The Real Threat to the U.S.

America is headed for disaster, and it has nothing to do with terrorists or George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.” A new study of the environmental health of 142 countries found that the United States ranks 51st, behind Cuba, Botswana and 48 other countries that have more respect for their natural surroundings than the U.S. does. The top five were Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland. It’s clear that this country still has its head in the sand, unaware of how we are laying the groundwork for a profoundly low environmental quality of life and the economic crisis that will accompany it.

There is no excuse for the poor standing. Yes, mistakes were made in the past, when we did not have the knowledge or experience to fully comprehend our impact on the environment. But now we know better. In 2002, protecting the environment should be the No. 1 priority of every country. The study, which was conducted by teams from Yale and Columbia universities, looked at how each country handles water and air pollution, how it protects its land, and how seriously it takes global warming, among other factors. The researchers concluded, “No country is on a truly sustainable path.” They also found that the more corrupt a government was, the more likely that country was to rank poorly on the environmental scale.

Which brings us to the U.S., where George Bush is presiding over a corruption of truth when it comes to the environment. It’s abundantly obvious that this President does not care a whit about the environment, as he pries open the Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars on a ridiculous military buildup. Once the patriotic fervor dims, the country will awaken to find our landscape ruined not by madmen from the Middle East, but by our own unforgivable ignorance.

Public Schools Outsmart Private In Top Science Contest

Scanning the list of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s most prestigious academic contest among high-school students, one is struck by two things. Once again, New York State left the rest of the country in the dust, with 15 of the finalists –almost 40 percent–attending high schools in New York City, Westchester and Long Island. The next closest state is Illinois, with five finalists. The second striking fact is that, with one exception, all of the finalists from New York City attend public schools. One looks in vain for Dalton, Collegiate, Chapin, Riverdale, Trinity, Brearley and the other elite private schools which so transfix the imaginations (and deflate the wallets) of New York parents. As has been the case for the past several years, the city’s private schools appear to be washouts when it comes to providing a top-notch education in the sciences. One must conclude that private schools are content to make a name for themselves with a relatively low-cost investment in a humanities curriculum, but balk when it comes to funding science labs and faculty that would elevate their students to a competitive level.

The only private school that made the grade this year was Horace Mann, with one finalist. Picking up the slack are the city’s selective public schools, Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, each with two finalists. The other finalists from New York are from public schools in Long Island and Westchester. Angela Kim of Great Neck South High School studied the relationship between breast cancer and H.I.V. Raminder Parihar of the Bronx High School of Science found evidence that blocking a certain neurotransmitter may help slow Parkinson’s disease. Allegra Giovine of Manhasset High School studied how women compete differently with other women than they do with men. Yang Li of Ward Melville High School did research on a safer vaccine for Lyme disease. Michael Wagner of John F. Kennedy High School delved into the effects of plant hormones on plant growth; in his spare time, he invented a machine that adds chocolate syrup and sprinkles to ice cream. Behind each finalist is a dedicated teacher, a tribute to the quality of teaching in many New York schools.

The winner of the Talent Search will be announced in March and awarded a $100,000 scholarship. Past winners have gone on to receive five Nobel Prizes–not to mention 10 MacArthur Foundation grants and three National Medals of Science. May the best New Yorker win!

John Ravitz for State Senate

The resignation of longtime State Senator Roy Goodman after 33 years in Albany means that East Side voters will be tramping to the polls on Feb. 12 to choose Mr. Goodman’s replacement. Mr. Goodman’s protégé, East Side Assemblyman John Ravitz, is running on the Republican line, while social activist Liz Krueger, who nearly beat Mr. Goodman last fall, is the Democratic candidate.

Both are serious, policy-minded people who would bring energy and ideas to the Senate. Mr. Ravitz has been an exemplary member of the Assembly, while Ms. Krueger has devoted her life to advocacy for the less fortunate.

Our choice in this highly contested race is Mr. Ravitz. We’re confident he will follow in Mr. Goodman’s footsteps as an articulate advocate for moderate New York Republicanism, an important force in city politics. His qualifications for the job are beyond dispute. Before running for the Assembly in 1990, he was a social worker, evidence of his concern for the poor. He understands how Albany works, and he is smart enough to make Albany work for the city. He has also been a voice for education reform, supporting school choice, charter schools and the move to abolish the Board of Education. He supports rent stabilization, and has founded a number of youth-oriented sports and educational programs on the Upper East Side.

Indeed, given how Albany works, the case for Mr. Ravitz’s election is even more compelling. The fact is, no Democrat can make much of an impact in the Republican-controlled State Senate. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact. As a member of the majority party in the Senate, Mr. Ravitz would be able to use his clout for the city at a time when we are trying to recover from Sept. 11. Ms. Krueger, on the other hand, would be virtually powerless. She could give press conferences, but not much more than that.

We encourage East Side voters to go to the polls and make John Ravitz their new state senator.