I’m really eff’ing cranky right now.
Every six months I go see my psychiatrist, who asks me if I want more antidepressants, and every six months I tell her no. When I was there a few weeks ago, my answer was the same. I don’t believe my bad mood is a biological issue, but rather circumstantial. Not that I’m denying being one of those cursed artistic personalities, with a brain as sensitive as it is curious, acting like a seismograph strapped onto the head of a woodpecker. No, that’s not right. A sea sponge covered with taste buds? No . . .
“Lemme just get more exercise,” I tell her, winding down our appointment. She asks me if there’s anything else.
Almost as an afterthought I say, “It’s been really hard since the election.” And then out of nowhere, tears well up in my eyes. I struggle to elaborate, but she remains quiet. “Wow, I didn’t expect this,” I say, reaching for a Kleenex.
“You’re not alone,” she tells me. “Everyone’s affected. All of my patients. I’m affected, too.”
Not that she’s suggesting lithium. That would imply that I get the manic highs of bipolar people. Instead it’s just a rotten mood interjected with the occasional sigh of relief when one of Trump’s stupid bills or Executive Orders is shot down. It looks a little like this:
- Trump announces his Muslim Travel Ban. It’s discriminatory, and doesn’t address the problem. In fact, it will probably make terrorism worse. Sh*t. This is our new President.
- Tons of people protest, and his order is deemed unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit court in Washington State. YEAH!! Take THAT, motherfu**ah!!!
- Trump signs a revised ban, despite studies that say it won’t cut down on terrorism. Grrrrrrr . . .
- A judge in Hawaii puts a stay on that one as well. The judge’s written decision includes hilarious quotes and tweets from Trump to make his point. HAHAHA!!
- Paul Ryan cobbles together a crap healthcare reform bill for Trump that will leave 24 million people without insurance, and cut taxes for the rich. GREAT, so much for my inexpensive health insurance, made possible by Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
- While having a beer at a local bar after a day of skiing in Idaho, I get a Twitter notice that Ryan had to pull the bill because not only all Democrats but 36 Republicans said they’re voting against it. While Trump was “playing trucker” on the White House lawn. AWESOME!!!
I don’t even care that the ski conditions were super icy that day and I bonked my head in a fall that afternoon. Because this was Trump’s FIRST big vote — and thousands of people called out their representatives in town halls around the country — and the bill failed, bitches.
(I was indeed wearing a helmet; I’ve been so accident-prone lately I should probably wear one to wash the dishes. This is why I need health insurance, high-deductible or not.)
- A few days later, when I’m back home in NYC, Trump issues a new Executive Order: one that rolls back Obama’s climate policies by shutting down the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). WTF??? Really??? FYI, last year, the CPP was temporarily frozen by the Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court while they still had a 5-4 majority (i.e., a few days before Scalia died in February), and it’s been on hold ever since, waiting for the state and industry challenges to be resolved.
(By the way, the reason the Court temporarily froze the CPP was that they themselves had determined in 2005 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs) qualified as “pollutants” . . . which gave the EPA authority to regulate GHGs from power plants under the Clean Air Act. Bear with me as I explain . . .
W. dawdled over this shift, but President Obama hopped on it when he took office and made sure new EPA regulations were put into place. Which were numerous, but not enough to slow climate change — and Obama knows how freakin’ dangerous climate change is.
No challenge poses a greater threat to our future, and the future generations, than the changing climate.
— Barack Obama
Unlike our current Idiot-in-Charge, he knows there is a social cost to carbon. [This page on the EPA website explains what that is; hurry before Pruitt finds it and takes it down.]* So Obama created the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act, with new regulations “to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. If enacted, they would have shut down hundreds of those plants, frozen construction of future plants and replaced them with . . . renewable energy sources.” [New York Times quote; my italics.] [Obama, at least publicly, was okay with fracking for natural gas, but that’s another story.]
*[Update: Holy crap, they took it down!! Click that link and see!]
So, all those coal plants that closed in Kentucky, and put miners and their families out of work and into Trump’s breast pocket? Those closings WEREN’T due to the Clean Power Plan. They were a natural progression of events that have put good, hardworking people and their families in need of a living. Black lung disease? They’ll take it.
But when things change, some people are sadly but inevitably left behind. The blacksmiths and horseshoers of the old days were also made obsolete, but we didn’t put a freeze on making automobiles. Heck, I worked at a bookstore in the ’80s; how many of those jobs are left? But I’m a “white” [I hate that word], reasonably educated, stupidly lucky human [even in my bad mood]. My grandfather was an immigrant ironworker, but he was able to send my Dad to MIT to become an electrical engineer in the Defense industry. Come to think of it, my Dad got laid off when he was only 55, when the Cold War ended and defense budgets were significantly cut . . . but he’s a smart guy and somehow he’d saved enough for him and my Mom to retire. [My Mom’s not really retired — she still picks up after my Dad.]
