The following guest opinion by Atherton City Councilman Charles Marsala was published in the Almanac's April 18 print edition:
By Charles Marsala
In the last year public awareness of the harmful effects of CO2 to our planet and desire to reduce the impact have changed our laws and our lifestyles. Many of us grew up not wearing bicycle safety helmets and car seatbelts; either we smoked or had friends who smoked, and smoking was permitted on planes and in restaurants. The harmful effects of second-hand smoke have now been proven.
It is time to change another habit: the CO2 we produce. The earth's population has grown from 1.8 billion in 1900 to 6.5 billion today. We have cars, planes, and larger homes adding to the amount of pollution we put in the earth's "lungs" or atmosphere; many years ago we crossed the point at which the earth could absorb it all and as a result our climate is warmer.
I remember asking my dad to quit smoking, the day his dad died from lung cancer. I wanted him to be around as long as possible. It was a wake-up call, time to break a bad habit. Twenty years ago he broke a 30-year old habit.
My parents were visiting from New Orleans when Katrina hit, a storm whose intensity was increased due to warmer oceans. There was relief that morning as the city was spared. But in the afternoon, I received an e-mail that the levees had failed and the city would flood. Telling my dad his 40-year-old home would be flooded was as intense as asking him to quit smoking.
A longtime friend and owner of a favorite Italian restaurant died of a heart attack trying to evacuate from Katrina. Many friends no longer have jobs in New Orleans and have not returned. Others, like my parents, spent 10 months in a FEMA trailer while they rebuilt their homes. Parts of New Orleans are dead, and many small towns along the coast are gone. Buildings, built for 135 mph winds, did not handle the 150 to 180 mph winds intensified by the extra warmth now in ocean waters.
If I want my dad and his heritage to be around as long as possible, I cannot be giving them second-hand smoke in the form of CO2. Excessive consumption is causing destruction and there are simple ways to reduce and change our habits without harming our lifestyles.
Drives to encourage residents to sign up for solar energy systems are going on now in Atherton and Menlo Park, and the Environmental Programs Committee, www.AthertonGreen.net, has launched a week of events to show how we can reduce our carbon footprint and in a "hip and sexy" way.
I encourage all Almanac readers to recognize our responsibility not to hurt the environments of others around the world, to learn how to change our habits so we can achieve the goals of Kyoto, AB32, and the mayor's Climate Protection Agreement.