Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Data Battle

"War has erupted between clean-air activists and state leaders, with the battleground being the data driving decisions about Utah's air quality"  Do not be mistaken, the numbers do matter.  To solve any problem, we first need to identify the major causes.  The data helps us do this.  However, this war of numbers does confuse the issue, and probably on purpose.  The Governor would love us to spend all of our energies engaging him over whether or not his data is accurate or fair or meaningful, but this isn’t the real war. 

First, we can slice the pie into however many pieces we want, but in the end, the pie is gone.  Even if an 11% contribution from industry were credible, we first demand to see the current mess cleaned up, then we can discuss expansion of industry.

But instead of that reasonable approach, Governor Herbert would like us to keep fighting over data from now until spring because as an added benefit, framing the “war” this way, makes environmental groups look anti-business.  When in doubt the public will prefer the lower, less-concerning numbers of the state and conclude that the real motive of environmental groups must be to shut down industry.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with industry.  I have a problem with industry poisoning our airshed, and I think whatever the true pollution figures, industry in our bowl-shaped valley should pride itself on taking leadership in best environmental practice.  Why accept mediocrity? 

And that takes us to the final point.  Why should industry, or anyone else, clean up their act, even if it costs more?  Because conservation is a virtue in and of itself, and wastefulness is shameful no matter how richly blessed we are.  Here lies the penultimate battle.  

Recently, I was driving my husband’s Nissan Leaf up I-15 in medium traffic.  I was driving 68 mph and being tailgated by an enormous 4X4 diesel Ford pick-up truck.  The truck passed on my left, cut in front of me, put on the breaks, then floored the accelerator.  In one loud roar, that truck spewed a black cloud of exhaust big enough to lose my Leaf in. 

Clearly this “gentleman” (I have other words I would prefer to use, but probably they wouldn’t make it past any browser filters), was trying to make some kind of point about how stupid I was for driving an electric vehicle.  This man wants it to remain socially acceptable to pollute, just for the sake of polluting, and my electric vehicle represents a challenge to that way of thinking.

The real war isn’t in determining how much of a percent that diesel 4X4 contributes to the problem.  We fight the real war in convincing that truck’s driver that senseless polluting and waste will no longer be tolerated in our society.  As long as people carelessly and willfully pollute, simply because they can, industry will exploit that apathy for profit and to our detriment.  We may battle the Governor and his policies, but the driver of that truck elected the Governor.

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