Saturday, April 6, 2013

You Can Call Me Al


The trouble with roaming around the internet while humming a little tune and not paying attention is that sometimes you end up in a sketchy neighborhood. It's like if you're trying to stay close to the cute guy at the party and then he goes out in the parking lot and shoots up with all his friends. So there I was, hopping from one blog to another, and all of a sudden there are all these scathing comments about Al Gore. One woman even wrote that it made her sick just to look at him. Poor Al. There was a time, first time he ran for president, that I thought he was really very handsome. He kind of bloated up and lost his eyebrows after that, but the older I get the more forgiving I am, especially about those two items.

But it was pretty clear that the animosity toward Al Gore in that neighborhood was pretty general, and pretty vehement, and it puzzled me at first. I mean, it's not like he made us go to war or took all our money or anything. I finally realized that people don't like Al Gore because they don't like to be scolded, and they imagine he's scolding them. I always thought he kept things pretty calm and civil, considering he is yelling fire in a crowded theater. And we're in a very, very crowded theater. And the theater is on fire. I kind of picture him walking up on the stage and waving his hand a little and saying "yoo-hoo." More plaintive than scolding, really. And all these people in the theater are peeling off their sweaters and fanning themselves and yelling down in front because all they want to do is see the show.

Most of your former presidents and vice-presidents pop off and write books and give speeches and make a ton of money, with some notable exceptions, but Al Gore, instead, is running around saying "yoo-hoo, we're on fire." Ordinarily you'd expect people to appreciate the warning, but all they get out of it is that Al Gore would like them to spend more for gasoline, and that makes him an asshole in their book.

Well, when we're considering whether the road we're on leads to extinction or endless prosperity--and we should be considering things like that--there are some good ways to weigh the evidence even without delving into the nitty-gritty scientific details. We can apply common sense, if we can remember where we left it. We can examine motives. Why would a man of means spend his retirement years trying to make gasoline more expensive? Is it just because he's mean? Does that really make sense?

And the scientists. Why would 99% of the world's climatologists be in agreement about the peril of man-caused climate change? Did they all get together in a secret climatologist bunker and say "I know! Let's make some shit up and see if we can get everyone to pee their pants?" Why would they do that? Meanwhile, there is a little posse of scientists who take a contrary view, but they have really big megaphones. Who's buying the megaphones? Is there something in it for them? Does their profit depend on the status quo?

It's not that scientists are always right. But the nature of scientific inquiry, as opposed to commerce, is that it is subject to rigorous peer review, and sometimes a strong consensus develops. Just because the media like to condense, misrepresent, and highlight odd science news such as "Effects of Rodent Porn on Despondent Voles" doesn't mean science as a whole is not a serious enterprise. At least, we should not reject their findings out of hand in favor of stuff that cycles through our email inbox, even if it comes with lots of capital letters and exclamation points.
Proper use of a car

We can also apply common sense to the very notion of climate change. We can hope that we aren't in trouble because we've been operating the same way all our lives, forgetting that that is a very tiny amount of time, or we can step back and take a broader view. There are seven billion of us and most of us have a ridiculous amount of power. We can go all the way around the world in a matter of hours. We can turn night into day. We can climb in a little pod and zip all over the landscape without even breathing hard. For thousands of years, people have been drying their clothes in the sun and wind, but now we bake our laundry dry and don't know what to do if we can't. We didn't get this power for free. We burned up tens of millions of years of stored carbon energy to get it, in just a few years, and our atmosphere is affected by it. Of course it is.

I guess I'm a scold too. But what's my motive? Am I some kind of ascetic who thinks we shouldn't have it easy? Hell no. Believe me, I love this shit. I can walk fifteen feet from my front door and sit down in a comfy chair in a heated vehicle listening to music and be strolling on the beach in an hour and a half. I can do this because we are pulling gobs of antique energy right out of the ground, and
there's only so much of it, and you know what? I'm totally willing to run it all out and leave nothing for our grandchildren, leaving them no worse off than our great-grandparents, but not if it means we're frying the place. I've got more consideration for them than that, and also it will suck for the salamanders.

