Wednesday, February 06, 2008

So What if God Wants a Heat Wave?

I woke up this morning to find that the temperature outside was 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This was mildly surprising, but not shocking. The weather has (of course) been intemperately mild for more than a decade. Yesterday was unseasonably warm. It's almost gotten to the point that I expect a periodic break from the cold, even in the middle of winter. While I have to admit that I find this new phenomena pleasant, it seems to me to be an obvious case for concern. The previous record for today was 60 degrees, but today the high is predicted to be 65. I would have to be completely superficial to enjoy it without a second thought. Given the tone of many people who make offhand comments about the weather, I'd have to guess that quite a few of them have decided not to worry about what it means.

It could be a matter of resignation. After all, what can one individual do about global warming? It's not as if human activity will grind to a halt if I lose sleep over climate change. In fact there is a large proportion of the United States that still believes that rising temperatures are merely part of a natural cycle. Their argument is that we are foolish to think that we can have an effect on the Earth's functioning- we are just too small. (Incidentally, a lot of these same folks are pushing a foreign policy that could lead to a "nuclear winter"). Then there are the people that simply deny that the average temperature is rising at all, despite the factual data that clearly demonstrates that it is. They back up their beliefs by pointing out the conclusions of a small group of politically-motivated scientists that claims that climate change is an illusion. There is always going to be the dissenting voice.

Even among the population that accepts the proposition that human activity has caused global warming- the majority puts this problem low on the list of priorities. They may have gone to see Al Gore's documentary, but they're too busy facing daily challenges to engage in any activist work that could call the attention of politicians to the situation. Many of them are trying to figure out how to pay their bills in a time of increasing economic uncertainty. Still there are folks who get hit hard by the reality of climate change, and for them the effects are very immediate. Yesterday tornadoes swept through the Midwest and South, killing at least 27 in Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. The amount of property damage caused by these storms is formidable. Of course these tragedies echo what we saw a few years ago with Hurricane Katrina.
Sadly there are few observers that make the connection between the growing intensity and frequency of natural disasters, and the behavior of "man".

The fact is that society seems to be becoming more and more out-of-touch with the environment. People in America are less active in outdoor activities. NPR reports that the number of citizens that engage in fishing, hiking, and camping is steadily decreasing every year. Hunting is the only wilderness pursuit that remains constant (1 in 10 Americans still do it), and that behavior is only dubiously aligned with a "Good Shepherd" philosophy toward nature. In short, not only do we ignore our natural resources- but we actively despoil them. The idea of the Earth as a living organism is not widely taught, whether in schools or in the media.

Perhaps it really doesn't matter whether the "bio-system" rejects humanity as a parasite. In the long run, the universe will remain relatively unchanged by our departure. The circumstances are not dire from a Christian perspective, because adherents look for their eternal reward in Heaven- not in Eden. Wealthy Americans meanwhile are diverting resources into space technology. Who can forget Dubya's announcement that we are going to put a colony on the Moon? Maybe we will be successful in fully exploiting this planet's resources to the extent that we can hop on the next inhabitable sphere as our atmosphere deteriorates. Anyway, it's not like a bunch of Americans don't enjoy the balmy weather in the meantime. And if the oceans rise, and New York is swallowed up by the sea- it's just God's punishment for the widespread immorality they practice in that modern-day Sodom.

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Blogger Ryan said...

Hey Hey, Ryan Here.

Granted that this is your blog and mainly a vehicle for your personal opinions, but the tone of this particular post strikes me as exactly the reason why you won't be winning any over to your side on this issue. I hear this exact same thing in the coffee shop, at work, on talk radio, and in the blogs several times weekly.

I'm generally skeptical of everything and think both sides of our self-imposed left/right, black/white paradigm leave something to be desired.

I tried my best to do some research on this issue and mainly found only childish bickering over who had what agenda. this is supposed to be a scientific issue right? I checked out all the documentaries and the various refutations of them. I'd estimate, all told, that i've invested a good 40+ hours into looking at different perspectives on this.

the problem starts at the end of your first paragraph: "I'd have to guess that quite a few of them have decided not to worry about what it means."

you've already taken it as a foregone conclusion that global warming is putting us on an unavoidable collision course with disaster. maybe it is but you have already hinted at the fact that others would be superficial not to think about it. hypothetically, is it not possible that it was just a very warm day and doesn't portend anything greater? Guys like Gore going around and saying "All the data shows..." and "All the scientists agree that..." just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. NOTHING is that cut and dry and it simply isn't true. You will easily find scientists who don't agree and interpret the data differently (they very well may be wrong but that's not the point). Al Gore framed the argument in the media as though there could be no dissent and I just have a hard time trusting him beyond that. in the same way that you might not trust a religious zealot that won't even let potential contradictory evidence into the sphere of the discussion.

"All the scientists agree..." except for the lying frauds that are on the payrolls of people with agendas! is the next argument that comes up. sorry Dave but you do it yourself here:

"They back up their beliefs by pointing out the conclusions of a small group of politically-motivated scientists that claims that climate change is an illusion. There is always going to be the dissenting voice."

A guy like Al Gore wouldn't be politically motivated would he? didn't his daughter marry into the Schiff family? you sure? How about David de Rothschild? No? didn't he write the official Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook? What is his family's business again?

Then lets connect everything that happens to climate change:

"Still there are folks who get hit hard by the reality of climate change, and for them the effects are very immediate. Yesterday tornadoes swept through the Midwest and South..."

That was definitely a result of man created global warming? really? you're positive now are you? we can accept that as absolute truth?

