Column Date 2009-10-04

Death by sulfur hexafluoride and its buddies

If you think the health care debate has been vicious, mean-spirited and filled with lies, just wait 'til we get to global warming.

For a start, lots of big corporations, as well as many right-wing politicians, keep repeating the mantra that industrial pollution has nothing to do with global warming.

Come, let us reason together:

Even if you're convinced that global warming is an insidious liberal plot and the planet will eventually heal itself, do you really think that pumping thousands of tons of chemicals into the earth's atmosphere is a good idea?

Do you believe that three hundred million American men, women and children should be breathing in a mixture of
sulfur hexafluoride, hydro-fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane every day?

Neither do I.

And neither does the U.S. government.

In a blunt message, the Environmental Protection Agency recently declared all those gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare.

Our government has come to the unequivocal conclusion that we 're killing ourselves with our own industrial pollution.

Any rational society would stop this madness immediately.

However, these days we certainly don't qualify as rational (e.g. the fundamentalists who are convinced that science is a tool of the devil*, the terminally confused who want the government to keep its hands off Medicare, the fearful who believe the world will end next week, etc.).

So before we start a contentious global warming debate about how quickly the Ross Ice Shelf is melting, let's talk about our kids and grandkids.

The question is, are there enough angry, fed-up voters out there who will stand up and push our government and our big corporations to stop pumping chemicals into the air our children breathe?

Or will we all just shrug our shoulders and yawn, as we watch Tom DeLay (still under indictment, by the way) cha-cha his way across our 50" wide TV screens?

Albert Einstein, unfortunately, had it right decades ago.

"Insanity," he said, "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

*They should realize that science can improve people's lives. For example, this year's IgNobel prize for Chemistry went to Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano of Universidad Nacional Autonoma in Mexico for creating diamonds from tequila.

(c) 2009 Peter Tannen