The following letter appeared in the 9/19/19 edition of THE GAZETTE.
To the editor:
In adopting 16 year-old Greta Thunberg as the inspiration for the Climate Strike this Friday, activists have accepted the conclusion of Ms. Thunberg while conveniently ignoring the rest of her message. Climate change is real. The question is what each of us is doing to solve the problem.
Ms. Thunberg herself is a vegan, believing that meat and dairy are significant causes of global warming. Not only does she not fly, she convinced her mother to stop flying. Her mother is a renowned opera singer, and not flying has meant that her mother has sacrificed both financially and professionally.
By contrast, here in Croton we drive SUVs to the ice cream shop in order to plan a demonstration. We will travel to a politician’s office in Peekskill and march around waving posters, demanding that somebody “do something.” We are told that a “climate emergency” must be declared since the world only has 11 years left until the problem is unfixable and we will be headed for extinction as a species.
After stomping our feet and yelling at Senator Schumer, we will return to Croton for some ice cream and start planning to fly the band to Disney World.
Whatever happened to schools and parents teaching personal responsibility? Say what you will about Ms. Thunberg, the fact remains that she practices what she preaches. She and her family have made changes negatively impacting their personal quality of life in order to promote what they see as the greater good. You may disagree with what Ms. Thunberg says, but you have to respect her integrity.
Some of us are old enough to remember when high schools taught science, including the rudiments of thermodynamics. But anyone with a pulse knows that meat and dairy is a contributor to climate change. While there is argument for at least some protein in our diet, ice cream is a completely frivolous item. Even Ben & Jerry’s acknowledges that ice cream contributes to global warming. Earlier this year, scientists at the University of Manchester said that ice cream accounted for 3.8 percent of food sector energy consumption in the UK and 1.8 percent of greenhouse gases.
If a child shall lead us, then at least the child should not be licking an ice cream cone and planning a trip to Disney World.
Croton is sufficiently wealthy that the usual answer is to throw money at the problem and not only feel guilt-free but indeed to feel morally superior. The ultimate example of this is the famed Sustainable Westchester electric plan which most Croton households subscribe to (since it is mandatory for all except those who specifically demand to opt-out). We give a fraction of a penny to a company which owns a hydroelectric plant (leaving aside the environmental damage done by dams) and brag that we in our four bedroom houses with blasting AC and three television sets and are not only carbon neutral but are saving money in the process: guilt-free kilowatts, all you can eat.
This is obviously nonsense, but that is a story for another day. Let us assume for the moment that by paying some factory owner in China to put in a smokestack scrubber (or at least tell us they installed a scrubber) we somehow expiate our sins of consumption: is this the lesson to teach the next generation? That Croton’s children are so privileged that they can jet off to Disney World while climate change melts the icecaps and causes famines and war in Syria? And all they have to do is buy a cheap carbon offset and march in Peekskill demanding that someone else “do something” to save the planet?
The reality is that the United States creates a large amount of greenhouse gases. Much of the damage we do is not even reflected in the US numbers since we have off-shored manufacturing and chemical production to foreign countries and so their numbers look worse, ours look better, and their citizens suffer the consequences while we reap the benefits of cheap electronics filled with toxic metals made in cities choked with smog from factory emissions.
Senator Schumer is not forcing you to live a profligate lifestyle, nor is President Trump. There is no government requirement for you to drive a huge SUV, eat ice cream, or fly to Disney World. These are choices each of us make, and we should own those choices. Throwing a tantrum outside a politician’s office may be emotionally satisfying but it does not save a single polar bear. If you believe that the planet is facing an existential crisis, then at very least you could give up your vanilla fudge with sprinkles.
Not all of us are going to become vegan, and not all of us are going to stop flying on business and sacrifice our career advancement. Not all of us can be Greta Thunberg. All of us can start to reconcile our pious principles with our daily actions.
--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson