Environmentalism always has been a health care issue. If we foul our nest, we’re endangering our health, and if we don’t stop, we’ll have to find new digs. Even if we found a new place to live, we probably wouldn’t have enough fuel left to get there. So, we’re stuck here, like Robinson Crusoe, only he had a plan to overcome his problems, and so far, there’s no real evidence we do.
The lack of a collective grip on our environmental/health care problems isn’t stopping some communities from taking the matter into their own hands. This month, California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District will decide if it will begin charging 4.2 cents for each metric ton of carbon dioxide released by all businesses, from power plants to bakeries. The fee will not be significant enough in most cases to deter greenhouse gas production, but the agency will use the funds to cover monitoring costs.
San Francisco, too, has led in addressing environmental and personal health issues. The city has banned plastic bags at grocery stores and foam containers at restaurants. Two years ago, one private company, locally based Norcal Waste Systems, weighed in with its plan to generate energy from doggie doo. Well, now the poop’s hitting the fan over a fee required by the city’s Healthy San Francisco program. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has challenged the requirement that employers spend a minimum amount of money on employee health care. Some of the association’s members admit they are covering the additional costs by adding a surcharge to customers’ checks, which is no surprise. Most businesses do the same when gasoline prices rise or governments add fees.
Who, then, ultimately shoulders the cost of health care and environmentalism? If you haven’t noticed, you and I already are paying for ourselves and those who cannot afford to through insurance premiums and taxes. Less obvious costs, such as those that business and industry pass on to us, also can be added to our tab.
We are not escaping from the costs by avoiding a serious discussion of our health care and environmental issues. First, however, we have to decide if we want proper health care and a healthy environment for ourselves, our families and our neighbors. Another option is to continue to insist that we are a country of rugged individualists who do not want government interference. The problem with that solution is threefold. First, we already are paying more every year for a dysfunctional health care system, which could bankrupt anyone without insurance with one catastrophic illness. Second, like health care, the price of clean air and water will rise more each year. And, third, being rugged individualists did not work out all that well for our forefathers. Most of them died relatively young and with very few teeth.