Pittsburgh or Paris

I don’t want to sound like I understand the Paris climate accord, because I don’t. However, I have two concerns following President Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement. The first is briefly his desire to work out a more favorable deal. I have been left scratching my head as to what he means by “more favorable”, and how he plans to achieve this deal. If there are only two other nations in the world who have not signed the deal (one of which he has given orders to bomb), where is the incentive for other nations to renegotiate? Secondly, while he has talked about a more favorable deal, he has not given any specifics as to what a more favorable deal would look like (at least not that I’ve seen). But these concerns are secondary and I would gladly accept someone pointing me toward the answers.

My second concern is more substantial and that is the rhetoric President Trump has used in the campaign trail and now as president concerning industry and the environment. I do not condemn President Trump for pulling out of the Paris Accords (as I said, I have not read them and do not know the content). In fact, if he holds to his promise and gains a deal that is better I will applaud him. What concerns me is the way we are only framing the issue within “Global Warming” language. Those who disagree with the President point toward melting icecaps. While those who agree with him point toward inconclusive data on humanity’s role in such natural phenomenon. Those who agree with him point out the industrial boom which is looming without industrial regulation. Those who oppose him point out the likely boom in the natural gas industry while staying in. Seriously, is this where the experts spend their time? How about an argument from a more local point of view? I would argue that we are caretakers of the environment and that part of that is seeing that we take care of the local environment.

President Trump seems to want to take heavy industry back to the 1960’s and 1970’s when there was little oversight or care about how companies impacted the environment. As someone who has lived much of my life downstream from Pittsburgh, this rhetoric frightens me. I live in what was the heart of American steel and coal production and I am not eager to go back to the 60’s. Don’t get me wrong, I would have no problem with manufacturing and or industries coming back to this area; but, I want oversight, and a commitment to keeping the environment clean. I see trucks supporting the natural gas industry almost every day and am thankful that this industry is making a positive impact on the local economy. However, I have also seen where these companies left to their own devices forget the impact they have on the environment.

My dad has told me stories of not being able to see the Ohio River from the surrounding hills because of the smog. Now, thankfully one can see for miles from the tops of hills. Currently, I live on a tributary of the Ohio that is still so polluted that few fish live in it (in the 30’s and 40’s it was known for smallmouth bass). Coal mines and inadequate sewage have decimated the life in the creek and it is only within the last decade that the EPA has come in to begin the work of cleaning and restoring the waterway. I see firsthand the difference between regulated and unregulated industry, I regularly see areas still scarred by strip mining, and others where companies were forced to reclaim the land. I have seen the EPA pollution reports on the waters flowing into the Ohio River; and my drinking water comes from the Ohio River! I do not want increased pollution dumped into the river or falling from the air.

Yes, I fully understand the EPA has often overstepped its bounds and been uncritical in its assessments. I understand that there is a massive political lobby funded by environmentalist groups who seem to want to take humanity back to the Stone Age (or in some cases exterminate us). But these groups in no way take away from the fact that we do have a responsibility to be good caretakers for creation. After all, it is not ours to monkey around with. By all means use creation, use the materials, use the natural resources, be creative and let them help humanity; but, please can we be responsible about their use? Can we forcibly give some oversight to those most likely to abuse creation?

This rant is not about global warming or rising sea levels, that is media hype. This is basic stewardship of creation. When we make issues like the Paris Accords about such controversial science as climate change and Polar melt, we miss the point. These Accords are about making sure that corporations do everything in their power to be faithful caretakers of the environment because their profit has a direct impact on those of us who live downstream. President Trump rightly said that his responsibility was Pittsburgh not Paris. His responsibility is to make sure that those of us who live downstream from Pittsburgh have clean, safe drinking water. His responsibility is to make sure that corporations and individuals are good caretakers of the environment. Mr. President go to the table and strike a better deal, a deal which will give my children clean drinking water downstream from Pittsburgh!

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