I hate that so many people struggle — my internal seismograph sees a lot, here and elsewhere. But Trump and his bazillionaire posse couldn’t care less about the working class and the distribution of wealth if they were Russian oligarchs fighting off the plebes with a silver spoon. [And it’s looking like they are.]
There is a social cost to carbon. It even has an acronym [SC-CO2], so don’t hate.
Not surprisingly, coal-fired power companies balked at the Clean Power Plan [duh], and about half the U.S. states said they didn’t want to comply with it, and all of the above entities petitioned the Supreme Court to stop it. Which is why Trump’s EPA-hating head-of-the-EPA Scott Pruitt Sunday morning told a wonderfully confrontational Chris Wallace on Fox News that they’re pulling the CPP due to “a lack of commitment to state partnership.”
A great article in the Washington Post from last year explains all of the above and more, and claims the real climate challenge is “making a low-carbon future cheap and easy” — and I quite agree.)
But back to my political mood swings. At this point I’m on an emotional low, right? Then I remember what my friend who works on climate at the U.N. told me back in November: that they’d built in multilayered protections against Trump backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Part of her job this past year has been getting state governors on board with those climate agreements. Rather than pasting our text conversation here, like I did with my friend in the White House, I’ll just condense her thoughts on the Executive Order.
“By all means, his EO sucks and he is not good for climate . . . but enviro and energy are highly decentralized . . . so it will be harder for him to undo [the CPP] than something like immigration, which is centralized. A lot is already underway.”
She tells me to look to Republican states that are some of the largest renewable energy producers. And to look at coal plant figures — how many have already closed, how much it’ll cost to restart them. “Economics are gonna drive a lot, and they’re not on his side.” Booyah, Scott Pruitt! (Mood improves.)
Speaking of my Dad, I call him to check in. He picks up.
“Hi, Dad. Whatcha up to?”
“Not much. Getting ready to spray the weeds on the lawn.”
“Oh. What are you spraying it with?”
“It’s called Spurge Power.”
“Yup. Gotta be able to play bocce.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Good, good. I start my chemo tomorrow at USC.”
“Great. How long will it take?”
“I mean, how long does each treatment take?”
“Well, they put a catheter up the urethra and fill the bladder with . . . I forget the name of the drug . . . and after an hour, I pee it out. I had the biopsy done on my prostate yesterday, so I’ll find out next week how that’s doing.”
We catch up a bit on my trip to Idaho to visit my brother and one-year-old nephew, and to do the aforementioned skiing. And then he says, “Well, I gotta go spray the lawn before it gets too hot.”
“Okay. Are you wearing a mask?”
“Yep, got the mask right here.”
“Okay, good. Tell Mom to call me whenever.”
“Okay. Love you.”
Did everybody get that? My Dad has prostate cancer (diagnosed a few years ago) and bladder cancer (diagnosed this summer), and he’s spraying the lawn with carcinogenic chemicals.
And did I mention that besides Trump’s EO to roll back Obama’s climate policies, he’s cutting the EPA’s budget by 31%? Does anyone know why the EPA was created?
Because a demure female biologist-slash-wonderwoman named Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring (published a year and a half before she died of breast cancer in 1964) that stopped the deadly use of DDT and other chemicals by explaining the truth about toxic herbicides and pesticides — and the public woke up. Her book jump-started the environmental movement in the U.S., and six years later the EPA was formed “as a buffer against our own handiwork,” in the words of Carson’s biographer, Linda Lear. I’ve been reading Silent Spring — it’s beautiful and frightening.
Which is why I Googled “Spurge Power danger” when I got off the phone with my Dad. One of the things that came up was an article on the Southern Living Blog titled, “At last! An easy way to kill violets.” Okaay.
I had to Google “Spurge Power caution” to get the Safety Data Sheet. My takeaway from it is that MCPA (that’s the first thing listed in the little dialogue bubble on the label up there) is a class 2B carcinogen — the category for “limited evidence” of carcinogenicity in humans. But the company still recommends that you “wash hands thoroughly before eating, drinking, using tobacco, applying cosmetics or using the toilet — may be fatal if swallowed and enters airways.” They advise keeping it away from children. Also, it’s “very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects,” so “avoid release to the environement [sic].”
Um, first of all . . . avoid release to the environment?? How does one do that with a weed spray? Also, please tell me somebody at Spurge Power Central knows how to spell “environment.”
