The Hubris of One Man, The Fate of a Planet

Because of the terrible hubris of one man, yesterday, June 1, 2017, we “stiffed” approximately 194 other nations on our shrinking and increasingly dirty planet. This man objects to the Paris Climate Accord because he believes he would have made a better deal for America. He insists that the deal will hurt the American economy, although this opinion runs contrary to almost every expert on the economy, and denies the intelligence of his predecessor. This may not be an earth-shaking or planet- destroying act but it turns America into an isolated nation refusing to join its neighbors as caretakers of a planet that will soon be home to nine billion people. I am embarrassed by the actions of this man whose job it is to lead our nation. But I am not surprised.

Republicans are dug in to a position which contends that humans cannot change the climate of earth. They do not even accept that high levels of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere could cause global warming. They have generated an entire body of speculative scientific data based on core samples and temperature studies that suggests that the changes we think we are seeing are within the normal range of historical climatic changes.

However many of these studies are not accepted as good science by peers in the field. Take for example, the work of a group of people who use the title “The Right Climate Stuff”. It’s a clever play on the meaning of right as correct and the designation of right as an ideological position on the political spectrum. However, if you research The Right Climate Stuff on the internet you will find adherents and critics. The adherents are mostly right wing citizens, the critics are mostly actual scientists. Quoting The Right Climate Stuff data will not convince anyone who is not already a climate change “denier”. The data has a partisan stink about it. Science should not depend on what political position you subscribe to. See: http://www.therightclimatestuff.com/

Science used to trump politics. And, although 97% of climate scientists say that climate change is real and is affected by the activities of people, the right wing has been able to throw plenty of shade on this bit of science by simply repeating ad nauseum that the data is wrong. They are also great at acting incredulous as they repeat, “We need to get over ourselves; people are too puny in the grand scheme of things to change earth’s climate.” In the end the right wing falls back on a philosophical argument which cannot be shaken by mere “science-y” experiments (Big Bang reference).

Perhaps looking back at the natural events, the unnatural events, the arguments, the cultural trends and the possible solutions will help. I have kept a diary of sorts of climate related news during the Obama years of 2010 -2016 (not blaming Obama for anything here). (see my book at http://notabene.com/ and on Amazon.com) It is informative to take a look back. Perhaps you will decide, as I have, that we can set aside the decisions about whether climate is changing or not.

We could just focus on the fact that we are spinning through mostly empty space on our lovely little planet. We could remember that we have no way, so far, to get off the planet. We could accept that our planet can live on without us, but we cannot live on if our planet gets trashed or if the delicate balance of wind, water, and air that makes our planet such a delightful place to live gets out of balance for any reason.

Can’t we just look at ourselves as caretakers who must keep our planet clean and happy and ticking along in the same way that we would like to keep our households ticking along. While we are arguing about what is basically climate politics the population of earth is exploding. Even if weather is not getting more extreme (which we are arguing about also) the fact that there are many more people in the path of extreme natural and unnatural events and the fact that our technology allows us to experience extreme events in real time makes such events costly in terms of both money and the psychic toll it takes on all of us.

How could it hurt to mend our flagrant polluting behaviors for a designated length of time to see if this helped matters? Well, if you are wealthy, I guess you feel it would hurt a lot, hence the pushback. If you are not so wealthy the way you feel may depend on what the media tells you, or whether or not you live in an area experiencing extreme events. However, the rather large segment of the right wing which belongs to an Evangelical religious tradition with a fundamentalist approach to the Bible should find that being earth’s caretakers suits them very well given that we all once lived in that wonderful “garden” from which we were only expelled by knowledge, and that we, in that garden, apparently once lived in perfect harmony with nature.

We cannot be divided on this. If we want to know the answers we must put this to the test, be kind to earth, and see if things get less chaotic. You might excuse tornadoes that seem larger and more numerous than they once were as just being a natural cyclical occurrence, but seeing the shrinking of our ice caps, the calving off of giant chunks of ancient glaciers, is harder to be sanguine about.

 

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