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Cart before the horse 

Environmentalists should push for renewable energy sources before ragging on the oil industry

Fellow environmentalists, often in their zeal to reach worthwhile goals, do not stop and think! Not every proposed environmental law is one that they should rally around just because it deals with the environment. 

We are awash in potentially harmful changes in the world and in particular within the United States. By 2055, it is predicted that the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion to 9.5 billion. This statistic makes me reflect on how fast my wife and I, in 1976, after completing graduate studies, left Los Angeles and headed home for less crowded and beautiful Santa Barbara County. But today traffic and population in South County looks much like Los Angeles did in 1976, and SLO County is not far behind. Gas powered autos spewing deadly carbon in gridlock and population have caught up with us all!

The vast majority of scientists, now feel and predict that the earth’s warming will continue, and in 35 years ocean levels will grow from 6 feet to 20 feet depending on which model they use. This will result in the flooding of coastal areas worldwide where most of the earth’s population resides. Thus, with burgeoning population growth coupled with population displacement caused by sea level rise, the end result will be catastrophic as populations collide seeking the remaining habitable areas on earth. I am sure these new predictions make my old cultural geography professors turn in their graves!

Into this mix of population growth and sea level rise, we must also add the effects on agriculture of the added stress of periodic long-term droughts caused by the planet warming. This causes farmers and urban users to overstress underground aquifers—which took billions of years to fill and will take billions of year to refill—in their quest to feed our growing population and the urban users’ quest to find just enough water for daily use as they try to deal with dwindling supplies of melt-off water on the earth’s surface. Added to these, we will face larger and larger wild fires. With more and more people crowded into less and less space, a rapid spread of contagious diseases can also be expected.

This dismal picture of the future can be dealt with if the horse is placed before the cart and we stop and think. Before oil companies should be confronted, we must establish viable options for transportation in the form of electric and hydrogen fuel cell autos. All these need to be affordable for car buying public, and this can only be accomplished when manufacturers mass produce these new automobile products. Government-sponsored infrastructure needs to be in place in the form of hydrogen fuel stations and other incentives to encourage manufacturers. The transition is a must for our survival, and the public must be encouraged to put strong pressure on both manufacturers and government in the form of new legislation. Naturally, solar and other green energy improvements need to be encouraged with larger government incentives. The public must rise up and demand this change, of course, and environmentalists must lead the charge!

The environmental movement must also think and take its head out of the sand regarding population control and speak up on this issue, as its consequences are as horrific as carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Perhaps it is time for auto stickers to read “Proudly a two child or less family.”

Petroleum products will still have a place in our world after its use as fuel is phased out as most, if not all, of our modern world is made from petroleum products in hospitals, homes, businesses, and our exterior environment. Our modern world is dependent on its use. At the state level in Sacramento, SB 350 recently passed promoting a 50 percent increase in clean energy and building efficiency. These are goals all environmentalists could support as well as efforts to increase local renewable energy.

But local environmentalists, to their discredit, still bring up their ill-perceived support of Measure P—which went down in a resounding 60-plus percent defeat—to end fracking in Santa Barbara County, fracking that did not exist nor would ever exist since underground rock formations do not support its use locally. In addition, they denigrate the use of steaming and acid cleaning which have been used to clean both oil and water wells safely for years. But they stubbornly contend its defeat was caused by oil company money and not the illogic of their campaign.

It is time for environmentalists to put the horse before the cart and think first!

Ken McCalip is a North Santa Barbara County native who holds bachelor and doctorate degrees in history, cultural geography, and law from various California universities. He can be reached at [email protected].

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