Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Final Days Are Awesome

Science marching on
It's amazing how much stuff we know! In my lifetime alone--and do not be fooled by appearances, I am but an eight-year-old in a wrinkle suit--we learned that the continents are moving around. I was still in high school.

And it was barely forty years ago that I first read that our worst pollution problem might be carbon dioxide. This was startling. We'd been assuming all along that the dirty smudgy sorts of pollution were the big problems, and if we could keep the black crap from spewing out of our smokestacks, and if we picked up trash on the roadways, and saved the whales, we'd be in pretty good shape. Carbon dioxide was not on our radar.

We certainly wanted the whales saved because they are intelligent and majestic and worthy. But it's only been a few years since we learned how essential they are to the ocean ecosystem, because they forage in the deep where the nitrogen is and come up for air and poop it out as the surface, which jump-starts the whole food chain. No whale poop, no phytoplankton. Who knew? Now we know. Amazing.

Science zigs and zags but marches on, occasionally getting things wrong, and correcting them later. This is exactly as it should be. You looking for certainty, religion is your game.

I'm not sure how we got here, as amazing as our knowledge is, but now most of us are not only science-illiterate, but we don't even understand how science works. Otherwise you'd never get so many people to actually believe that 99% of the world's climate scientists are pulling our legs about global warming. What they are doing, of course, is collecting data from all over, and developing computer models using the data, and testing hypotheses, and publishing their results, which are then reviewed by their peers, who are--or should be--their stoutest critics.

Instead, a lot of people have been persuaded that they are sitting around their little labs pulling in grant money and plotting to manipulate their results so as to bring down the entire world economy that is run on oil. Ha ha! Why would they do that? I don't know. Because people made fun of them in school and now they're secretly conspiring to get everybody back? Who do they think they are? Bunch of smartypants in unattractive lab coats who think they're better than everybody. Same people who told us coffee would kills us, and then changed their minds a month later. They're scam artists.

People didn't used to reflexively dismiss the most educated among us, but now they do. Some corporate shills realized they could make bank on our insecurities to create doubt in the minds of the people. It was a calculated and deliberate effort, and now here we are, in quite a pickle, without the political will to save ourselves.

Most of us are not accustomed to looking beyond the narrow slots of our own lifetimes. Until very recently, people sought out caves for shelter and socked away fat and berries for the winter, as their ancestors had done for hundreds of thousands of years. But somehow, now, most of us think it is completely normal that even though we get winded running for the bus, we can walk into a metal tube in California and be in New York City in six hours. We think it's so normal, in fact, that we bitch about it if we spend an extra hour on the tarmac.

We simply do not comprehend what a very special time we're living in. This unprecedented luxury feels like our birthright. We don't want it taken away. And we can't imagine why anyone would want to take it away.

Right now a group of people are making a stand against a pipeline. They want to protect their water; some of them want to protect sacred sites. It's just one pipeline segment, but they have a lot of support from people like me who witness their bravery and recognize their stand as being the spearpoint in the fight against catastrophic climate change. When we make our case, we're mocked. I've never seen anyone protest the oil truck coming to their house in the middle of the winter, writes one wag on the internet. We're hypocrites, in other words.

If this is how you see us, this message is for you:

Aw hell no, Sugar! We're like everyone else. We love this stuff. I can get in my car and expend four calories with my right foot and be walking on the beach in an hour? Awesome. I can flick my index finger and make my house cold enough I need a sweater in July? Outstanding. I can drive to the store in January and buy fresh salad greens from a thousand miles away and then just toss the plastic box in the garbage? Baby, oh baby! We are living better than kings and queens, every one of us, even if we don't fully appreciate it, and all because we're digging up a finite fossil swampland and burning it up as fast as we possibly can, right now. We haven't been doing it for long, and we won't be able to do it for much longer. But right now? We get to have all this swag.

And there ain't an environmentalist with a beating heart that wouldn't want to keep that up if it were possible. And if it weren't going to seal our doom.

Look at us! We never even had the first clue about the whale poop and the plankton, but we're willing to allow half the world's species to go extinct on our watch, and cross our fingers it all works out. Maybe we still feel safe; maybe we live on high ground, and still have air conditioning. Meanwhile, we won't even take in a Syrian victim of terrorism in case she's a terrorist; but in a few years, entire populations are going to be on the move. Climate refugees, trying to survive. If we're not interested in making room, and sharing our stuff, we could start by not assuming scientists are frauds.

50 comments:

  1. You are brilliant Murr. And this is so effing sad. Because effing true. Every day I RIP this sad and sorry-sack planet being kicked to death.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. Often I save those special moments for the middle of the %#%&^ night.

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  2. We don't even have to give up modern conveniences. If we did, then we really would be doomed, because everybody in Latin America and the Middle East and Asia wants the same modern conveniences we have, and they're not going to be denied. We (and they) just need to shift over to power sources like solar and wind that don't produce greenhouse gases.

    The only people who assume scientists are frauds are people who don't like the conclusions science reaches, usually because those conclusions threaten either their profits or their religion.

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    1. I think the ones who are protecting their profits are manipulating the ones whose religion needs shoring up.

      Actually I think we'd have to give up quite a lot; everything I've read has indicated there is no sustainable technological way to have all the crap we have, but we'll surely be able to live comfortably, and we might discover we don't miss all our stuff.

