Stannard: We think about the planet

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I had the occasion to find myself sitting in an outdoor restaurant in Aix-en-Provence, France. The sun had set and the night was cool, but we were not cold. Maybe it was the air or maybe it was just being amongst a crowd of people who were very different from me. They speak differently. They live differently. They think differently.

Fortunately, I was raised by a Vermonter who taught me not to fear those who are different, but to strive to understand and appreciate our differences. I recognize that this may not be easy for everyone and it helped that tolerance was ingrained into me at an early age. "Tend to your own business and let others tend to theirs" was a line I heard often. Just because they're different doesn't mean they're not wonderful people.

The people I've met along the way over here have been truly nice people. There is no sign of fear; fear of being gunned down by some lunatic with a gun. No one feels compelled to have to wear a gun on their hip to make you think they're tough. These folks are tough inside and feel no need to demonstrate it.

Our waitress came to our table and laid down one placemat with the narrow end of the rectangular piece of paper facing my wife, Alison, and me. I turned it around thinking she had made an error. She turned it back the way she had placed it. It was no mistake.

"We use one placemat this way. We think of the planet" was all she said and then walked away. This encounter reminded me of my young friend, Milo Cress, who at the ripe of age of 6 years old realized that Americans were using too many straws. Within a year or so he began "Be Straw Free," a movement designed to reduce the number of straws we use each day. At 6 years old Milo, also, was thinking about the planet.

We kind of really do need to think about the planet as it's the only one we have. Sure, Space-X is working hard to shoot the ultra-rich off into space in hopes of finding another planet that they can pollute, but until then the rest of us have little choice but to take good care of this one.

So, what are we doing to "think of the planet"? Not much. We have a leader who is desperately trying to breathe life into the dying coal industry, because apparently he thinks burning more and more coal is good for him politically. Simultaneously, he, and the big energy corporations that support him, is doing everything he can think of to hamstring renewable energy.

"Requiring solar on new homes would be a tough sell in Arizona," said Jim Belfiore, Arizona housing analyst. "It would substantially increase the cost of a home, and the benefits aren't as great for consumers as they are in other states." This quote represents what's wrong with the way we think. We think that if the benefits aren't as great for the consumer then they aren't great. We don't think about the planet. Would requiring that each and every new house being built today be better for the planet? The obvious answer is yes. The more clean, decentralized power we can create the better. Arizona, our sunniest state, only produce 6 percent of its power from solar: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/the-battle-for-solar-energy-in-the-countrys-sunniest-state

Is this the direction we're headed? No. Instead of finding viable ways to achieve this admirable goal, our president has imposed tariffs on solar panels. Our leaders are going in the opposite direction they need to go if we are to save the planet.

It's comforting to know that there's a tiny restaurant in France that "thinks about the planet," but the time is now for all of the world to do the same. Unless you think you can cut a deal with Space-X and colonize another planet. Good luck with that.

Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Banner.


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