Years ago, when I was a working for United Press International, I was sent to cover the first Spanish Grand Prix. I knew little about auto racing so called an editor in London who filled me in. "It's a big contradiction," he said. "The cars are supposed to go fast as they can, and the rules are to slow them down."
That always seemed a good description of American capitalism. Business' prime directive is to make as much money as possible. So government has to make rules to protect the public interest that might cost businesses a few dollars.
Because their money is at stake, corporate interests have always exerted inordinate influence over government. But things have gotten dangerously out of control. Not only do they dominate the Bush administration, but the lying and self-interested dealing are at a level we've only read about in history books. It's gotten worse at the state level, too.
No issue illustrates that better than the way oil, business and utility interests are fighting efforts to clean the air and reduce energy consumption as ways to slow the dangers of global warming. As environmental writer Sue Sturgis makes outrageously clear this week, a barrage of money has obfuscated a consensus agreement within the scientific community--that human activity (i.e. fossil fuels) has pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, and the result is higher temperatures, melting glaciers and rising seas. Can exact predictions be made about what's going to happen when involving such a complex, global phenomenon? Of course not. But if that's what we're waiting for, the fate of the Outer Banks (and other catastrophic results) will be sealed before we bother to do anything about it.
Call your legislators and urge passage of S.B. 1134 and H.B. 1191, which address global warming issues. Check our list on page 26 of organizations offering ways you can learn about global warming and reduce energy consumption. And let's get some rules that will slow this process down.
A reminder that readers have a couple of good opportunities to get involved in upcoming issues of the Independent. We're still accepting recommendations for the Indies Arts Awards, and you still have a week to send us short stories about your summer flings for our upcoming Summer Guide. Don't worry, we don't have to print your name.