Soap Box

Reduce, reuse, refill, repeat
09/19/2019

To the editor,

After my shock following viewing the documentary “Albatross” (Chris Jordan), I was excessively recharged about global effects of ubiquitous plastic. The film (watch with a google click) features the fatal effect of plastics on an albatross colony. Be prepared to force yourself to watch to the end. You probably agree there is a current ramp up for us humans surrounding single-use plastic, as there should be. The question continues, “What can we do about it?”

One of the emerging possibilities locally is a trip to the new business WeFill on North Main. This is not an advertisement – it is a statement of paradigm shift. The system: I supply the clean container, WeFill supplies the contents – all the way from dish detergent to body lotion to foot soak salts and much more. I also found bamboo toothbrushes, dental floss in little glass bottles, mesh produce bags and beyond. It’s a feel-good field trip every time I go. Heads up, however – at packing-up time, there is not a single-use plastic bag to be found anywhere ... so, well ... we all know what to do about that.

– Kathleen Adams, Durango

What kind of country is this?
09/19/2019

To the editor,

The United States of America is comprised of real estate that has been surveyed, mapped and divided into 50 distinct, individual regions that exist on the outer crust of this planet. This is where the populace resides, with addresses, zip codes, etc. Now, a 51st state has come into existence: the “State of/denial,” where most of us are right now because we cannot face the facts that are too bad to be true.

Donald Trump did not invent corruption in government, it was alive and thriving in our nation’s capital, created unwittingly by the founding fathers of this country. The genesis was when they chartered the first bank and did not include sufficient checks and balances written into the document. That was the birth of corporate America, which has evolved with the compliance of generation after generation of members of both major political parties, the pot and the kettle, into an all-powerful and corrupt system that imposes its will on our government.

Mr. Trump is a mirror image of that system, but with one boat-rocking deviation. He has changed the modus operandi from slithering silently and politely as dirty deeds are accomplished to a modus of in-your-face lying, bullying, bragging and even announcing for all to hear what dirty deed he plans next.

The composite structure and functionality of the Trump Administration, which has seamlessly become conjoined with Trump enterprises, has created a serious crisis in this country, as well as others on this planet. Trump is being allowed to rape the Constitution of the United States of Americans while being aided by the stooges, puppets and parrots that he has appointed/hired. They aid and abet criminality while drawing salaries paid by American taxpayers. The most notable example is the attorney general of this nation, who has proven to be nothing more than the president’s personal valet, shining his shoes and memorizing the script he is instructed to read. Trump has attracted several groups that seem to consider him as some sort of heroic icon. Some persons in the media not only applaud but defend his criminality, his mantra of hate and discontent, his racism and his routine disrespect of humanity. The white supremacy groups, the ultra-rich – these people are all hanging on to the president’s shirt tail. They cling tightly in spite of being dragged along through his droppings, which will leave them permanently stained and filed in the historical records of this country in a folder marked, “The Trump Years – Criminality, Hate, Discontent and Racism for Proift.”

Too bad and too sad to be true – a velvet pillow for corporate America and a bed of spikes for us. What the hell kind of a country is this? That is a very legitimate question echoing all over America – in the hallways of VA hospitals, the front desks of health clinics, the homes of mass shooting victims, homeless shelters, homes and offices of all women, the federal prison camps/cages on our southern border, and all the various locations where millions of people are suffering the agony of the opioid addiction caused by a corrupt system of conflict of interest and selective enforcement.

What the hell kind of country is this? The question burns like a wild fire while our elected politicians refuse to act. These people elected to serve the best interests of our citizenry are hiding in the dark nooks and crannies of our nation’s capital, shirking their duties as first responders to address a crisis in government. Like Nero, they fiddle with themselves while the firestorm continues, unabated. Silence is their only answer.

The question remains, perhaps to be carved in two-story-high letters as public art on Mount Rushmore, as a historical “Monument of Truth.” A monument with acres and acres of blank wall space where citizens who are screaming the question can scrawl or carve their personal experience. These stories can become answers that reflect the truth in detail for all to see exactly what this county has become.

