Thursday, 15 October 2009

Global Warming

Right, so it's Blog Action Day and I'm supposed to talk to you about Global Warming.

Now, maybe one or two of you have been reading my blog for more than a year now, or have gone through my archives, or whatever, and are now saying, "But didn't you once try to poke holes in Gore's An Inconvenient Truth?" Well, yes, I suppose I did. But that was because his data wasn't conclusive--or even relevant--and his argumentation had gaps in it, not because I disagree with his cause. Some people will point it out if you have a hole in the seat of your pants; some people will point it out if you have a hole in your car door; I point it out (or want to) if you have a hole in your argument. That's all. I dislike blatant misinformation.

"But," you might say, "didn't you say in that same post that you don't believe that global warming actually has been proven beyond all doubt?"

Well, of course I said that. I'm even marginally informed and I try to be honest, which pretty much means that I don't believe that global warming has been proven beyond all doubt. Not only do I think that almost nothing is proven beyond all doubt (which is impossible in an empirical system of knowledge, fyi), but I recognise that there is some evidence which suggests that global warming either a) doesn't exist or b) isn't man-made. That's not the same as saying that it's proven beyond all doubt that it doesn't exist or that it is even unlikely to exist. All it means is that there is room for doubt, or interpretation of data, or disagreement, or what have you.

If you did read that article, you may remember that I said we ought to act as though global warming exists, whether it does or not. Firstly, I think that it may very well exist. I think there might even be a good chance that it exists. Secondly, even in the event that it doesn't exist, most of the means that I know of for trying to prevent/postpone global warming are good for the environment for other reasons, too. Fewer emission is better for the air (and all that breathes it). Decreased fuel consumption is not only better for human civilization in terms of long-term energy reliability, it might also help mitigate ecosystem destruction. And so on.

Except that I add a caveat to this: we ought to be careful about what we do to mitigate the damage. Consume less, by all means and any means. Of course. I mean we ought to be careful about assuming that our 'green' energy programs are actually greener. We must check that relying on wind power doesn't kill off the endangered Tibetan cuttlefish and Australian ground sloths and Chilean pushmi-pullyus. In our well-meant but hasty drive to prevent one disaster, we must be careful that we don't cause another.

I suppose what I mean is this: Let's all start by consuming less. Much less. That's a good one, and it doesn't require a whole lot of thought to get started. Don't drive when you don't have to, put your thermostat lower, wash clothes only when you have a full load, fly economy if you must fly, buy domestic, buy used, buy less, throw out less, eat less. (Keep your empty jam jars, because they make good cups. Read those red-neck repair jokes not for laughs but inspiration.) And then let's all think very carefully about what our next step is, and not let partisan biases and our fear of not sounding environmentalist enough get us headed the wrong way.

And let's not lose hope. Or, let's find where we put our hope. 'Cause on this issue and on all environmental issues, I'm not sure I've still got mine handy.

I know! Let's pray on this. And I mean this not in a pray-as-an-automatic-response way, like lots of Christian-type bloggers will, but in the way of modern media. In Battlestar Gallactica, one character is diagnosed with cancer. They talk about treatments, and the doctor half-jokes about trying prayer. But then, just as the doctor walks out of the room, he turns to her and says, "And for the record, I would seriously consider prayer." For some people, prayer really is a last resort, and I'm scared that that's where we are right now: on the edge of apocalypse. That by now it's out of our hands, and our only job is to try not to make things worse and just hope they get better. I'm really, really scared that this is the case.

But I'm sometimes struck by something. A person who has been shot three times in the torso can sometimes still walk to the hospital. Our bodies are frail enough that a little damage in the right place (well, wrong place, I guess) can kill us in seconds, and yet our bodies can also stumble on when damaged beyond recognition, and still even recover. I know a man who was hit full-on by a transport truck, and he was walking again within a year. Maybe, just maybe, even after all the abuse we put our world through, it (we) can still stumble on and then recover. But in order for that to happen we must stop the abuse, and I suppose that's what this whole Blog Action Day and every environmental awareness campaign is supposed to be about. I think the problem is that we need to stop being so big on 'awareness' and more about 'action plan' and 'hope.' 'Awareness' just seems to be code for 'fear-mongering,' and breeds either despair or resistance. Neither of these are any good at all. What we need is cooperation. And practicality. And cheerfulness.

I saw a This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes skit where the newscaster said that the Catholic Church was criticizing advertising companies for using sex and greed to sell products; they should do what the Church has always done and use guilt and fear. My first thought was, Isn't that more of an environmentalist or social activist thing than a Catholic thing? I recognize that elements in the Catholic Church have used guilt and fear a lot and I also recognize that many social activist groups are trying to get past that, but it does seem to me that there's little difference between hell-fire and gun-fire or forest-fires as far as public relations go.

One way or the other, I hope the global warming/environmental responsibility campaign will come around.

I probably did not write something in the spirit of the Blog Action Day proposal, did I? Well, I suppose this must do, because I have nothing else.

Good luck. Go read more useful Blog Action Day posts.

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