Just this week we read that Obama's latest anti-pollution plan is being opposed because it might add a few pennies per gallon to the price of gas. If we can't see anything past the price of gas, we're like children asking Daddy for a baby elephant. Go ahead and throw a tizzy if you want to, but if Daddy's smart he's going to take the long view, and he's seeing endless elephant shit and a stomped house down the road. Whining about the elephant is childish, and it might be time to put away childish things.

Yoo-hoo.


60 comments:

  1. there is a little posse of scientists who take a contrary view, but they have really big megaphones. Who's buying the megaphones? Is there something in it for them?

    Of course most of the funding for global-warming-denialist fake "science" is ultimately traceable to the fossil-fuel industry. The situation exactly parallels that of decades past when tobacco companies funded fake science disputing the link between cigarettes and cancer.

    And the rejection of real science, while it's as logically incoherent as you point out, is still viscerally comforting to those who just don't like science because it keeps contradicting the Bible or telling them there's a problem with something they're doing. Again there are parallels with the past. Ayn Rand denied the smoking-cancer link and insisted her own smoking symbolized man's conquest of fire or some such rot, rather than admit she was just another pathetic drug addict. Those who view everything through the fog of ideology are blind to evidence. Never mind the Arctic ice or the thawing tundra, Al Gore is fat. So there.

    Ayn Rand died of cancer, of course. As the saying goes, reality is that which doesn't go away just because you don't believe in it.

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    1. She just didn't believe it hard enough.

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  2. Maybe if they got up and away from the computer for a little while, took a walk, maybe cleaned their room, or tossed the frisbee around for a while, those voles wouldn't be so despondent. I'm just sayin'...

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    1. You stick up for the voles, I'll stick up for the salamanders, and we'll all come out all right.

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  3. Seems like killing (or dissing) the messenger is as old as time. I kind of LIKE the way Poor Al does his thing, almost as much as I love the way you write about the most depressing stuff and I'm laughing...

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    1. Oo, I wish I were laughing on the inside too.

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  4. Here in the Willamette valley, we can dry our clothes outside in the sun and the wind only between July 7th and October 10, and then not always. The rest of the time we can hang them out on the porch in the cool dampness and let them mildew. Or we can hang them in the basement so they smell like the oil furnace. Or cat pee. But that fresh air and sunshine thing . . . seasonal at best.

    I drive a Prius. 46 miles to the gallon. Does that help balance out my gas clothes dryer?

    The theatre is on fire and the exit doors are locked. Yoohoo.

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    1. I only get 34 mpg but most of the time I'm parked. That's when I get the best mileage.

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    2. I've had the car 7 months and have only 6,258 miles. And I can spin sheep wool into yarn and knit my own socks.

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  5. And the award goes to Murr for an insiteful view of the here and now!

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  6. Off in another world, I remembered:

    Say, don't you remember? They called me 'Al'
    It was 'Al' all the time
    Why don't you remember? I'm your pal
    Say buddy, can you spare a dime?

    I can't fault Al Gore; "a little coastal flooding" gave us four feet of water in the basement. I was recycling before it was chic. I didn't start driving a car until I was 37.

    I guess I didn't yell loud enough.

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  7. Al Gore has made multi-millions out of his GW position, climate denyers have much to lose taking their unpopular position, they have been fired from university positions denigrated by their collegues. Many GW advocates are afraid to voice an opposing opinion and be classified as "Denyers" (I know my spelling sucks), much like early explorers were branded "flat earth denyers."

    Whatever the sceince, we should be taking steps to find cleaner energy, we need to move away from oil and coal. I believe even "Denyers" agree on that if for nothing else, but for a matter of economics. Perhaps we should move in that direction because it is a good idea, but not because we need to panic and make bad decisions out of false urgency. Instead of arguing for clean energy because the earth will burn up, lets argue for clean energy because it is just better! I think we could get a concensus on that rational and move to policies that everyone could agree with.

