Apologists for air pollution argue that, although global warming may be taking place, we can do nothing about it. They admit that cutting carbon emissions would reduce global warming, but they claim that, because the American economy is so dependent upon fossil fuels that it would completely fall apart if carbon emissions would reduce.
These Do-Nothing arguments depend upon the idea that there is no slack in the American economy – no place where people could make cuts in their use of energy. That claim is absurd.
As evidence, I offer you the case of the lead-tainted Tinker Bell Wands.
Last week, eight thousand Tinker Bell magic wands were recalled. It wasn’t because the wands were not actually magic. Nobody but the little girls who waved them around could have expected that. Instead, the recall was due to the wands being poisonous, having beads that were contaminated with levels of lead much higher than the federal lead paint standard.
Lead poisoning is a serious issue, but I’m not concerned with that this morning. It’s the information in the product recall announcement that is more alarming to me. The announcement explains that eight thousand Tinker Bell wands were manufactured in China, then imported by a company in Secaucus, New Jersey, and then distributed by Disney in Pasadena, California to stores all across the United States. Now that the Tinker Bell wands are being recalled, “Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and return it to a Disney Store for a full refund.”
That’s an awful lot of shipping going on – and for what purpose? So that little girls can wave around something sparkly for a few minutes before shoving it into the back of their closets, or losing it under their beds, or breaking it while hitting their baby brothers over the heads with it. I don’t think I’m being cruel to little girls when I say that these wands represent unnecessary slack in the American economy that could easily be tightened. Any little girl who knows how to play can make a magic wand out of a pencil, or a spoon, or a twig from a tree, and can see the sparkle in the wand even if it isn’t really there, and isn’t licensed by Disney, and doesn’t have the shimmer of lead-based paint on it.
Regulation of carbon emissions might make it economically unrealistic for Disney to import Tinker Bell wands from China any more, but what would be the loss? American families would make the decision to spend their money elsewhere, and the fantasies of little girls would remain perfectly intact.
Americans have no constitutional right to buy cheap junk at inexpensive prices. Although some might whimper if the Disney Princesses product line is diminished, most of us could suck it up and get on with our lives without feeling damaged.
Earlier this morning, Truman noted that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is issuing warnings about non-existent Halloween candy poisoners. If the CPSC can spend its time making that kind of frivolous warning, it surely would have the time to work on something more important: A system for Americans to evaluate the amount of carbon emissions associated with the things we buy.
Carbon emissions are unsafe for us all. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a carbon rating to advise us about how much global warming pollution has gone into the effort to bring trinkets like Tinker Bell wands to store shelves?