Now, that’s a wall with a meaningful purpose.

– Peter Martin, Durango

The real king of the road
09/19/2019

To the editor,

Jesse Anderson’s opinion piece last week entitled “Bicycles are not cars” was a somewhat obfuscated attempt to justify cars rights on roadways while trying to referee a Facebook group and placate/educate local cyclists. To wit, he stated; “... my car is more important,” “I’m more of a motorist than I am a cyclist,” “... if you’re a bicycle zealot who doesn’t own a car.”

Be that as it may, what bothered me enough to write in was that he stated; “If you’re a cyclist, and you want to enjoy the privilege of sharing the road ... .” This statement reads to me that when in a car, people have a “right” that people not in cars don’t. That having a drivers license isn’t a privilege, but rather a right. That being on a road in a car IS the priority, and issues such as responsibility, humanity, courtesy and safety all come after.

And then there’s something called history (from which we often do not learn)– when in the early 1900s, pedestrians and nonmotorized conveyances were what roads were for. And only after auto/pedestrian deaths started to rise and cities like Cincinnati tried to limit motorized conveyance, did the auto industry groups introduce the “Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance” and jaywalking laws, which quickly tuned roads into motorized right-of-ways. (Read Peter Norton’s Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street).

Jesse’s article seemed to me to justify motorists having the right of way. To not be “stuck behind a bicycle,” or a “cyclist not taking up a lane of traffic,” etc. And that in closing he gave cyclists the status of being “definitely humans.” To which all I can say is, Cody’s right, “steel bumpers make quick work of aluminum wheels.”

I suggest roads are best-suited for human use, regardless of the type of conveyance. Humans are impatient,  make mistakes, are quick to judge and are fragile. I avoid cars whenever I can, on and off the road, as I do people like Cody. But I know for fact that the Codys are out there, and if I’m on my bike, I’m the one who stands to lose the most if a collision happens, whoever is at fault. Anyone not in a car but on the road is subject to the dominant paradigm, but everyone on the road is responsible. Life (& death) is the ultimate king of the road.

– Tim Thomas, Durango

Protect patients from surprise bills
09/12/2019

To the editor,

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has been vocal about the need for a federal solution to protect patients from out-of-network, or surprise, billing. Despite the distraction tactics and big-budget ad spends that have recently hijacked these important conversations, ACEP has been involved in Congressional discussions on this issue since early 2018 and has consistently supported a ban on balance billing of patients, as long as the mechanism ensures patient access to care won’t be compromised.

ACEP serves as the voice of individual emergency physicians regardless of where they practice. Our membership comprises emergency physicians from all walks of life who practice and are employed in a variety of work environments that range from academic settings or teaching hospitals, to emergency physician groups that are either managed or independently owned and operated by the physicians. In fact, the vast majority (85 percent) of emergency physician groups are made up of 50 or fewer physicians.

ACEP’s leadership is as diverse as our members, and once democratically elected by peers, the ACEP president represents the entire field of emergency medicine. ACEP’s Council, a legislative body of elected emergency physicians, votes on resolutions that serve as the foundation for ACEP’s federal and state advocacy positions.

On behalf of all emergency physicians, ACEP is concerned by several proposals currently being debated in Congress. Not only will they fail to adequately solve surprise bills for emergency patients, they could severely affect small emergency physician practices and threaten access to the vital health-care safety net they provide, particularly in rural and underserved communities.

Granting insurers license to squeeze physicians harder will push even more doctors out of network and put access to emergency care at risk. Allowing insurers to further manipulate rates will shift even more of the burden to patients while driving physicians out of the market.

Smaller physician groups are already disadvantaged when attempting to negotiate contracts with insurers, and they have expressed their concerns to Congress. That’s why 60 smaller independent practices, which collectively provide emergency care to 7.3 million patients annually, sent a letter urging the House Education and Labor, and Ways and Means Committees to consider their unique perspective and the importance of making sure that federal legislation does not limit their ability to provide high-quality emergency care for patients.

