Paul Hampton

That day we cleared up the climate change conspiracy

A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from pollutants walks past office buildings shrouded with pollution haze in Beijing, the capital of China, in December 2015.
A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from pollutants walks past office buildings shrouded with pollution haze in Beijing, the capital of China, in December 2015. AP

One day this week I was listening to NPR when I learned about sea turtles.

Not the kind we’re familiar with on the Coast. NPR’s reporter was traveling with President Donald Trump in Beijing. These were Chinese sea turtles, the human kind. That’s the name, “haigui,” parents give their children who with their blessings travel overseas to places like the United States. I suppose it’s because their haigui, like the sea turtles after their “lost years” of adolescence at sea, will eventually return home. Like the sea turtle NPR interviewed. He returned home to start a career after studying for three years in the United States.

He came away with the impression that China had many advantages over the U.S. He even saw an advantage to China’s authoritarian rule. But, he had to admit, the United States was far ahead of China when it comes to — the sky.

“So I flew into JFK,” he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “And I was just looking at the sky and thinking — wow, the sky is blue. Wow, the clouds are white.”

“Because it’s not always that way,” Inskeep said.

“Because it’s almost never like that in China because of the pollution,” replied the young man.

Imagine living in a world where when you drive along the beach the sky isn’t such a brilliant shade of blue.

But there are too many among us who would gladly trade that blue sky, those white clouds for a pile of greenbacks.

Like the Koch brothers and their climate-change denying supporters.

The denier would have me believe that climate change is a vast global conspiracy. Just what the scientists are conspiring against is as obscure as a sunset in, well, China.

“It’s all about power,” they say. And I have to agree.

The Koch brothers’ very prosperity depends on them being able to persuade me and you that we can in fact burn fossil fuels with impunity. And by the way, not even the Chinese believe that.

But the Koch brothers are willing to foul our political system with an untold (because they aren’t telling) amount of money to have it their way. No EPA. No science. No rules.

Don’t worry, they would have you believe, big business will behave.

Except, they won’t. At least if history is any indication.

When I was young, St. Louis was the only city I knew. And I could tell when we were getting close to that city because my eyes would burn.

Rules and regulations caused St. Louis to clean up its act. I read a few years ago that air quality control funding had been slashed and the air again was again veering toward unhealthy.

It’s tough for some people to get a handle on climate change, a change that occurs at an almost imperceptible pace. It’s easy to write a Letter to the Editor every time the temperature dips below freezing.

And it’s hard to imagine looking up and marveling at the beautiful gray smog. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you surely wouldn’t want skies the color of China.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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