The disastrous ice storm should have taught us some mportant lessons that go way beyond simply making sure we have plenty of candles and canned goods on the shelf for future emergencies. For while nature is fully capable of dealing us weather catastrophes on her own, with this storm she had considerable help from humankind. Human-caused changes to our environment undoubtedly made this disaster far worse than it needed to be.
This is important to keep in mind during the coming year as the Senate decides whether or not to ratify even the very modest greenhouse gas reduction targets agreed on at last December’s Kyoto convention on global warming. When you hear the resounding claims from industry that global warming is a myth, remember the shelters, carrying water and huddling around a wood stove by candlelight.
Beyond global warming, our pollution of the air contributed considerably to the disaster by badly damaging trees all over the state with acid rain and other airborne pollutants. It has been pointed out on these pages that the species of trees most badly damaged by the ice storm were maples, ash and aspens. Not coincidentally, these were the species of trees exhibiting the worst air pollution damage long before the storm struck. To anyone paying attention, their terrible condition has been apparent for some time.
It is the greed of our economic system that bears a large share of the blame for bringing us the global warming and air pollution that intensified the effects of this storm. And then it was the greed of our economic system that prolonged the disaster in places, as in Washington County with the woodchip power plant fiasco in Jonesboro. Is there, perhaps, a better way we can organize society? Paul K. Donahue Machias