Monday, July 12, 2004


Emmett, commenting on last week's Musing on global warming, worries about emissions from his lawn mower. I'm on my hillside here in Ireland strimming away with a gasoline-powered strimmer. There was a time when we pushed a mower and swung a scythe.

There's no going back. Let's face it, civilization means pollution.

And I'm not just talking about internal combustion. The advent of farming meant cutting down forests, thereby diminishing the planet's capacity to take carbon dioxide out of the air. Rice paddies add the greenhouse gas methane. So do cows.

We can find ways to contract. Hybrid cars. Renewable energy. Recycling. More intensive methods of agriculture.

More important from an ethical point of view is convergence: Everyone has an equal right to pollute. Or, I should say, a right to pollute equally. As it stands, citizens of the rich nations pollute vastly more than citizens of poor nations.

Unlikely this will change until the United States ceases to frustrate every step towards international agreement on hydrocarbon quotas.