I'm still open to the possiblity that it was caused by global warming but we have zero evidence that this particular event wasn't just another tornado among, who knows, millions or trillions that have rolled over the planet in the last million years or so.

As for people just being resigned or ignoring the problem. don't worry, it'll all be taken care of for them. I watched television this week at my parents house. easily 1/2 of the commercials were geared towards the climate change mentality. Legislation will be going into effect all over the world in the next few years that will put regulations on everything. As well as taxes. If people don't make things happen then things will happen to them.

the reactive side on the right thinks, "i'm not going to let al gore tell me that i can't use, use, use, while he flys a private jet to his big mansion" so i'm going to burn as much oil and electricity as i can and buy as much shit as i can fit in the back seat.

everybody wins.

once again, lets be clear, i'm not disagreeing that there might be a problem but i think it's clear that there are lots of agendas swimming around that have nothing to do with caring about the issue and if we just take up any side of it without making sure, we may simply be feeding into something that may be damaging irregardless of our good intentions.

now back to why I think the style of argument is so poor...

You bring up hunting as being the only consistently engaged in outdoor activity which should make the hunter a great target for the fight against global warming. they are out in nature and should care about its preservation even if you might disagree with how they use it. instead, i would suggest, the tone of the rest of your blog entry would insinuate that such a person is likely to be hopelessly small minded and backward in belief when it comes to politics and science. probably the kind of person that would want 'intelligent design' taught in classrooms. certainly not people that would be willing to accept something as progressive as 'earth as a living organism'.

obviously i'm only poking fun but by feeding the flames of this thing as a left vs. right issue everybody just ends up as at a stalemate. we all have our beliefs that we view the world through, even the most open minded of us. certainly with some of the things that i believe I can't start the conversation off with 'you must be an idiot if you can't see that...'. I've done it in the past but it gets you nowhere. People only come to conclusions when they are put into a state of question and have to make a decision. when you CHOOSE something then you become invested in it. so much of what we have today is pre-provided, its no wonder that people don't give a shit. The ability to question something has to be left open. If you look at any number of issues, you'll see that from the left and right perspective there is no ability to question. you are either with us or against us.

I've noticed this type of argument as being particularly prevalent in the global warming arena. felt like you gave me a chance to vent about it a little. thanks.

but DAMN! it was warm yesterday wasn't it?

2:41 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Hey Ryan,

First off I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to post what I perceive as a measured and diplomatic response to my thoughts.

I think you'll find that (for the most part) I value relativistic thinking, and try to avoid the black/white traps of absolutism.

I also respect the fact that you have been willing to invest your time in studying the issue. That's a lot more than many do. It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric, and simply make assumptions.

Now I'd like to address some specific points you brought up:

1. I don't think it's accurate to say that I've "already taken it as a foregone conclusion that global warming is putting us on an unavoidable collision course with disaster."

Actually, my point was that it was important to invest time into thinking substantively about the issue, rather than simply saying... "Boy, I sure am enjoying this heat wave."

Sure, I posited some extreme circumstances... but nowhere did I suggest that these were inevitable. If they were, what would be the point of me lamenting the lack of any real effort to address a potential problem? I don't think it is too extreme a position to ask people to consider that it may be a valid issue.

I never asserted that all evidence proves that global warming is caused by human beings.In fact, I said there was a large proportion that considers it the result of a natural cycle. I did say that the people who deny the factual evidence that the temperatures are rising were politically motivated, because I can find no other reasonable explanation for that position. Can we not at least agree that the numbers tell us that climate change is occurring? Because then we can move on to figuring out whether man has anything to do with it or not.

2. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that an increase in incidence and severity of natural disasters is linked to climate change. Again... regardless of the source or reasons behind that change.

3. I (obviously) don't have a problem with regulations and taxes being implemented to prevent the possibility of further ecological damage. So many seem to have no problem getting behind preemptive military strikes against independent nations that may one day hurt us... yet they aren't willing to sacrifice anything in the off chance that we can preserve the ecological balance of the entire planet ? That seems a bit ridiculous to me.

If it turns out that its just a natural cycle... and there's nothing we can do about global warming... why, at least we'll have cut down on the pollution we are pouring into our atmosphere. It's OK if we "merely" have a salutary effect on the air we breathe and the water we drink. I don't think it's a losing proposition either way. That's why I'm willing to err on the safe side and be proactive. If we do nothing, and then it turns out to be a real threat that we could have mediated- then we really screwed up.

We may never be "sure"... the reality is that we are rarely, if ever "sure". But sometimes we have to make a call on the best available evidence. I guess your problem with that is that you don't trust anyone to make that call yet. I understand your skepticism.

4. As far as hunters are concerned... it would be great if they started (as a group) to feel that they have a vested interest in the health of the ecology. Obviously not all hunters fall into one particular group, but the demographic as a whole tends to listen to media sources that see environmentalism as a vast left-wing conspiracy.

I tend to see ecological issues as beyond "us vs. them". We are all vulnerable to poisonous atmospheres. Now whether you care enough to do something about it is another issue. The biggest threat to environmental regulation is obviously corporate interest and the myth of the "free market". The opposition (in my mind) has nothing to do with political ideology. What is a "conservative"?

8:13 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

Someone struck a nerve.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Nah. Ryan and I go way back. I always enjoy our exchanges.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous jefg99 said...

Nothing wrong with striking nerves on a blog, is there? In fact, isn't that part of the motivation for posting these types of topics? I enjoy watching the way nerves are handled here once struck, and hope to learn from it.

2:04 PM  

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