in Texas, some astounding and deeply upsetting proposals are floating around in Washington that directly contradict what is being said to these shivering wet people about how “every effort will be made to take care of them.”   

People who make that statement may be talking about the next few weeks — but what they are doing in Washington tells us they  are not talking about long term.

Remember how the president praised the work of FEMA on television recently? Page 24 of his budget proposal shows cuts of $667,000,000 (about 10 percent) from the FEMA budget , and the money redirected to our defense budget, or tax cuts for the wealthy.

Remember the television shots of how big the hurricane looked as it turned toward Texas? They were taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It may be harder to do that in the future because the replacement satellite funding was cut as part of a Trump proposed budget cut of 17 percent  to NOAA’s budget, with the money redirected to our defense budget, or tax cuts for the wealthy.

Remember the forecasts about how much rain might fall — so local leaders could have planning time?  A new and improved forecasting tool has been being developed — but that effort has been stopped due to $15 million  in cuts, and the money is re-directed to our defense budget, or tax cuts for the wealthy.

This month, while we lost 37 people  due to Hurricane Harvey, in India over 1,000 people died  from the same kind of increased flooding. And in Bangladesh, 70,000 houses were submerged, and 140 people drowned. In May, Sri Lanka saw more than half a million citizens flooded out of homes, and 224 deaths .   

All of these floods were the largest in their countries’ history.

Here is the big picture about flooding:  globally, ocean temperature has risen 1.5 degrees since 1960. Warmer oceans evaporate more water, and that becomes rain. This happens faster in shallow waters like those bordering Texas.

Greenhouse gasses that trap heat cause a rise in ocean temperatures. Short term, the most damaging of these gasses is methane — leaking natural gas, which has a 12-year life, during which it causes 86 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide .

Last month, Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s appointment to head EPA, suspended implementing a regulation requiring oil and gas companies to fix methane leaks — on the grounds that it would hurt industry.

Pollution is changing our world.

The American voter is being sold a false definition of safety by people who talk about the vision of a safer America through stronger armed forces — but while we need to be protected from outside attack, it is not armed conflict that is the largest threat to us and our families — it is environmental contamination, and climate change.

For a family of four, the weekly cost of our defense spending is currently $146. To defend our families against air, water and chemical pollution our federal spending for the Environmental Protection Agency means that same family of four pays $2 a week.

Forty-five percent of U.S. streams, 47 percent of lakes, 32 percent of bays and 40 percent of America’s rivers are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.    

One of many kinds of pollution that exists in water impacts estrogen.  Young girls are transitioning to womanhood one year younger than they did in 1991 .

About 10 years ago, a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that over a million life years were lost annually in the United States from air pollution alone.   The Trump budget cuts the CDC budget 17 percent.

I could go on and on.

Efforts that cost pennies a week to protect our families are being undermined by politicians wrapping themselves in our American flag, praising rescuers, and promising federal assistance to flood victims, all the while helping the polluters, and quietly blocking the ability to prevent future disaster.

Viewed through a moral lens, it seems to me that politicians who are protecting industry over families should be ashamed.

We have two disasters going on — one environmental, and the other political hypocrisy.

Francis Koster lives in Kannapolis, and runs a not-for-profit called The Pollution Detectives that loans pollution detection equipment to students and concerned citizens.