Sunday, April 02, 2006

Another exchange with my childhood buddy – who when it comes to politics happens to be a true right-wing nut....

He and I grew up in Springsteen country: central NJ, near the shore. I went ahead and emailed him this blurb:
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- New Yorkers and Californians breathe the dirtiest air in the nation and face higher cancer risks than the rest of the nation, according to the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. New Yorkers' risk of developing cancer from air toxins is estimated to be 68 residents per million. In California, the risk is 66 residents per million. The national average is 41.5 per million, according to the report, which was released in February and based on emissions of 177 chemicals in 1999, the most recent data available.

Oregon, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey had the third, fourth and fifth worst air in the nation, respectively, the EPA said. Rural residents of Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana breathed the cleanest air.
I part-in-jest pointed out that New Jersey had the 45th worst air of 50 states. He wrote back:
If you want to solidly make your point, w/o any presumptions, you have to show me that these quoted air toxin rates PRESENT AN UNREASONABLE AND IMMINENT MEDICAL RISK TO ANYONE THAT BREATHES THEM. Putting it another way, okay, New Jersey's air is dirtier than most others, BUT in reality ---- how much of a danger is this to me? Granted, breathing the Wyoming air would be better, but what is the added measure of risk that I taking by breathing New Jersey air? And don't give me that you are "twice as likely to develop lung cancer". No, I don't want to hear that. For example, I could buy two lotto tickets as opposed to your one ticket --- but can it be said that I have any reasonable expectation of winning the lottery because i have double your chances? In either scenario, the odds of winning are astronomical.
Gads, and then the inane emailing back and forth got started. Assuming that judging from the data in the news blurb, NJ likely came in somewhere around 60 vs. the national average of 41.5, which would put NJ's cancer rate at 50% higher than national average, my friend apparently didn't want to hear such numbers or calculations. His point is 40, 60, 80, 100 -- what's the difference when it comes to per million?! He believes it's all just sweating insignificant details.

Here's my reply:

Never mind. Having 45th out of 50th dirtiest air is not a concern, and what you're angling for is NJ air could just be slightly less pristine than Wyoming's, separated by milli-parts re pollutants (insignificant). Whatever.

I simply sent a fact/report that NJ had the 5th worst air. You can quibble and make the case that it means nothing if it's not an UNREASONABLE AND IMMINENT MEDICAL RISK. Moronic. You don't get lung cancer from smoking one cigarette either (duh), it's a cumulative effect. Over many years. Same re air, the 5th dirtiest air vs. Wyoming's will have an effect over time. They already have such data on kids in cities re asthma vs. non-dirty-city-air kids (control group).

Also, what would satisfy you as warranting a "medical risk", what figure? You have no clue, like most people have no clue when they say "just write it off" re taxes. It's a red herring. In our water, they have parts-per-billion for contaminants that are deemed acceptable, but many scientists point to these figures being too high as is. Same with RDA and vitamins, being too low. It's all very slippery -- but that's my point re inexact and red herring. Your stance should be 5th out of 50 is bad, now what we can do that's feasible to get it lower, vs. this apathetic "ahh, 5th ain't so bad, could be worse!!" It's similar to global warming where that scientist [Hansen] on 60 Minutes said we need to do things NOW to avert any tipping-point disaster (tipping point meaning if it's not done now than it will be too late to do something later -- when you've finally decided the science is overwhelming). Apathy and "don't worry be happy" is the true danger we face right now.
Regarding the environment, I find the degree of urgency and believed need for swift change to be the big difference between the right and left. Many on the right sound like my buddy, as if all of this science stuff is being blown way out of proportion and we should just take a couple of deep breaths (of the polluted air) and just calm down. They accuse us of being chicken littles and nervous nellys, running around with hands in the air, attempting to discredit anything we have to say on the subject by portraying us as unreasonable, exaggerating wackos or slacker hippies who all belong to Greenpeace (their favorite target).

Meanwhile, most of the American population believes the environment is a "top priority" issue, with the percentage growing from 39% to 57% in just the past three years. Frankly, let the right-wing continue to disparage and dismiss this issue as "loony"; it will, or should, allow more time for the dizzy Dems to get their act together and embrace this issue as one to put front-and-center and drive home that they care about clean air, clean water, less intense hurricanes, less addiction to oil, etc.

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