Today we take another of those Points of Personal Privilege. Readers here may recall that I periodically write about my friend, Dr. Greg van Buskirk, chemist extraordinaire. I met him and his wife Sharon Kantor when we lived in the same graduate dorm at UCLA.
The eminent Dr. Buzz worked for years at Clorox, where I've always liked to say he invented Scrubbing Bubbles, even though a) he didn't, and b) that was from another company. But he was in charge of some top products, and when he went out on his own, he invented a fabric softener, Sofft, that also acted as a stain repellent (a project which is still ongoing).
And then a couple years ago, I wrote here about how he not only has a new one, but this invention is a full line of home products that has actually started to hit the shelves. The only unfortunate news is that it came to the market too late to qualify for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he long deserved.
It's a product line called, Sensitive Home, which are cleaning products, particularly suitable for those who suffer from chemical sensitivities and people who are concerned about toxins in their home -- but it's made, as Greg says with his usual eloquence, "for use and enjoyment by all!"
Well, just to let you know that – as I always say – I tries nots to steers ya wrong. Yesterday, Greg announced that Sensitive Home was chosen as a 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the second year in a row! And just to be clear, it’s “only” two years in a row because the company has only been in business for two years.
(What this all means is that the “EPA Safer Choice” program helps identify products with safer chemical ingredients that don’t sacrifice on quality or performance. It focuses on efforts to advance sustainability, environmental responsibility, and product safety. These are considered by many to be Good Things. And all the better, the entire line of Sensitive Home products is certified. Which is also considered A Good Thing.)
I feel obligated by contest rules of fairness to point out that the award is for the entire Sensitive Home team, not just its esteemed inventor. But the inventor gets to sleep with the award under his pillow.
There -- proof that I’m not lying about the award. And that Dr. Buzz actually exists, and is not a character like Mr. Clean. (Well, okay, he is sort of a character, but he is real and has a PhD, so you don’t just have to call him “Mister.”)
Well, I must say that I knew he had it in him!! I knew it. When everyone else was saying, "Greg, stick with the guitar and taking apart motorcycles just so you could put them back together, I said -- No! You can do so much more. Like at least try to make sourdough bread and invent a line of great, environmentally friendly and safe homecare products. (It’s long been my theory that he moved to Northern California in order to be closer to the sourdough industry. That and so he and Sharon could be around more Dungeons and Dragons geeks. But that's a long story, made more aching and memorable with Thanksgiving being only a few weeks away. So, we'll leave it for now and stick with Sensitive Home, the EPA award, and sourdough bread.)
I am deeply impressed by this. Actually, I was seriously impressed just by him inventing the Sensitive Home products, period. And getting a company started. This simply takes it to another level. Though there was nothing simple about it. So, big, huge congrats to Dr. Greg van Buskirk -- the chemist who takes chemistry out of chemistry by using chemistry. Voted one of the world’s Top 8 most sensitive chemists six years in a row. And seven years out of the last 10.
I have several relatives in Florida, and after checking with them, all are well, happily. Three live in Miami which appears to be out of the hurricane path, though as they said, it's impossible to know which way the storm will bend and with this being King Tide season, there could be bad flooding. So, at least two of them have moved to a hotel for the night to be safe. There have been a few power outages, but it hasn't been problematic for them.
The other relative is a cousin (my mother's first cousin) who recently turned 101. So, moving around would have been a burden. But again, happily, she lives in an area that's actually somewhat protected by a small island just off the coast, with a small bay in between, and so it acts as a bit of a barrier. She lives on the fourth floor, and because the building caters to older, independent-living residents, it has generators and ample food. And her caregiver is staying with her. So, good.
As I've watched the coverage, a few thoughts have come to mind.
I wrote about one yesterday -- how I look forward to Pat Robertson chiming in, as he always does whenever a natural disaster hits a blue state and claims it's God's divine intervention, bringing retribution on the sinners of that that. No doubt he will do the same here, perhaps adding that it's God's anger at how Ron DeSantis treated Disney World.
I wish too that there was far more attention paid to how when Ron DeSantis was in the U.S. Congress, he voted against federal aide to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Because, y'know, that hit liberal East Coast states. But now he's already called in for federal assistance -- which he should -- and President Biden has offered all help that will be needed. Which he should, too, rather than snarkily smear the residents of the state for poor hurricane management, as Trump did with West Coast wildfires.
