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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Speaking My Greenpeace

I received an email from a close friend yesterday. The thrust of the message was that she is tired of certain members of the environmental movement turning climate science into a religion. There was an accompanying link to this video, which I am not posting directly to my blog due to its length, but suffice it to say that it is the anti-Inconvenient Truth. I recommend watching it, as I do all perspectives on an issue. The rest of this post is my response to the message. I think it falls under the "making the world a better place" clause of my mission statement.

"Quite frankly, I'm opposed to anything being turned into a religion. It's a sure-fire way to ruin what may have started as a great idea.

"In the case of "global warming," I will agree that media attention toward the issue tends to be extreme and politically polarizing. That's why it gets attention. This film is no different, it is merely crap rolling down a different hill. Unfortunately, as much as I love Google video, the quality of this particular download leaves much to my desire. I wish I could have watched it in a format where the graphs weren't so fuzzy and the sound dubbing synched up better. I was mostly watching for the alleged third-world impacts, which I felt were hastily added in the last five minutes and contained the least supporting data. I have also aggregated a few links for our little intellectual circle of articles pertaining to this film. They included, but are not limited to scientific rebuttals, accusations of deliberate distortion, and a letter from one of the interviewees stating that he was in fact "swindled" by the producers. In short, it's exactly what you would expect to come from one extreme after hearing the ideas of the other.

"Here are the most important issues as I see them. They are the same ones that apply to the economy, the environment, avian flu, political corruption, education and anything else that is worth being concerned about. All of these are chaotic systems. They all have more mitigating factors than there is time to list. They all show a sensitivity to initial conditions that makes modeling all but impossible. Even scientists with the best of intentions will disagree because of this. Ed has a favorite story about two economists arguing on the radio that illustrates the same principle. But here's the thing, and there's really know way of getting around it. Humans can be called a lot of things. We have shaped this planet in more ways than any of us know. We are responsible for unbelievable good and inescapable bad. But the one thing that we are NOT is content. We are a restless, and often, recklessly headstrong species. There is no way that we will ever be satisfied in waiting for all of the data to come in, especially concerning issues that so affect us.

"So what are we supposed to do. Yes, it is true that the sources of global warming are complex, misunderstood, and mysterious. I don't see any climatologists on this recipient list, but any honest scientist ought to tell you that our predictive capabilities will never be close to absolute. Unfortunately, we have to make policy decisions in spite of that fact. The wait-and-see approach doesn't work well for us. Perhaps it is arrogant of us to think that we can affect the world so much. Or perhaps it isn't really the world we need be concerned with. Nothing we do is going to destroy this planet. Life on Earth will continue long after we're gone. Yet while it is true that the cockroach may one day be king, I would really prefer us to hang around for as long as we can. So I really don't see the harm in being on the safe side. Do I think we should keep the developing world from doing so? No, not really. Let them burn whatever fossil fuels they want. (And by the way, there is plenty of fuel mining going on in Africa. It's just that the first world can afford to outbid the indigenous populations and local warlords tend to embrace capitalism.) I don't think it's fair to deny others the prosperity that I often take for granted. But I can help balance things out. I can use energy efficient light bulbs and turn lights off when I'm not using them. I can recycle, even if some of the technology isn't at maximum efficiency. I can walk, ride my bike, or take the bus. I can do all these things because they are easy to do and I feel good doing them. I can lead by example. The marketing and propaganda, no matter how widespread, will only mobilize a fraction of the audience, who in turn, will only do a fraction of what they can.

"I will be one of the few and i will do as much as possible to make whatever insignificant dent I can.
And that is what the environmental movement means to me."

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