    Nice post, thoughtfully done.

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    1. It is also possible and, I think, likely, that the urgency is not false. The next century will tell the tale. I know which side I prefer to err on.

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  8. You can always tell the Fake Scientists and their supporters - they're the ones who just keep dialing it up way past ELEVENTY when you disagree with them and refer to the former Veep in print as "Algore" as if it were an insult. It's so fun to poke them and get them going....

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    1. Ish, I hate poking them. I get depressed.

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  9. The worst thing Al Gore did for this planet was call it "global warming." The name stuck. Now every naysayer points to the recent long, cold winter and says, "Huh, that Al Gore shore dint know what he was talkim' 'bout, did he?" Try to tell them that it's "global climate change" and they scoff that you're just giving it a new name to fit your "theory." Because this is the same group that believes scientific "theory" means "we don't really KNOW this, we just think it might be true."

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    1. My Agapanthus plants made it through the winter. The warming can stop now, when it's just right.

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  10. Well written Murr. And insightful. I actually liked Al then and now. Too bad he got jobbed by the Supremes....

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    1. Oh, he did, didn't he? How different things would be. Just think.

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  11. I have nothing to add. I'm just here, applauding like mad for Al Gore and for you, and grieving for the earth, all in the same moment.

    Actually, I will add something. An overabundance of selfishness is really at the root of all the world's problems, innit? Global warming, wars, crime, abuse, poverty, racism, sexism, and all the other -isms: all of them can be traced back to selfishness. Okay, that's my two cents.

    Another great post Murr.

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    1. I'll give you a dime for more thoughts.

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  13. I think the problem is there's a gulf between our intellects and our emotions. Our intellects have got the message that our lifestyle is wrecking the planet, but our emotions say, What the fuck, I just want to have a good time and everyone else is having a good time so why not me? It's a hell of a problem.

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    1. Plus we just really can't believe that the lifestyle we've come to believe is normal could possibly be THAT dangerous. Because we've done this all our lives. We have no appreciation for just how unprecedented our carbon dump is.

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  14. I was so sorry Gore didn't win. Or rather, that he had the election grabbed back from him my the FL Supreme Court. The Deniers are a bunch of flat earth banana heads (Lewis Grizzard, I think) and I agree that we should l stick with global climate change or global climactic instability. It's just insane that we refuse to look at the damage we're doing and make a change.

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    1. Some day very soon, our kids will look back at us and our inattention and apathy, and dig us up and slap us all over again.

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  15. Your analogies are right on. It is a burning theater, and people just don't want to hear about it much less do anything. At some point in time the word "environmentalist" became a dirty word.

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    1. True. As though the only thing environmentalists want is for no one to have any fun. The bastards!

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  16. Favorite phrase: "secret climatoligist bunker." Love it! Now if I can just figure out a way to weave it into my conversation...

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    1. Weave away, darlin', I'm not patenting it!

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  17. Good post. The VP curse. What do you expect when your name is mentioned in the same sentence as Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Joe Biden, etc.

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    1. Wull, some o' dem I likes better than others of dem.

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  18. Like you, I too stumbled onto a subject I found interesting, Einstein quotes, one of which (to paraphrase) was something like the only thing in the universe that is infinite is mankind's stupidity. It has to be true because Mark Twain said it first.

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  19. I heard Al Gore give his Earth in the Balance presentation, and it was very convincing. Plus he was funny and was nice to my little granddaughter when she took her book to be signed. Things could have been sooooo different indeed.

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    1. Almost makes me cry. I hope everything turns out well for your granddaughter, but I fear.

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  20. Mind blown. Preach, sister, preach!

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    1. Hey--re your name--could it possibly be true that you are without Trousering Your Weasel? Because this can be rectified, which is not a dirty word.

