Monday, September 21, 2015 Blog

Turtles and plastic, oil, motivated avoidance (again), and mayoral videos.

by Andy Hollis


As Bo Petersen with the Post and Courier reports, the South Carolina Aquarium released four sea turtles last week after their successful recoveries in the Aquarium’s turtle hospital. One, by the name of Midway, had a prodigious amount of plastic in her stomach and would have died without intervention.

I’m not sure how Midway, the turtle, got her name, but it is worth noting that the stomachs of 98% of the Laysan and black-footed albatrosses breeding on Midway, the Pacific island, contained plastics from the notorious “Pacific Garbage Patch,” a soup of discarded waste larger than the state of Texas. If you are interested in this issue, (and have a strong stomach,) take a look at artist Chris Jordan’s website.

In what certainly ranks as the understatement of the week, Aquarium staff member Kate Dittloff noted that the ingested plastic “should drive home the importance of being mindful of our waste.”

Plastic is bad enough. So we definitely don’t also need oiled turtles, pelicans and other sea life. The Post and Courier editorializes that Governor Haley should respond to the resolutions passed against offshore testing and drilling by virtually every coastal city and town, and reverse her position on offshore drilling.

Bo Petersen covered a standing-room only forum in Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday at which Congressman Mark Sanford and state senator Chip Campsen, joined by the Conservation League’s energy director, Hamilton Davis, condemned offshore exploration as a threat to the economy and the environment of the coast. Senator Campsen emphasized the disruptive, dangerous and under-appreciated on-shore impacts. Congressman Sanford argued that the true conservative response would be to defer to local governments, which are closer to the public than either Columbia or Washington. So far Governor Haley is unwavering in her conviction that exploration and drilling can be done in a way that “protects and never compromises our environment.”

This point of view has been refuted consistently by disasters like the Valdez spill in Alaska, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf, and just this year, another major spill in Santa Barbara. Past a point, maintaining an opinion that is fundamentally counter to reality can be a result of “motivated avoidance,” a psychological term I’ve mentioned before. It basically means people are very good at rejecting facts that run counter to their goals and aspirations. This can be a big problem when important decisions depend on a clear-eyed view of the world.

The same phenomenon has been exhibited by each of the candidates running for mayor of Charleston. This article from the Post and Courier by Diane Knich reports that the latest cost estimate for extending I-526 to John’s Island is $720 million (more than the cost of building the Ravenel Bridge between Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.) The state has $420 million for the project. There are no other sources to cover the $300 million shortfall. As they say in math, Quod erat demonstrandum.

And yet the candidates persist in highlighting building the I-526 extension as one of their top platform items.

The I-526 extension is not the only mayoral issue. You can hear the candidate’s positions on issues ranging from development, bicycles and mass transit to cruise ships, energy and flooding. There is a lot of footage here, but I have to say that these videos are exceptionally well-made and informative. If you live in Charleston, there is simply no other source of information on the candidates’ position remotely this comprehensive.

(Which is essentially what Robert Behre says in this Post and Courier article.)

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!


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