Big oil, big problems
Recently, I and other North County residents have written letters opposing dramatic and dangerous expansion of steam injection/oil extraction projects proposed by big oil consortiums for the Santa Maria area.
They plan to put 760-plus new high-risk wells in aging facilities, posing significant pollution risk to our Santa Maria River and San Antonio Creek drinking water aquifers. AERA, ERG, and PetroRock are spending millions to gain the support of local organizations for their projects in front of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
Big oil is quick to counter any sign of opposition with false claims of their supposed peerless safety and environmental record. Working with county health and fire departments, I have responded to dozens of oil and gas releases for 32 years.
Oil spill prevention and spill cleanup are often poorly implemented as are oil handling practices in general. All the oil companies involved claimed that they had excellent safety and environmental compliance records, even as we watched oil flowing into creek beds and sour gas wafting over farm workers and residents.
That is human nature to put our best face forward but our actions often belie our words. When the asbestos industry covered our homes and workplaces in efficient, durable asbestos insulation, they assured us of its safety. The same with the lead industry, when they put lead in gasoline and house paint, and when the mercury industry put that poison into our medicines, rivers, and household products. Their products were safe and their environmental compliance was excellent, until they were found not to be.
So let's learn from this history. Let's stop the expansion of these dangerous fossil fuel projects and promote the building of safe and renewable wind and solar infrastructure in the North County.
Background knowledge integral to understanding
The Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools suggested ways parents can cultivate skills children need to succeed: "The true power of asking questions" in an Oct. 1 commentary.
She couldn't be further from the mark.
Background knowledge is integral to understanding and seeking information beyond one's limited personal experiences.
There is one way to acquire background knowledge and curiosity of the wider world and then put that into context. Children must be educated. Children must first be taught the foundational skills of reading and math.
Absent reading and math proficiency, children (citizens) are left in the dark forever; reduced to asking others and waiting for instructions instead of doing their own research and planning for their future.
They have a dim future.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, California is nearly dead last in reading and math achievement in the whole United States.
There is nothing wrong with California kids, there is a lot wrong with curriculum and instruction.
To suggest children should "understand how other people think about answers" is not just nonsense, it is damaging. For children to waste time trying to read people's minds is the gateway to mental illness.
Learning is not a "social process that involves relationships with others."
Learning requires effective teaching to impart the basic skills necessary for reading and math which have worked for eons. In other words: a teacher, a child's brain and a child's fingers to hold the pencil to practice and further train muscle memory to the brain.
Reading and math are the foundation for reason and logic, without which we slide into barbarism: look around.
Once children are proficient at reading and math, introduce nonsense if you choose to waste their time, but not before.