Not first time we’ve addressed climate

We are living in a time of gloom and doom environmental predictions.

Human activities are massively changing the planet. Groundwater is becoming unsafe to drink and surface waters harbor toxins lying in wait. Global economic competition and trade wars complicate international agreements and our country’s agricultural economy handicaps improvement in rural areas.

Surely these are unprecedented problems? They are not.

In the 1930s we were in the midst of a worldwide depression and a North American dust bowl with massive soil erosion problems. Yet the country, to the credit of our ancestors, found the resolve to simultaneously deal with both problems. You can visit the historical marker for this effort in Coon Valley, Wis.

Fast forward to the 1980s and the discovery that an ozone hole over Antarctica was destroying the atmosphere so fast as to expect global health effects and agricultural collapse by the middle of the 21st century. It took a lot of scientific investigation to determine that the chlorinated fluorocarbons (CFCs) common in many of our products were the cause.

At a meeting in 1987 (a year with a stock market crash) world leaders met to address the issue. The global elected leaders behind the effort were the conservatives Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (a chemist by training). The reluctant participant that needed to be convinced by Reagan’s representative over a beer in a pub was the EU representative. It resulted in the Montreal Protocol and started the worldwide reduction of CFCs. It was the first global agreement to reduce pollution and was described by Reagan as a “magnificent achievement.” The ozone hole started to shrink as implementation progressed and is expected to completely recover by 2065.

Perhaps we can get our decision-makers to talk to each other over a beer?

Paul La Liberte

Eau Claire

Officials forget places from which they came

I just read that Paul Ryan, who famously left Congress to rejoin his family in their Wisconsin home, has announced he will be moving his family to Washington, D.C., where he will take on work for a think tank and other organizations of influence and power. Imagine that.

Washington has been described as a “swamp,” but I refuse to call it that. Instead, it is a “cesspool,” whose excremental waste consists of elected officials, bureaucrats and their hangers on, and also includes legions of former elected officials who are hired by law firms, P.R. firms, lobbyists and other denizens of the cesspool in make-work jobs or, more often, to act as visible figureheads for the purpose of “networking” in light of their contacts with those who remain in Congress and those hidden away in the bureaucracy.

In my opinion, it is despicable that this has become the norm, rather than the exception. Very few who serve in Congress or the Senate come home to stay, to work in real jobs, to be a part of the communities they served. Their communities are readily forgotten — they are mere stepping stones to a life of money, fame and influence in Washington — even for state officials, like former Gov. Scott Walker.

It is a disease that afflicts both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, makers and the plodders. Thomas Jefferson’s yeoman farmer legislator is dead and buried. In its place we have corruptible professional politicians who heed the siren call of Washington and gladly forsake the places they served for a life inside the Beltway.

I would venture to guess that after a few years of post-legislative life in Washington, few of the former representatives of Wisconsin electors can even recall the names of all 72 counties in the state.

William Thiel

Eau Claire

Gas tax a more logical approach to issue

The rain forests in Brazil are burning, glaciers are melting and Alaska is experiencing the warmest summer temperatures in history.

Hurricane Dorian has been barreling toward the East Coast. As this is happening, Wisconsin Republican legislators more than doubled the auto registration fees on hybrid vehicles because they burn less gas than conventional vehicles. Hybrids emit less greenhouse gases, which are the cause of the catastrophic climate changes that we are experiencing today.

Doubling the registration fee on hybrids was said to be payback on hybrid owners because their hybrids use less gas. The logic of legislators was that raising the registration fee would equalize the amount paid. Hybrids weigh less than conventional cars, that’s what helps with better gas mileage, thus they cause less wear on roadways. At the same time, large trucks and other vehicles, not registered in Wisconsin, roll through on our highways and pay nothing in support of our road maintenance.

However, Wisconsin residents who purchased hybrid vehicles with the idea to mediate climate change and leave the planet in livable condition get socked with a higher tax for showing concern for the common good.

What Republican legislators fail to understand is that Wisconsin hybrid vehicle owners pay the same taxes as all state residents. We pay income taxes, property taxes, sales tax and other fees the state imposes on our use of parks, trails, hunting and fishing privileges, and waterway use.

What Republican legislators fail to realize is that the fairest way to raise money for road and infrastructure building and maintenance would be to raise the gas tax. This was recommended by the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The regressive vehicle registration hike places the highway repair and maintenance burden squarely on Wisconsin vehicle owners. Our Wisconsin motto is “Forward.” Let’s elect leaders who will act on this pledge.

Tom Walsh