May 03, 2011

A few years ago, I brought a young visitor of mine from the East to Moonshadows, the Malibu boîte where Mel Gibson commenced his ill-starred drunken drive. As my friend went out to smoke a cigarette, the young bartendress complained to me, “€œHow can you let him do that?”€ I explained that he was of age and as a smoker myself I could not be so hypocritical, but she would not let it go. “€œMy body is a temple!”€ she declared. “€œMine too,”€ I responded, “€œwith tobacco incense!”€ She eventually revealed that she was a heavy pot smoker, “€œwhich is much greener.”€ This allowed me to go on the offensive, pointing out that marijuana smoke contains more carcinogens than tobacco smoke. But by then, her eyes had glazed over.

Many people enjoy using the “€œgreen”€ excuse to cover nearly anything. Pot (referred to in my far-off youth as “€œthe herb”€) frequently is blessed with the “€œgreen”€ moniker but is undeserving of it, and not only compared with tobacco. Apparently its production is as dangerous to the environment as the raising of McDonald’s beef cows is supposed to be for the Brazilian rain forest. According to energy analyst Evan Mills, indoor pot production uses enough electricity to substantially contribute to annual carbon-dioxide emissions. Worse still, proliferating marijuana plantations in such out-of-the way spots as California’s Los Padres National Forest inject pesticides and fertilizers into the ecosystem, with concomitant damage to plants and wildlife.

“€œWashington buzzes with all sorts of “€˜green”€™ schemes these days but tends to neglect concrete environmental issues.”€

One might argue that the “€œgreenest”€ thing to do would be either heightened law enforcement or regulated legalization, but little is likely to be done.

In California, the most efficient branch of state government is our State Park system. This wonderful repository of natural and historical treasures does its job as well as it can, despite the best efforts of governors and legislators to wreck or pilfer it. I came very close last November to voting for Proposition 21, which would have subsidized the system’s expenses through a usage tax. But my nerve failed me at the thought of voting for any new tax. Based solely on experience, I trust the system’s employees far more than I can most of the state’s bureaucrats.

Sacramento’s abuse of the parks makes the state’s hypocritical greenery all the more poignant. In 2006, Assembly Bill 32 cleared the legislature and was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. This measure attempts to pit California’s David versus global climate change’s Goliath by imposing strict caps on greenhouse emissions. It is difficult to see how the Golden State’s war on emissions will affect a worldwide problem. But its immediate result will be to close down or chase out businesses and their jobs while spending yet more money on regulation from our near-bankrupt coffers. If the time and treasure spent chasing greenhouse emissions went instead to something tangible”€”say, the State Park system”€”this would show a more authentically “€œgreen”€ consciousness. But posturing over the infinite is always sexier than working in the immediate.


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