Squirrel Superheroes

I was surprised to see this article about squirrels being horrible pests, because in our backyard the squirrels are a source of significant entertainment and, frankly, some pride.

My experience with our backyard squirrels began when I decided to try to keep our bird feeders stocked with bird seed this year. We have two curved iron poles on which we hang the bird feeders under one of our trees.
It quickly became apparent that the bird seed I was putting out was, in part, ending up as squirrel food instead, because we easily had the most well-fed squirrels in the neighborhood. One Saturday I decided to watch the feeders to determine, first hand, what was happening. Sure enough, within minutes after I filled the feeders and left the backyard a stout squirrel appeared. After sniffing around and carefully analyzing how to get to the seeds in the feeder, this animal Spiderman shinnied quickly up the four-foot wrought iron pole, clutched the pole with three paws, and batted the feeder with his free front paw, knocking seeds to the ground and alarming the birds nearby. Then he dropped quickly to the ground and vacuumed up the seeds that were of particular interest. In the meantime a portly fellow squirrel strolled out onto the branch about two feet above our other bird feeder, hurled himself deftly on top of it, knocked still more seeds to the ground, and then leaped back up to the branch and scampered down to the ground to claim his reward. My backyard squirrels, like the redoubtable Twiggy in the YouTube video above, clearly would be fully capable of waterskiing and, probably, leaping over a few barrels and through a flaming hoop of fire in the process.

My original idea this summer was to provide some seeds that would bring colorful songbirds to our backyard. That has happened, but I’ve also attracted my squirrel friends and encouraged their hard work in the process. I’ve been impressed and am not going to begrudge them a sunflower seed or two.

What If India Won’t Play Ball?

India not only is balking at agreeing to limitations on carbon emissions, it also apparently is challenging the science underlying global warming theories. This development is noteworthy, because if India and the other growing economic powers — China, Brazil, and Indonesia — refuse to participate in some kind of binding worldwide effort to reduce our carbon footprint, it puts the United States in a terrible predicament.

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions involve both a scientific component and a geopolitical one. As I have written before, I am skeptical of the science underlying global warming and its heavy reliance on computer modeling. In any case, the geopolitical component is at least as important as the scientic. I do not mean to downplay the significance of getting agreement from countries like Germany and Japan on capping and eventually reducing their emissions, but at least part of that reduction will be achieved by the ongoing general population decline in those countries. Japan’s population, for example, is projected to decline from 128 million in 2008 to 95 million in 2050. Germany’s population is forecast to fall from 82 million in 2008 to 71 million in 2050. If a country is going to experience significant reductions in the number of people who drive cars, it is necessarily going to reduce its carbon emissions, without making any lifestyle sacrifices or handicapping its industry with regulations that raise costs and therefore prices.

What about China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those four countries and the United States are the five most populous countries in the world. And, unlike Japan and Germany, the populations in those countries are growing rapidly. India, which had about 1.1 billion people in 2008, is expected to become the most populous country in the world by 2050, with 1.7 billion carbon-consuming and carbon-emitting individuals. During that same time period, China’s population is projected to grow from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion, Indonesia’s population is expected to grow from 240 million to 343 million, and Brazil’s population is forecast to grow from 195 million to 259 million. The population of the United States, on the other hand, is projected to grow from 304 million in 2008 to 438 million in 2050.

If countries like India and China refuse to agree to reducing greenhouse gases because they don’t want to saddle their growing economies with the costs that would accompany that effort, the impact of those decisions would obliterate any carbon emissions reductions achieved in Germany and Japan. Obviously, if any significant percentage of the 600 million new Indian citizens uses electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, wears clothing produced in smoke-belching factories, or drives a car powered by fossil fuels, the impact on India’s carbon footprint will be tremendous.

What does this mean for America? Perhaps it means that we should not charge blindly ahead with legislation designed to force our industry to comply with difficult regulations that can only increase the costs of the goods they produce and try to sell in the global marketplace. Our businesses already have to comply with significant wage and hour, safety, and environmental regulations that are not found in other countries. If we add carbon emission regulations that are rejected by other economies, the only immediate impact will be to make our companies even less competitive with those in India, China, and elsewhere. In an era of significant global economic challenges, taking unilateral action that cripples our industries and makes them less capable of employing Americans seems ill-advised — indeed, almost suicidal.