Sue the people | Inquirer Opinion
Like It Is

Sue the people

/ 05:05 AM January 09, 2020

I find the resolution of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to be able to sue major fossil fuel companies absurd. If you are going to sue anyone, you sue the public for demanding. Yes, demanding for these fossil fuel products. It is them, us, who insist on buying and driving our gas- and diesel- driven vehicles. Who insisted on being able to turn on their electric lights at night when nonpolluting energy sources weren’t available in the quantity needed? Who should be sued, if anyone should be? If the public were environmentally conscious, they wouldn’t have consumed those products.But there’s a second reason why the resolution is absurd. When fossil fuels were first used, climate change wasn’t known about. How can you sue someone for something no one knew was bad? You should not be able to sue retroactively for what was unknown.

It was done to the asbestos industry too many years ago. I used to be involved in that industry, manufacturing asbestos sheets when it wasn’t known yet that such products were harmful. When it was discovered that they were, we stopped using asbestos. The company was sued, despite no one knowing of the harm at that time. Had the company continued to use asbestos after its harmful effects were known, that’s when you could have sued for good reason. Otherwise, the courts should just throw those retroactive cases out.


If the companies heed these demands and stop producing, which is what the CHR is basically saying, what happens? Millions of cars, vans, trucks will stop running. Planes won’t take to the skies. Ships will drift on the oceans. Electricity becomes a hit-or-miss affair as brownouts become blackouts. The modern world will come to a halt. Is that what these people want?

Renewable energy cannot replace fossil fuels yet. I just watched a man on TV who doesn’t fly because plane engines pollute. Greta Thunberg doesn’t, either. In her case, she’s sending an important message: Planes pollute. So finding ways to reduce that is an urgent need. I don’t think there’s any way people can be convinced to live a simple, Luddite life without all these modern accoutrements.


Everyone is to blame for climate change. It’s a careless, uncaring humanity that is destroying the only planet we live on.

Breeding indiscriminately hasn’t helped. This world can’t support a 7.7-billion — and growing — population. So one thing that would work is to stop producing more and more babies. Just look at the deforestation that’s been taking place to make way for food for humans, for wood for their houses, for space for their factories. Trees remove planet-warming carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe, but those trees are cut down for the cows to roam, and houses and factories to be built. If we returned the forests to their original cover, the air would start to be clean. Instead, we are worsening the degradation of the atmosphere. If there were only 770 million people, as there were when the industrial revolution started in 1760, we wouldn’t have a polluted world. And we wouldn’t have chopped down the trees.

Japan’s population is shrinking; Korea is heading that way, and China, too. That’s a trend we need worldwide. Putting economic growth and development as the reason to keep growing population is looking at it the wrong way. Look at just maintaining the population we have, gradually reducing it to a level this earth can support. It can’t support 7.7 billion, that’s a proven fact, as a 1-percent increase in temperature will attest.

So for the Philippines to claim it is in a sweet spot, with a young population that can produce, is applying the wrong focus. It is looking at economic growth, not quality of life, as the principal determinant of success.

The fault is not the companies producing, it’s the many consumers consuming. If we all lived like Luddites, pollution would slow to the levels the environmentalists want. I don’t think any of us are prepared to live in such an austere manner. You can’t address environmental concerns in isolation. Polluting the air (and the sea and land) must be greatly reduced — reduced much more aggressively than at the level now. But you can’t just shut down modern society. So, you must make modern society cleaner much more aggressively than what is being done now. The world’s leaders are letting us down. But we as individuals could do less to pollute, too, without need of law.

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TAGS: Air pollution, CHR, Class suit, fossil fuel companies, Like It Is, Peter Wallace
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