>> Thursday, July 8, 2010
I love my readers. Both The Mother and Rocketscienist (not me, a different one) gave me the perfect opportunity to expand my last post in the direction I wanted. The Mother by providing an example of what can go wrong by overreacting to a poorly thought out regulation and Rocketscienist by noting that we don't live in a binary world, even if we treat it like it is.
See, this was all triggered by a frustrating discussion I had with some tin whisker experts who began bemoaning the repercussions of RoHS ("Why won't they listen to the scientists?") and then turn and say all environmentalists are stupid and short-sighted, all regulation is wrong and then segway into the fact that global warming is "disproved." Global warming, you know, that environmental issue brought forward by scientists.
First off, there's nothing that makes an expert look stupid like bemoaning the fact he's not given credence and then dismissing other experts as hacks based on the same popular media they were just condemning. As I expostulated here. Hypocrisy only makes the hypocrite look bad (well, and gives all scientists, including themselves, a bad name. Sigh.)
But secondly, there's a logical fallacy in the attitude if there's one "bad" regulation, they must all be bad. Not that the notion that "all bad things" can be eliminated with legislation is more logical. Too often, people respond to something wrong as a condemnation of everything similar.
For instance, the regulation The Mother mentioned is a case in point. The CFC regulations have been working. Although the ozone will be affected for a long time, the CFC concentrations that led to the anomaly have been noticeably reduced. That's a good thing for the world as a whole and a significant population of people. Not excluding inhalers from this regulation (inhalers likely had minimal impact on the overall CFC release) was short-sighted. I have to mention, though, that there IS an exception made for medical inhalers and some other uses and even a stock of CFCs for that particular purpose. I'll also add that that was likely an afterthought.
The problem isn't that something should have been done (or not). The key is doing the job smartly (and I can't disagree that politics often drives regulations far more than data or anything resembling sense). But that doesn't mean regulation is a bad thing - that's implementation, not the concept.
What's more, the right thing to do on one topic doesn't dictate the right thing to do on another topic. I'm of the opinion that a ban on lead for all electrical components is, indeed, a bad idea. However, there are likely components where lead removal would have little or no consequences. And, if I did think the whole thing was whacked, it doesn't follow that ALL environmental regulation is garbage.
I'm not objective. My father died of asbestosis. My father worked for EPA, whose efforts have gone a long way to improving water quality, reducing pollution, and, yes, reducing the likelihood that the next generation will have to worry about dying of asbestosis. Ironically, he also died from environmental causes after wading, hip-deep, through every toxic muck from one end of this country to another trying to figure out how to clean it up. So I get irked when someone tells me all environmental regulation is nonsense. They died to help the rest of us. I know an awful lot about how bad it used to be that we, who haven't lived with rivers that can be lit on fire, can't appreciate.
I also know that anything can be taken too far (like, say, some of the folks at PETA).
The answer isn't one extreme or the other. It's not all in the middle or slanting to one side. There isn't one answer or one solution. It's not no government or too much government. It's not all or nothing. It's not yes or no. There is no one answer for all our problems.
There are, however, potential solutions for each problem (or linked problems collectively). It's making the right rules, not just blanket rules. It's listening to the experts, doing one's homework and doing one's best to do the right thing - even if you have to change gears or backtrack later as, as rocketscienist pointed out, you discover what you did had unforeseen repercussions.
But, as long as people are willing to make kneejerk judgments based on what political party they are or what they're told they should think, as long as they characterize any group of people with extreme names instead of addressing the specific issues (eco-terrorist, for example, or hmm, I can't think of a conservative one - maybe someone can help me out) instead of looking at the data and working toward a smart solution, the pendulum will keep swinging back and forth.
And crashing into us coming and going.
Not that I'm opinionated or anything. :)