Best columns: Europe
Why we are still choking on smog
A choking Poland has finally realized it has a coal problem, said Marek Jozefiak. The smog that settled over almost the whole nation throughout January “came as a huge surprise.” The cause of this pollution is obvious: the dirty coal that Poles use to heat their homes. Every year, we burn some 11 million tons of the stuff in inefficient domestic stoves, and even before the smog wave we were suffering the consequences of our coal addiction. Poland is home to 33 of the European Union’s 50 most polluted cities, including seven of the top 10, and some 47,000 Poles die prematurely each year because of air pollution. Belatedly, the ruling Law and Justice party is scrambling to enact some regulations to bring us in line with our neighbors, such as emissions standards for new heating stoves and rules on the quality of coal sold to the housing sector. But regulations aren’t enough. We need to replace our coal stoves with greener, more efficient alternatives. Yet that would require taking on the coal industry, which the government won’t dare do, because coal miners are among its most enthusiastic supporters. Poles seeking fresh air will have to wait “for the wind of political change.”
Our mini- Trumps in Kerry
The Irish Times
Ireland has long had its own version of the Trump family, said Oliver Callan. Some 40 years ago in County Kerry, disgruntled voters threw their support behind “a disruptive business tycoon with a big mouth.” Elected to the local council in 1974 and the national legislature two decades later, Jackie Healy-Rae—owner of a construction equipment rental firm—went on to mix business with politics and bumbled into numerous conflicts of interest. Like Trump, Jackie, who died in 2014, had “anti-immigrant, climate-skeptical, barmypolicy, anti-PC ideas.” His sons, Michael and Danny, proudly keep his legacy alive. Michael, a legislator and former reality TV star, has pushed “insane ideas” such as offering drunk-driving permits for farmers, and has called refugees a bunch of “freeloaders, blackguards, and hoodlums.” Like Trump, the Healy-Raes have a talent for manipulating the media. Broadcasters always rush to interview Danny, also a lawmaker, whenever he rants about climate change. But reporters consistently fail to remind their audience that the family’s businesses include cattle farms and gas stations—“interests that would suffer if Ireland took climate action on fossil fuels and methane emissions.” There is admittedly one big difference between America’s and Ireland’s political dynasties: Unlike the Trumps, the Healy-Rae clan “doesn’t have any nuclear launch codes.” So while Kerry may suffer, the rest of us can laugh.