Government regulation and conscience

Government regulation and conscience


You remember how for decades the tobacco mega-industry ran rough-shod over the medical profession, government health offices, cancer sufferers and anyone else who objected. Their product tasted good like (they meant “as”) a cigarette should. One company offered a coupon on the back of the pack, making me wonder how many coupons were needed to get a coffin. But they used a clever device. Long after 1964, when the surgeon general, without fear of lawsuit, first proclaimed the harm known to be done after research on many levels, cigarettes used a tricky subterfuge. They stated that we did not know whether smoking caused any physical harm. Studies continued to multiply, concluding that we did know, concluding that we had done more than enough investigation to know definitively that cigarettes kill. But the companies kept replying that more research was needed as they continued to advertise their lethal product.

There is another mega-industry using the same scam. It claims we do not know with certainty whether human activity is changing the earth’s climate to our detriment. Even though hundreds of studies have independently verified the harm of carbon-based fuels, they claim more studies have to be done. Sand is thrown into the gears. Dust is hurled into the air. A carney’s shell game is their way of discussing this life or death matter. Despite something like 95 percent of the world’s scientists concurring, those with the vested interests repeat the refrain that we do not yet know for sure, so we may proceed without slackening our burning of fossil fuels, spewing carbon particulate into the air. We are to disregard the rising of the seas, something easily verified. We are to believe that sea rise is being caused naturally, as it has occasionally been for millennia, despite evidence that never has it been anywhere as sudden or as much as now, since the industrial revolution.

It reminds me of the dead parrot sketch of Monty Python. An unusually dull customer returns to the pet store claiming he was sold a parrot that already had gone to meet its maker, that had shuffled off its mortal coil. The giddy clerk simply kept denying the obvious. The customer had the cadaver, demonstrating that it indeed had passed. They were at impasse because someone stood to lose money. Big tobacco did lose tens of millions after it was brought into compliance, even though nearly any store except one conscientious drug-store chain today will have the product, at several times the price of 1964, for anyone not a minor. Severely constrained, kept from TV advertising, socially unpopular, Big Tobacco still makes billions as it continues to sell abroad where no such obstacles hinder it. It’s not starving at home, either.

So the solution is to see who stands to lose if the public is finally won over to cutting back on burning carbon fuels, perhaps by subsidizing with tax dollars electric cars or solar powered or wind-driven generators. Why, that would be Big Oil, Big Gas and Big Coal. You know, the credible folks who run those commercials with the layered diagrams of subterranean levels, suggesting that drinking water is far above the carbon-based fuels. If I worked for or invested in a carbon burning company, I would not want any critic to come along and upset the applecart. It would matter little if the critic was invoking public health claims. Money talks. Public health mattered little to the tobacco titans. They too stood to lose big, but conscience did not carry the day. Government regulation did. And now we understand why such powerful corporate conglomerates make Big Government public enemy number one. Demonize the bothersome critic standing between me and big money and I can convince consumers and voters to emasculate it.

Greed is so powerful that even if Pope Francis calls for conscientious people of all faiths to assume moral responsibility for the environment, vested interests will shamelessly try to discredit him the way Turkish government figures at the highest levels recently tried to urge the world to discredit him when he observed the 100th anniversary of the massacre of Armenian citizens. In controversies like this, we begin to see whether one’s loyalties lie with God or mammon.

Scientific evidence has firmly established that the climate is changing and the temperature is rising. The change is resulting from profit-motivated human fouling of the environment.