A Cult of Ignorance

Why does it matter whether this administration believes in climate change or not you might ask? As long as they earmark funds to clean up and rebuild after each disaster we should still be fine, right? Ninety-seven percent of scientists do not think so. I do not think so. Ignorance is never an answer. It is ignorant to pretend that there is no trend to more severe weather and other disastrous events. It is ignorant to pretend that the ice caps are not melting, and even if they are it has little to do with us. It is ignorant to put economic greed above human survival.

It is ignorant to overturn laws that could have helped hold climate change at bay. Even if you don’t believe that humans can effect nature (which is also ignorant) it is foolish not to try. Americans used to love a challenge, a good problem to be solved. If the fossil fuel age is about to end you would think that we would be all gung ho to come up with new options.

America did not used to be a country whose answer to a possible scientific inevitability would be to simply double down on the old technologies suspected of causing those new and sobering truths. If we could usher in an Industrial Age as muscular and productive as what gave America its brash confidence in the last two centuries, we should be just as excited and energetic about creating a new “Age” in the 21st century which will be cleaner and kinder to our planet and our health, a new tech that does not rely on the remains of the Age of Dinosaurs.

I just spent my week the same way many of you probably did, watching that slow and blowsy storm called Irma from the time she left the western coastal waters of Africa. I watched as Irma assaulted the islands of the Caribbean leaving destruction in her wake. I watched the tragic loss of the entire island of Barbuda which may not be rebuilt for some time. Some of the ritziest names in island destinations were in the cross hairs and did not escape unscathed. Irma lingered so long over Cuba I was afraid there would be massive devastation of another nation with few resources for restoration.

But I have family and friends in Florida and as the weather news became direr with each passing day my anxieties were focused with people rather than places. My friends in Miami left first. They were in the bull’s eye for a while. Miami streets experience minor flooding in a rainstorm. I was relieved. They left Florida altogether with the cat and the dog. Then one of my sisters told us that she and her husband had gone with other relatives to stay with her son and daughter-in-law. My sister and her husband recently down-sized to a manufactured home. Her son lives in a home that is rated to last through a Category 4.

So that left us with one couple sheltering in place in, of all places, Cape Coral, the new target of Irma’s ferocious energies. The prediction for a 10-15 foot storm surge in Cape Carol gave me nightmares. These guys live on a canal right near the Gulf of Mexico. On the news broadcasters spoke with contempt for people who stayed when they should have evacuated. But these family members went to two shelters and were turned away at both. The mayor of Cape Coral made it sound like the town’s preparations were extensive but no one seemed to realize that people were being turned away from shelters. My family members had just arrived home from a summer up north and landed right in the path of Irma. It has been a very tense week, only resolved when the surge threat was lowered to 5 ft. There is a sea wall that rises to 4’ and then, still, an upward incline to the house.

Do I know for sure if the phenomenon we call climate change is responsible for that storm? I do not. Do I know that the sea levels are rising and the ice caps are melting? I do. Do I see how people love to live near beaches and coast lines? I feel this pull myself. Do I see how populated the hurricane-prone state of Florida has become, with people still arriving every day, many of them aging and experiencing the challenges that come with aging? Florida is a state that has risen on fairly shaky ground, as I understand it, and it took drastic engineering feats to turn it into the goddess of the good life that it is today.

We just saw 7 million people all try to evacuate a state with one or two main highways. It’s lucky they started early and I bet it was frustrating to sit in those long lines of traffic crawling along. Can we count on evacuating almost an entire state if monster storms become the norm? Doesn’t it make more sense to try some of the solutions scientists offer? Perhaps it is not too late to at least stabilize earth’s environmental situation.

Conservatives, for reasons I cannot understand, are arguing against knowledge, against experimentation, against reasoned thought and innovation. I have no problems with training programs for people who are interested. I think we need people trained to do all kinds of things. I do have a problem with an ideology that feels that the answer to our inner cities is more police, more prison, rather than more computers, more broadband. Some of these people went to Harvard for heaven’s sake; some to the best college in America, Wharton, as we are told. College is still good for people. It is good for brains. It helps them tick and think. Einstein didn’t go to a training program. He went to a university.

Conservatives don’t like colleges because they believe they turn out rubber stamp liberals. I think colleges don’t like Conservatives because they are backward thinkers who have nothing valuable to offer students, although once they would have been examples of civility and the importance of having moral standards. The war on our college campuses was not caused by liberals. Liberals are defending our centers of learning against a reactionary wave, a huge reactionary wave.

We seem to be headed towards an age of ignorance, caught in a cult of ignorance that will rob America of a leading role in a world that will have to streamline and find efficient ways to deal with our exploding populations, and that will have to look outward to space for new planets to colonize, or face desperate wars and diseases and disasters to trim our numbers back to levels that make human life feasible on this planet. Ignorance is our enemy. We don’t have time to while away a century or two in the new Dark Ages.

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