And if this is what regulation looks like, we’re really in trouble now. On Friday, Scott Pruitt’s first official act as head of the EPA was to reject the recommendation (made by EPA scientists) that an insecticide called chlorpyrifos should be banned based on its harmfulness to children and farm workers. It was removed from most household use in 2000, but I guess Pruitt figured it’s okay to spray where you grow those crazy crops like apples and almonds.
Pruitt has experience with many an environmental faux pas as the Attorney General and, before that, as a Republican Senator of Oklahoma — the state that’s become the new California, with its sudden tendency toward some pretty serious earthquakes. They’ve gotten that way by fracking the hell out of their landscape, which Pruitt of course helped along.
Wanna know what I know about chlorpyrifos, the insecticide he doesn’t want to ban? It’s “moderately toxic” to humans, and exposure has been linked to neurological effects, persistent developmental disorders and autoimmune disorders. Exposure during pregnancy retards the mental development of children.
Wanna know how it works? Rachel Carson explained it in her book back in 1962. (Pages 28-29 of the current edition, if you’re reading this, Pruitt.) It attacks the nervous system of insects by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. (Thank goddess for cut & paste, with that doozy of a word.)
Now, normally, impulses pass from nerve to nerve — in both insects and mammals — with the aid of a “chemical transmitter” called acetylcholine (we’ll nickname it “Nervous Nellie”), which quickly disappears after it does its duty. The body has a protective enzyme called cholinesterase (nickname: “Ms. Pacman”) at hand to destroy the acetylcholine (Nervous Nellie). If there’s no Pacman to destroy Nellie, “impulses continue to flash across the bridge from nerve to nerve. . . . The movements of the whole body become uncoordinated; tremors, muscular spasms, convulsions, and death quickly result.” Chlorpyrifos zaps Ms. Pacman, so Nervous Nellie keeps firing . . . until you die. That’s how it works.
With repeated exposure, farm workers — and whoever they touch — can be at the brink of acute poisoning, and get pushed over that brink by a very small additional exposure. Think about this when you’re adding a non-organic lemon twist to your cocktail.
THIS is what Pruitt doesn’t want to ban. (SUCKY MOOD.)
I’m mixing climate change with toxin regulation, I know. Sorry. What can I say, the EPA does a lot. But if the Supreme Court has the idealogical makeup to reverse its categorizing GHGs as pollutants, and takes it out of the EPA’s hands, who in our government is gonna look after climate change?
Our brains instinctually prioritize the URGENT over the IMPORTANT. “Urgent” is eating. Staying safe and protected. If we don’t have those areas covered, we can’t focus on merely “important” things like not burning up our atmosphere and acidifying our oceans, the latter thereby wrecking the food chain from literally the bottom up.
Here’s a bit of hope. I just learned that within weeks of Pearl Harbor being bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, American automobile manufacturers STOPPED making cars. Despite 300 million cars being made in 1941, auto factories were completely converted to military-only production of arms, munitions, trucks, tanks, and planes. The average Ford car had 15,000 parts. The B-24 bomber had 1,550,000. One rolled off the line every 63 minutes. Civilian cars weren’t manufactured again until 1945.
Doesn’t it sound like we could switch over to clean power if we put our minds to it??
Let’s do it! Let’s tackle it! Mood: ELEVATE!!! Also,
- More and more evidence is surfacing that not only did Russia influence the election, but that more and more people on Trump’s team were in communication with the Russians — from his hawk-nosed national security advisor Mike Flynn (so guilty he’s asking for immunity in order to testify) to Trump’s boyishly innocent-looking multi-millionaire son-in-law. YOU’RE GOIN’ DOWN, SUCKAS!!
- BUT the public hearing of the Intelligence Committee on Russia was cancelled on Friday by Trump-protecting Republican Senator Devin Nunes. HEY, can I have, like, A DAY to feel okay?
And by the way, the Russia Problem? It’s important. It’s the basis of whether we have a democracy. If we do, we can keep fighting Trump’s idiotic Executive Orders and wham-bam legislation; if not, good luck.
If you’ve stuck with me to the end here, I’m gonna close with good news from my Idaho trip. I had some amazing conversations when I was there. At one small dinner party I caught up with a friend who runs an environmental resiliency institute. Another guest that eve was a woman who started a local Land Trust at the request of some ranchers (they’re usually the folks who want to keep their freedom). And I got the host to share the details of how he gradually took an 80-year-old Hamptons golf course back to its original, more environmentally friendly state. YAY!!!!
I also crashed a brunch meeting my brother had with some guys who are creating the kind of batteries that can solve the problem of storing clean energy. That’s my next post — which is gonna be SOON.
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