ACEP will continue to work with Congress on behalf of all emergency physicians to find a federal solution to protect patients from out-of-network surprise billing that avoids any unintended consequences to the broader health-care system.

Visit www.ProtectEmergencyCare.org for more information.

– Steve Arnoff, The American College of Emergency Physicians

Joining the Clean Cities movement
09/12/2019

To the editor,

Cities across America are taking the lead on climate change action – creating the new energy market and shaping our planet’s future. In July at Denver’s “Clean Cities Renewable Energy Procurement Summit,” I had the fortune to meet dozens of sustainability directors from Maine to California. Big cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia joined Cincinnati, Tallahassee and Raleigh to articulate paths to energy solutions, progress to date and projected timelines to 100 percent clean electricity, heating and transportation.

To begin to comprehend what’s involved in shifting big cities to clean energy, I needed a scale of reference. I knew that every year our local co-op LPEA, which covers parts of five rural counties, uses almost 1 GWh (gigawatt hour, or billion watts for one hour) of electricity. My imagination staggered hearing that each year San Jose (the tenth largest U.S. city) consumes 500 GWh and that Los Angeles uses 26,000 GWh. In light of these cities’ 100 percent commitments, I feel certain that our area – with our abundant sunshine, wide landscape, need for industry and love for our ecosystem – can figure out how to produce 1 GWh per year. And Durango is the key leader to the success of any Four Corners clean energy effort. We have the sunshine; all we need is committed leadership and a truly supportive community.

Leading is no small enterprise; we underappreciate its difficulty. Any person would rather avoid discomfort, and follow a popular path. Pursuing a daring goal sets a leader up for criticism, resistance and possible failure. So “prudent caution” suggests a leadership style based on community consensus of following polls and reacting to pressure from constituents.

In normal times, this makes sense. But when exisIn normal times, this makes sense. But when existential danger – such as climate change – is on the doorstep, “prudent caution” is a recipe for disaster. That’s why I find deeply encouraging the courage displayed by our 100 percent committed cities. There are times in history when constituents need to be shown the path –persuaded, educated, then simply pulled by the hand through the crisis. Never in history has there been as much of a need for strong leadership as NOW.

Witness the strong leadership here in Colorado. Denver shares a commitment to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 with Boulder, Fort Collins, Golden, Lafayette and Longmont. Nederland aims for 100 percent by 2025. Breckenridge, Frisco, and the city and county of Pueblo commit to 100 percent by 2035. Of interest, Summit County has pledged to reach 100 percent renewable energy (which includes not only electricity but transportation and heating) by 2035. These great goals correspond well with Colorado’s worthy goals for utilities and communities.

My message to you, reader, is “take heart!” The Clean Cities Summit impressed me with the speed of progress by transitioning cities. I witnessed passionate commitment to confront the climate challenge, combined with comprehensive planning and technological expertise. Importantly, I found a culture of sincere readiness to share knowledge: “Any of us reaching the finish line alone has lost the race.” Durango is lucky to have our own committed Sustainability Director Imogen Ainsworth and a City Council ready to move on this matter. Our city is in a position to lead the Four Corners by example, forging a path that our neighbors can check out first-hand.

Let’s thank our forward-looking City Council for recently passing a resolution committing to renewable electricity goals (50 percent by 2030, 100 percent by 2050) and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals (80 percent by 2050, 30 percent by 2030).

Responsive to resident comments, our Council is considering strengthening these goals by adding the criteria “locally produced” to “renewable electricity.” That would support the creation of good careers within a locally owned industry and the chance to keep local a big chunk of LPEA’s $70 million/year electrical bill. Many residents take to heart the dire warnings from the International Panel on Climate Change that urge rapid action within the next decade. We therefore hope that Council will follow the example of our sister cities and make its 2030 goals more ambitious, thereby front-loading progress.

Join us at 6:30 p.m., Tues., Sept 17, at City Hall to thank our City Council for its climate commitments and to express your views about clean, cheap energy, stronger local economy, conservation and caring for our environment. Also, from 3 – 5 p.m. Nov. 9 come to “The Clean Cities Movement and Durango’s Future” at the Durango Library.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango