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It looks like poor Harrisburg, Pa. is a major contributor to climate change, according to this Brookings Institution report. Each of us belches more than three tons of carbon a year. It’s true that, per the report’s findings, we live in big houses powered by coal and drive a lot. But I’m a bit skeptical, since those are only part of what it means to be an American these days. And I wanted to deal with the report since, earlier, I decided big cities are like big coal plants — relics of a centralized, industrial past.

Brookings says people in big cities emit less carbon than us non-urbanites, at least some of us anyway. However, I’m guessing that people in places like Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles (all cities with relatively small per capita carbon footprints according to Brookings) wear clothes and eat food. And I’m guessing that only some of the food is grown in their own kitchens and that only some of the clothes are made at dining-room tables.

Even food at a city farmer’s market has to get to its destination somehow, and I don’t think Ford is making any hybrid box trucks.

Stuff doesn’t come from nowhere. It takes factories and planes and ships and trucks to produce and deliver this stuff, all of which produces carbon. I wonder what the carbon footprint is of the average sushi restaurant in midtown Manhattan or the average department store in Los Angeles.

It’s this kind of analysis that’s missing from the Brookings report. And as long as it’s missing, we can’t hope to get a realistic grasp on climate change that empowers people instead of alienating them.

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The main thing missing in the ongoing debate over Barack Obama’s comments about small-town PA are voices of actual Pennsylvanians (other than Ed Rendell). I’ve seen quotes from consultants, politicians and pollsters, but next to nothing from people who live in our small towns. So for your edification, here’s a particularly perceptive op-ed from a young reporter in York who’s a native. Athough it ran a few weeks ago, it shows why Obama wasn’t far off the mark.

Yes, Obama’s comments were a tad condescending. How would it sound if John McCain said urbanites cling to their lattes and their fear of the suburbs because they’re bitter and frustrated that health insurance isn’t universal? Someone should just say that anyway, I suppose.

But rather than discuss the issues affecting small towns in Pennsylvania, we’re going to get an argument about who’s an elitist. It seems Obama’s biggest crime was uttering words that anyone with the slightest interest in tearing him down could spin quickly and easily. If only politicians could move as quickly when they had an actual problem to solve.

Pennsylvanians aren’t entirely silent in all this. We’ve seen a mayor trotted out in favor of Obama, a guy called John Fetterman from a town called Braddock, near Pittsburgh. But look at this web site and tell me if it seems typical of small towns in any state. Rick Gray of Lancaster also has been making cameos, but Lancaster also is fairly atypical when it comes to PA towns (but aren’t they all and isn’t that part of the point about not clinging to stereotypes?)

Hillary Clinton has been running ads showing her bucolic childhood days in Scranton,. She also assembled a mayors’ conference call, but the only one quoted that I’ve read is Mayor Stephen Reed of Harrisburg. Look at the Harrisburg skyline below and tell me if this is a small town:

[UPDATE: Here are the voices of the bitter themselves]

This blog has gotten a few hits from people looking up information about a national truck stoppage, apparently scheduled for April 3. The stoppage is supposed to raise concerns over the rising price of diesel fuel. As a service to those readers, I’m posting this article and this article about a rally today in downtown Harrisburg on the same issue. The second one even has some video.

The hits, I think, come from my recent post about a sign on Route 30 that regularly offers chilling scenarios that would result if trucks were to stop. I’ll start posting some pictures as soon as I can take them.

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