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  21. If only EVERYTHING (gasoline, plastic, factory-farmed food) would be priced according to what it actually costs us, pollution-wise, I'd be happy. Remember a few years ago when gas prices went way up and suddenly everyone (gasp) was driving less?

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  22. And the plastic. mountains and mountains of everlasting plastic (another product of the oil industry)that is befouling the earth. "When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?" as Peter, Paul and Mary asked.
    Great post Murr.

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    1. I only wish we weren't taking everything else down with us.

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  23. 'when we're considering whether the road we're on leads to extinction or endless prosperity' Is there any doubt? I wish there was. I really, really wish there was. And jenny_o is right as she so often is. Greed and selfishness have put us in this position. Time to be nice - to our home at least even if we can't quite manage to be nice to each other.

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    1. And even in the not-overtly-greedy or selfish, there is willful ignorance.

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  24. Loss of eyebrows and weight gain are signs of a hypothyroid condition. Someone should tell Al to have it checked out. Sorry, I AM concerned about Climate Change, but I got distracted by the loss of eyebrows symptom.

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    1. Now I'M distracted. Loss of eyebrows is caused by what now? Mine disappeared several years ago and although I continue to think they're going to show up some day along with the mate to my argyle sock, it hasn't happened yet. However, I have lost weight over the last five years. I'm putting that down to less beer, which means I know how to solve it. Oh boy, do I know how to solve it.

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  25. Your wonderful post has reminded me of a quote I heard some years ago. Sorry I can't recall who said it first but I'm guessing it will be familiar to you too.

    'Solar energy won't become popular until Exxon owns the sun.'

    Thanks so much for this.

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    1. I did some work on solar energy back in 1974 and discovered that Texaco had already been busy buying up land in the southwest U.S. to be ready to profit from large solar installations.

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  26. Yoo hoo! I'll throw my weight behind the 99% of scientists who have actually spent time, ad nauseum, studying the earth (cuz I'm too lazy to do it myself), and when those who are not scientists find definitive evidence to the contrary (instead of espousing and kvetching about Al's eyebrows and the notion that we've only been here for six thousand years), then I'll throw 'em a dinosaur bone. Till then, I let the experts win the argument, hands down. Plus, I like Al Gore, belly, eyebrows, and little black box.

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    1. Ooo! His lockbox? I'd forgotten about that. Amazing how much political mileage people get from simply making fun of one's adversaries.

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  27. Dear Murr, you write so well and you make such sense--so much common sense--and your sense of the ridiculousness of life today is so well woven into your article, that all I can do is say, "Thank you for being so articulate and for saying what I've been thinking for a long time."

    I'm wondering why you don't write a column for your newspaper. Something that could be syndicated. Perhaps you already do, but if you don't, I suggest that you pick out five or of your postings that have received the most comments and send them and the comments to a newspaper for review. Peace.

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    1. Thanks, hon, I've had that suggestion before and it would be cool. I'm not sure I have the gumption to do what it takes to get a column. I'm pretty sure I can get one in the Concordia Newsletter, which goes out to about 300 households in my neighborhood...

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  28. You do some fine, true hooing, you.

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  29. For many, to admit to climate change and support measures to correct it, would require personal change, in our own habits and the the way we operate our country... Gas prices would rise and many things that we are used to would change drastically..(Not as drastic however as they will if we continue to ignore it.) And Americans do not like the idea of change..

    But eventually, Al Gore will be vindicated...

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  30. For many, to admit to climate change and support measures to correct it, would require personal change, in our own habits and the the way we operate our country... Gas prices would rise and many things that we are used to would change drastically..(Not as drastic however as they will if we continue to ignore it.) And Americans do not like the idea of change..

    But eventually, Al Gore will be vindicated...

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    1. Yes. And I think you'd agree he'd rather have spurred the right action rather than be merely vindicated...

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