Cleaning up the air in Utah County should not be a tug of war between business and environmental interests.
What's needed is a "civilized" joint effort to fashion solutions to air-quality problems, according to panelists at a Clean Air Symposium on "Clean Air and the Responsibility of Business at Utah Valley Community College.Panelists were Robert Solomon, a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin; Jon Lear of the Sundance Institute for Resource Management; Dr. Steve Minton, director of the newborn intensive care unit at Utah Valley Community College; and Joe Cannon, president of Geneva Steel.
Solomon said there is a conceptual war over the place of large, powerful institutions in society and whether they should "be allowed to proceed as they will just on their own rules. Or are they in fact citizens of the community who have responsibilities like other citizens in the community?"
Too often, the debate between business and environmentalists ends up as a tug of war settled by "who has the most power, who has the most lobbyists, who has the most money."
Lear told the audience that the "supposed" conflict between business and the environment is a false dilemma.
"The issue of jobs versus the environment is wrong," he said. "They are not mutual contradictions. We must have ultimately both. . . . The issue is not either/or. The issue is finding a creative way to have both."
He also said an understanding of "scale" and connection between activities is vital to addressing environmental problems. One person flushing a toilet isn't a problem; a billion people flushing toilets at the same time is a problem.
Steve Minton said there is no doubt that air pollution can adversely effect health. Studies are needed, however, to determine the long-term effects of prolonged exposure to pollution. Most studies look at short-lived exposures to pollutants and usually exposure to a single pollutant.
"It may well be long-term exposure is completely different than short-term exposure," he said. "And what might be a very minimal effect short term, long term may turn into an irreversible kind of a process.
Geneva President Joe Cannon said because of the complicated society we live in there is not "time, room energy for polarization in our society to the extent we are diverting energy, we are diverting attention, and we are not drawing on the resources of everybody in our community to solve problems."