I’ve been making the rounds in the Capitol, talking to staffers on the State Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, the next stop for the Fire Rings Bill, AB 1102.
It’s fun meeting new people and making your pitch in 5 minutes or less. I think I’m good at it.
Sometimes you’re making your case while they listen and other times you’re dealing with objections. It can give you a hint as to who they’ve been talking to and where they’re coming from.
Today I kept hearing the same old question,
How long have you lived near these fire rings?
You want to be a good listener, but at the same time you’ve got to be quick with your rebuttals. Nine times out of ten this question is just the setup for,
So you knew when you moved in that the fire rings were there?
You can read many things into this argument, but sensitivity for the suffering of your fellow man is not one of them. Like so much of politics today, it’s a heartless perspective.
I like to think I’ve got good counter arguments, like “Most of the science of the adverse health effects of wood burning is less than 10 years old,” but as they say in bicycle advocacy, “When you’re explaining you’re losing.”
So instead I’m working on new rebuttals. My first one goes like this,
When did you first learn of the dangers of breathing wood smoke?
For most of us it’s been quite recent. And of course, many do not yet know, so it’s a process of learning, of public education.
I’ve been thinking of the milestones in my discovery. One timeline that comes to mind, I know I knew when Sam Harris published The Fireplace Delusion in February 2012, because I jumped for joy when I imagined how his arguments might affect our initiative.
I know I didn’t know about the adverse health effects from breathing asbestos, back when I was a pup and my dad would take me out to the Johns-Manville open-air asbestos dump. We just didn’t know.
Home (cough!) sweet home!
Barbara and I dream of moving to a neighborhood with cleaner air someday, but I can tell that most realtors still don’t know of the adverse effects because too many of the Homes-For-Sale websites show pictures of the interiors of your new dream home, prominently featuring — you guessed it — wood burning fireplaces! Most people still have no idea what we’re talking about when it comes to wood smoke.
Of course, it really doesn’t matter when you learned, only that you do know now and as a Senator, what you’re going to do about it.
So when was my first time?
It was sometime early on in this process, when my wife Barbara started soliciting letters from prominent health scientists — to read their letters was startling — there were no two ways about it: the toxins and particulates emitted by the fire rings were worse than I ever imagined.
As my City Manager is famous for saying, “You can’t un-ring that bell.” Once you know, there’s no deluding yourself any further.
Wood smoke from the beach fire rings is terrible for public health, both for the downwind beach-goers and the nearby residents.
When was your first time?