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The hypocrisy drowning in smoke our Planet

Published at: 05-10-2018

Posted on: October 5th, 2018 by RaduC No Comments

I don`t think that we can build a pollution-free planet just on a voluntary change of behavior. This is a statement not likely to attract much sympathy. But frankly, I do believe that people will change their behavior on a massive scale only when driven by financial reasons. Many may do it on ethical grounds, but not a high enough number to make a difference.

A few years ago statistics showing that the Netherlands, by far the largest flower exporter, imported from Africa 85% of the roses exported made big waves. That meant that around 2.5-3 billion roses per year are shipped by plane from Africa, to keep them fresh and then re-exported firstly to Germany and then to other European countries. And this happens as the number of rose growers in the Netherlands is dropping. And yes, relocating flower production from the Netherlands to Africa does contribute to polluting the planet.

Does it sound absurd that the Dutch bring their flowers from Africa? Certainly. But their business does not function on subjective considerations. As long as flights are increasingly affordable and the price of oil stays reasonably low, the Dutch will continue to export flowers grown in Africa. For the same reasons, the number of tourists worldwide will also keep going up, driven by a thriving middle class in developing countries and lower flight tickets. Tourism will be an ever larger contributor to pollution.

Can you see any chance of having fewer air passengers just for the sake of safeguarding the planet? Or fewer German buyers of “Dutch” roses? The most straightforward and crude way of putting a stop to all this? Increasing in any shape or form the cost of flying. Not nice, isn`t it?

Let`s not be naïve. Bringing the level of pollution down is just one part of the solution as we could never completely do away with carbon dioxide emissions, and there is a point from which their reduction gets increasingly expensive and hard to achieve. That is why emphasis should equally be on providing an oxygen-generating ecosystem from carbon dioxide. Which is not happening.

The massive deforestation that we have seen in the past decade everywhere on the globe is nothing but the effect of the low price put on preserving the green lungs of the planet. The vast forests of the world lie in underdeveloped or developing countries which are expected to give up the financial value of their forests over their environmental one. Seriously? To continue to stay underdeveloped so that the Americans may drive in as many SUVs as they can, and that the Chinese may keep erecting coal-fired power plants to support their growth at low costs?

It makes absolutely no sense and it has been underpinning the totally false principle based on which the carbon credits mechanism was founded. Carbon credits allow for the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide. They are set up by governments out of virtually nothing, based on allocated CO2 emissions allowances, to be later traded by businesses which generate less CO2 than the ones which put out more and therefore are in need of more carbon allowances. A process with a huge glitch. The producers of clean air, those who change carbon dioxide into oxygen are completely missing. Which is why the forest cover is growing smaller.

What if emissions certificates had been sold to polluters by those called upon to clear the “garbage” left by the former, namely the forest-rich countries. What if the financial value of an unharvested forest would exceed that of lumber resulting therefrom? The issue of massive deforestation would go away. Moreover, that would encourage the replanting of trees as it would make economic sense, on top of the voluntary CSR attempts which are merely a drop in an expanding dessert. And thus we will have two actions converging towards the same end: growing forests able to absorb carbon dioxide and deterring polluters. Right now we only have the second arm of the mechanism, and the planet`s forests continue to fall for lack of a financial reason to keep them intact. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an area equal to 27 football pitches is being cut every minute…

Romania too, fits into this dire scenario. According to Global Forest Watch which uses satellites to keep an eye on woodlands, over 300,000 hectares of woods were cut between 2001 and 2016. From 2001 to 2012 only 154,000 forests were replanted or naturally regenerated.

Romania doesn`t just mirror the world`s failure to preserve its forests. It is also a case study of anti-pollution measures which due to inconsistencies, end up achieving the exact opposite. The car scrappage program was launched by the Romanian government to help replace the car fleet by providing subsidies for taking old cars off the market. How well has it been doing? In 2016 one out of four purchased cars was a used vehicle. In 2018, in the first eight months, three out of four cars registered were used cars. A failure guaranteed by removing the environmental stamp tax which penalized polluting cars.

In these circumstances the “fleet renewal” scrappage program is nothing more than money down the drain with no chance of reaching the initial goal. And for the failure to come full circle, most cars brought into Romania use diesel just as diesel engines have fallen into disgrace throughout the EU, and as a result have gotten cheaper. The cars leaving plumes of exhaust fumes behind them on the streets of Bucharest remind me of the 1990s. That was the last time I saw it happening. Romania, Europe`s cemetery of polluting cars. Hey, at least the public healthcare system works. Or not…

Volunteer endeavors and education are important in the fight against pollution. But at the end of the day, it is the economic policies that make all the difference, and right now some of them seem to conflict. With frustrating results.

Have a good weekend!

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