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Joining the Environmental Debate

One of the items stated or implied to be factual in Matt Craighead’s opinion article, “Bush’s Environmentalism: Anti-Nature, Pro-Man” [Apr. 13] is not actually as indisputable as he stated. Specifically, Craighead claims that hydroelectric dams produce electricity without air pollution. This was the generally accepted view until recently. In the Nov. 16, 2000 issue of The Economist, the article “A barrage of criticism” discusses several recent studies which all concluded that significant amounts of greenhouse gases were being emitted from the rotting vegetable matter that is produced when a reservoir is formed. One study indicated that the hydroelectric dams had the same level of pollution as a coal burning facility.

David L. Lahr G

In the Apr. 13 edition of The Tech, Matt Craighead supported President Bush’s “pro-man” anti-environmental efforts. He lauded the rejection of the Kyoto treaty and attacked environmentalists. Craighead criticized that they “value nature above man.”

The Earth was here before man evolved into sentience. It will remain once we are extinct. It consists of a multitude of life forms that once lived in a beautiful equilibrium. However, in the last 200 years one greedy, self-centered species has nibbled away at this equilibrium, pushing it into instability. Is this species more valuable than a planet?

Nature is valuable of its own accord, according to David Graber of the National Park Service. I affirm that “man’s mind is under assault” more by nauseating pollutants than by the inspirational beauty of nature. Environmentalism is the desire to keep Earth functioning as a planet. Rather than “shackle mankind,” as Craighead suggests, it will free us from the pains of pollution. It is quite fair to ask that people restrict their activities slightly to make the world a better place.

Craighead argues that since beavers build dams, man should be permitted to as well. I would like to ask him if he has seen a beaver dam the size of the Hoover Dam. Scale is important. A beaver dam has a trivial impact on the surrounding area and is prone to breaking after a much shorter period of time than the cement monstrosities that humanity has put on large rivers. Craighead can feel free to build dams out of nearby trees, using an ax and some human muscular strength.

Of course, he should do this without damaging too many trees, as every full grown tree of average size converts enough carbon dioxide to oxygen to support a family of four. And as the logging industry depletes our trees and fails to replant as many as it cuts, the greenhouse effect worsens.

Do not misunderstand me; mankind, as a sentient species, is valuable. If we use our intelligence to research science, mathematics, and (environmentally safe) engineering, we can work for the betterment of our planet. Reducing emissions down to the level required by the Kyoto treaty might hinder our current productivity, but it will lead to the development and implementation of large scale low-emission energy production.

If we work against Earth, we are working against ourselves. Polluted air and water cause cancer and other illness. Craighead fails to understand that helping nature helps humanity and that his “pro-man” policies will in the end hurt us, and will lead to an earlier extinction for our species.

There should not be a conflict between man and nature. The “need to shape our environment” which Craighead refers to does not give us the right to destroy it. Tearing apart Earth for selfish short term gain will leave us living in sewage in the long run. As probably the most intelligent species on this planet with the most to gain from its health, we are obligated to live within our environment without damaging it. It is unfortunate that President Bush disagrees.

Nicholas A. White ’02

[LTE]Hearing Horowitz[body]
I wish to commend the MIT community as a whole, and The Tech in particular, for sponsoring David Horowitz’s recent on-campus debate with Dorothy Benton-Lewis. I’ve been troubled at the recent censorship by so many college and university newspapers, but was glad to see that MIT is not among the campuses that are intolerant of controversial ideas. I believe that logical discourse such as that in the recent debate is the only truly appropriate path to a solution. The free and open exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of both scientific and political progress (something that I’m sure MIT students appreciate as much as we do at Caltech). Censorship, even of those who have ideas we may disagree with, has no place in a free society.

Joe Jewell
Director-at-Large Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology[sig]