Monday, February 16, 2009

Making the Connection

The issue of global warming and the possibility that it may, in fact, be man made and not a result of regular changes the earth is accustomed to, brings one face to face with the realities James Burke discusses in the final episode of Connections, "Yesterday, Tomorrow and You".
"In the absence of knowledge [on a scientific issue that affects our lives deeply] what is there to appeal to except our emotions? Then the issue becomes: national prestige or good for jobs or defense of our way of life - and suddenly you're not voting for the real issue at all."

I think that's how it's gotten waylaid all these years.

The people who are looking at the evidence and trying to attract our interest in it, realize, because they are scientists, that one can never be positive of anything.  There's been too much of that in the past.  Someone makes a ground breaking, world view changing discovery that doesn't agree with the currently accepted body of knowledge and he gets himself persecuted and silenced.  

Not that I think all scientists are humbled by what they don't know... there are egomaniacs in every profession.  I'm inclined to believe, however, that as far as thoughtless egomaniacs are concerned there would be more of them in politics and big business than in the field of science.

Lets face it, the average politician isn't going to tackle an issue unless he's going to get something out of it: more votes, a big name, a donation. 

Big business? Honestly. Name just one that puts anything in front of profit on its to-do list. You can't be a big business if you do!!

The funny thing is, I've heard people remark that the apparent dangers of global warming were dreamed up - or beefed up - by Al Gore in a vain attempt to get himself elected president...or because of his disappointment at not getting elected.  Did Carl Sagan do the same? Did James Burke? 

What, exactly, was on the agenda of scientists who started putting all this data together and said..."Holy shit!"

Guess what?

Nobody wins if the effects of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is changing the climate.

Nobody wants it to be true.

It means we can't just go along business as usual.

And how are you going to convince people to do that?  

1. Appeal to their emotions.
  • Put a kid on a train track and tell everybody that its all our fault that she's there.
  • Show a video of cuddly little polar bear cubs whose mommies can't find them enough to eat 
  • Rant and rave about how scientists are always telling us what to do and we should stand up and fight for our right to buy as much as we want when we want it and throw it away as soon as the next model comes out.
2. Present the facts in a comprehensive, understandable manner. 
  • Put the data in a chart that anyone can understand.
  • Come up with a lists of possible causes, effects, scenarios.
  • Instead of wailing about the polar bears, come up with some real, practical, implementable solutions.
The problem lies in the gap that exists between the man on the street and the eggheads with the data.  Bridging that gap is a media that is always anxious to broadcast the latest information as soon as its available.  The unfortunate result of that, however, is that too much conflicting information makes its way into the minds of people who are just trying to make it through the day and the scientific process becomes just so much noise.

And I have to admit, I'm becoming one of them.

But I've seen and heard enough to realize that if my body can only handle so much toxic waste before it shuts down, why should the earth be any different?  Did we really think we could go on doing this forever?

For someone like myself, with limited scientific knowledge, the way I look at it is this... 

Who's to benefit if our lifestyle is, in fact, killing the planet?
Who benefits by denying it?

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