Somewhat related to this, I heard some analyst praise how Biden and DeSantis were "working together" on this, despite being such big political rivals. And my immediate reaction was -- say what???!! Ron DeSantis should get close to zero points (maybe about eight points) for "working together" with President Biden. DeSantis needs federal aide. He's asking for federal assistance. He pretty much has to "work together" with the White House. Because the very last thing he wants to do -- most especially since he's up for re-election in about one month! -- is sashay around that he alone can handle the hurricane and piss off those ready to help him. It's President Biden who is impressively "working together" with a governor who has been going out of his way to undermine the Administration and promote fascism.
I also kept thinking that for all those who don't "believe" in science and think Climate Change is a hoax, it's good to remember that meteorology is a science. And hurricanes don't care if you believe in them or not.
And finally, as I watch the news and see the crushing winds and rivers of water flowing over towns, I keep wondering why isn't Ron DeSantis telling Floridians that it's their Personal Choice if they want to go outside during the hurricane??
Mind you, I'd think it would be utterly insane to go out, but then I thought it was totally crazy not to get vaccinated. And not to wear masks.
And after all, as mind-numbingly nuts as either action would be, at least going outside during a hurricane isn't infectious and won't risk killing others...
Y'know, Personal Choice and all.
Very odd -- I've been looking for Pat Robertson explaining that the devastation of Hurricane Ian is God's retribution against the wicked immorality of the sinners in Florida, but...nothing. Perhaps he is waiting until clean-up starts., so the heathen can hear him and repent.
Actually, though, my hope is that when Pat Robertson does eventually chime in about Hurricane Ian being God's retribution on Florida, he makes clear it's less from Biblical sinning and more from the state screwing with Disney World.
Either that or for being Climate Change Deniers.
If you didn't see Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver last night, his Main Story was on carbon offsets -- how they often don't accomplish anything that companies hope they will...or hope you think they will. It's a very good and often funny report.
I did have to pause the TV and rewind a couple of times to understand the point he explains too quickly for my ears about how sometimes when a company uses carbon offsets it's actually making the problem worse. But I eventually got what he was saying. It doesn't seem to be something that happens very often, but the fact that it happens at all goes to the issue that carbon offsets aren't always what you hope they are.
I came upon this article two weeks on the website for KTLA, a local TV station here in Los Angeles. The title caught my eye – “The difference is astonishing’: Graph shows how much better California smog is now.”
And it turns out that this wasn’t hyperbole. The graph was astonishing.
As the article notes, back in the 1950s, pollution in California – particularly Southern California with 12.5 million people in the Los Angeles metro area, a car culture with little public transportation and sitting in a basin where the smog can sink into – pollution became synonymous with the area. It wasn’t uncommon to have the famous Hollywood sign obscured from view, or to drive over the hill as the San Fernando Valley spread out in front of you, only to have the entire view covered by a low-lying cloud of the smog layer.
The article told a story from the Los Angeles Times in the 1950s when conditions were so terrible that motorcyclists who worked for a blueprint company went to buy gas masks from a military surplus store because of “smog that was so thick they couldn’t see.” The Times added that “The masks worked, too, the men said, making seeing possible and breathing more pleasant.”
But conditions have become drastically different today. Pollution is still a problem, but nowhere near that level. “So what changed?” the KTLA article asks.
Well, the federal government passed the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955 – and then the Clean Air Act was passed in 1963.
Starting in the 1970s, air pollution levels started to fall in L.A., the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere around California and throughout the Southwest.
In fact, after three decades, smog levels actually fell below the national standard of 9 parts per million.
And here’s that graph that shows the astonishing difference.
So, anyone who wants to lambaste environmental laws – or overrule them (thanks, Supreme Court!) or ridicule treehuggers or make fun of snail darters – the reality is that science is an actual thing and not a belief system.
There’s still a lot of improvement that needs to be done, but what a massive way they’ve come.
You can read the whole article here.
If you didn’t see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, the Main Story was on water and drought, mainly in the Southwest of the United States. It’s very interesting and well-done, has some great material – notably a clip of the Utah governor about how he plans to deal with the drought – along with lots of room for humor.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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