Speaking honestly about climate change
Whenever I listen to debates about climate change, I am reminded of a New Yorker cartoon in which a scientist in his lab holds up a plastic straw in jubilation and shouts, "I've invented the plastic straw! It's so durable that, from now on, every man, woman, and child will only need a single straw for their lifetime!"
The average American's ecological footprint (the area of land required to sustain consumption and waste) is about 25 acres – roughly five times the global average. According to most environmentalists, avoiding the worst-case scenarios when it comes to climate change requires a dramatic reduction of personal and corporate consumption. The changes needed range from overhauling mass transit systems and barring mountain top removal to boiling water that makes one cup of tea instead of eight. They say that even turning off the TV when you leave the house makes a difference.
However, once the conversation deepens, the primary need to "change systems" is inevitably discussed. What does that mean when it comes to things like television, food, and water usage? Are Americans, by and large, ready to let corporations, governments, or some other powerful entity tell them how much electricity they can use and when? Would they be willing to let go of their swimming pools and landscaped lawns? What would happen if they were forced to change under the threat of legal and criminal punishment? Who will make those decisions? How will they be made? What needs to happen and is it worth curtailing civil liberties to attain it? Sadly, these are the conversations that I rarely hear in public discourse.
I would not accuse environmentalists of lying or promoting false narratives about what it means to restructure society towards sustainability, but I do think they need to do a better job of explaining the details and working out solutions that alleviate people's fears. Concerns over eco-fascism are real and should be taken seriously.
GEORGE CASSIDY PAYNE, ROCHESTER
Payne is a SUNY Adjunct Professor of Philosophy.
What will those young folk out in the car-burbs do? Practically every activity they undertake requires engaging in the most prolific contribution to carbon dioxide emissions (ie: use of the automobile).
When Asia and Africa join the 100-year-old experiment with car dependence, global temperatures will really spike.
Culture change is necessary to save the planet. Community designs and transportation are key ingredients to the change.
MIKE HENRY, ROCHESTER
"Pay me now or pay me more later." We need to heed this wisdom in addressing climate change, as we do when we change car oil to avoid costly engine failures.
CITY's September 25 article cited a United Nations scientific panel finding that we need to slash global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to limit warming to an already dangerous 1.5ºC. Failure to make these cuts will bring disastrous financial, human, and ecosystem costs in our lifetimes.
Can we make such a big change in only 11 years? Remember, we put people on the moon in less than a decade. And other countries are already ahead of us in reducing emissions. (China added 78,000 electric city buses in 2018; the U.S. added 300.)
Shrinking your personal carbon footprint is helpful, but more importantly we need to help groups like Citizens' Climate Lobby convince our elected representatives of both parties to implement immediate and significant climate actions.
PETER COLLINGE, HENRIETTA
Collinge is a member of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, Rochester Chapter.
About that $50 million at the RCSD . . .
In CITY's September 23 article, "RCSD Financial Crisis Builds," reporter Tim Macaluso asked the question, "Why did the district recently borrow $50 million from the city and what was that money for?"
That question is a separate topic altogether from that of the 2018-19 shortfall, which Superintendent Terry Dade has said "isn't more than $30 million," and the answer is very straightforward.
For many years now, the city has distributed $119.1 million to public schools, known as the maintenance of effort (MOE), in five incremental payments of $20 million and one payment of $19.1 million roughly every two months. Leading up to the current fiscal year that began July 1, however, the payment schedule was altered so that the district would not receive a payment until October.
The Board of Education knew of the change while it was in the process of crafting the 2019-20 budget, and planned accordingly. Since the district cannot accelerate other revenue streams, like state and federal aid, we had no alternative but to request a Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) through the city. As a result of the delayed payment from the city, the district anticipates incurring additional interest expenses of roughly $1 million.
To clarify another point in that article, the money was borrowed – not from the city – but rather through the city. Being fiscally dependent, all the district's borrowing is done in conjunction with the city's bonding schedule, whether it is capital improvement borrowing or a RAN.
One final note: the Audit Committee meets quarterly and the Finance Committee meets monthly.
WILLA POWELL, ROCHESTER
Powell is a commissioner of the Rochester Board of Education and chair of its Finance Committee.
State ban on flavored e-cigs is shortsighted
I'm a middle-aged man who smoked cigarettes for most of his adult life. Two years ago, I switched to menthol-flavored vaping, and I haven't smoked a cigarette since. New York state's ban on lawfully-made flavored vape products, of which menthol was recently added, will hurt people like me.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has cited spikes in teenagers using vaping products that mimic candies, fruits, and desserts. I can support an effort to prevent young people from taking up vaping, but if all lawfully-made flavored vape products are banned, I will turn back to cigarettes. I suspect more young people will try cigarettes, too. In fact, I'm sure the tobacco companies will love this ban.
Even worse, the ban will have the opposite of its intended effect. It will put more people, especially young people, in danger. They will turn to underground and black market vape products, which are the suspected culprits in the much-publicized health problems of late. No regulated vape products have been tied to these health problems. If our lawmakers want to do something truly useful, they should crack down on underground and black market vape products.
Public opinion has turned against vaping not because of any scientific evidence but because of rumor and fear mongering. The long-term health effects of vaping have yet to be determined, but it's reasonable to believe vaping is better than smoking, which is a proven health hazard. A knee-jerk reaction to placate public opinion will score our politicians some short-term political points, but ultimately it will do more harm than good. Write Gov. Cuomo and your state representatives and urge them to rethink the ban.
JEFF MINERD, ROCHESTER