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    2. Well, our survival depends on figuring out how to do it. Nobody in places like Mexico City and Tehran and Bangkok has the slightest interest in any philosophy of "doing without". They want cars and air conditioning and laptop computers and modern healthcare and all the other stuff we have. The US is less than 5% of global population and we have to get over thinking that what we do is forever going to be the primary determinant of the world's future.

      The technology to decouple energy production from greenhouse-gas emissions already exists. It's just a matter of implementing it.

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    3. I'm not sure we'll all get our own cars though. Fine by me!

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  3. Just glad I'm an old guy and don't have to witness the stupidity for more than a couple more decades.

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    1. Given the current trajectory, that witnessing might just kill us! "I'M COMING, ELIZABETH!"

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    2. "This is the BIG ONE, Lamont!"

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  4. I love this, Murr. I hate what's happening, but I love your ability to say so.

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    1. Ah yes--eloquent right to my grave! [sob]

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  5. Wish I could have put it so well! Infidel 753's 2nd paragraph above describes our governor here in FL! It's all about profit and the hell with the mess our grandchildren will inherit....

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    1. Oh, is your governor the infamous "Florida man?"

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  6. I guess because I feel powerless in all of this, I tend to wonder who or what comes next. What will they be like? What will they think of everything we've left them? Odd to think about. Maybe there will be no one, nothing. We'll never know.

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    1. We'll have to get in good with one of those people who doesn't care because they've got a comet to ride out on. Maybe they'll let us know.

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  7. I'm awed and humble over how much we can choose to know, thanks to scientists. I especially love all the physics and astronomy we have learned from Hubel and other programs - and now we are listening and learning to the music of space. Thanks for reminding us that we also need to base our decisions on how's we devour energy on the consequences to other nations, plants and animals and a planet associated with life.

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    1. Honestly, science is just so dang fun I can't imagine why people run the other direction.

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  8. So well said. I am also so discouraged with the people Trump is appointing to his cabinet. Speaking of dissing scientists, this whole cabinet will have so much less education than the outgoing members appointed by Obama. We have no hope of anyone in this coming administration taking climate change seriously or working to ensure alternative power sources become the norm. I am just so sad about everything.

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    1. You're in thick company here at Murrmurrs, Inc.

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  9. I have a lot of faith in science, and scientific solutions to mankind's stupidity, and in the political jackasses eventually being out of a job and science being there to pick up the pieces. In the meantime, I try to do my part, and if I knew anyone personally who didn't believe in science I'd be poking them as often as humanly possible. Do you know, I realized just before I wrote that that I DON'T know anyone who isn't a believer (in science). Maybe I need to start going to church or something. Find some people.

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    1. It would test your patience. Just warning you. I try to make science-y things as fun as possible and lure the dubious that way. But, of course, no one who reads me needs luring.

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  10. Sigh.
    Tis painfully true. And the momentum is growing. Not sure we can stop it now, even if enough of us want to.

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    1. Oh yeah, it's probably way too late. But I have to live as though it's not.

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  11. My brain , especially in the dark hours, is a tossed salad of anger at the wilful stupidity, sadness at the human misery our "leaders" are ignoring, and frustration that I cannot offer more solutions.
    Humour has served me pretty well over 70+ years, but my laugh shield is showing some nasty dents these days...
    At least I live in a land where at least one animal has square shit.Something not even the full-of-it Trumpster can say!

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    1. And I give a square shit about wombats. As you know.

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  12. Actually, I'm wrong on one point - that afore-mentioned scat is CUBED, not a plain ol' square.

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  13. Exactly how 'fresh' are salad greens that have travelled a thousand miles? I try to do my bit by buying salad greens and other fruit and vegetables that have been grown in my own state. I'd grow my own if I could, but poor soil and millions of ants make that impossible.
    I've always believed scientists know what they're talking about, they are much smarter than me after all.

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    1. Ants! I never thought about them as being an outdoor pest.

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    2. They build nests in all my pots and the grass is riddled with them and I can barely stand still some days without the little buggers crawling up my legs.

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    3. Gaaah! [rethinking Australian vacation]

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  14. Murr, you have put words to my vision. Millions of people desperate for food and shelter like locusts coming across borders in wave after wave.

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    1. If I'm not mistaken, even the situation in Syria began with country people flocking to overburdened cities when years of drought ruined their chances.

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  15. This is so good I tried to share it, but when I clicked on share it, it didn't work. Goddamn science!

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    1. Ohh, do I feel your pain. I don't have the answer to my share button. Some people don't see it, some people do and it doesn't link, and others say it works fine. For me, it works sometimes and not others. I think there is a problem with this antique blogger template I have. But since I don't know how anything works, I can't say for sure.

      I do know you can highlight the blog post title in your browser and copy it and then paste it into your social media. Clunky.

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  16. Thanks for this, Murr. I've shared it on FB and hope it garners you a few more readers.

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    1. See? Debbie can share it. The share button remains a mystery! Thanks.

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  17. I had an old boss who used to say, "If you want their attention, ya gotta hit 'em in the pocketbook." Well, I hope those folks are holding onto their pants because their back pockets are about to get ripped off. Relatives in Okla are suffering at least 5 earthquakes a day since they've begun deep drilling and fracking oil wells. (It's sort of a karma thing that the wells have been shut down due to too much oil on the market, but the earthquakes go on. "What can we do?" They shrug. How about stop poking holes in the plates and forcing water down them? "Oh, no, no. That's not the problem," they say.
    Uh....yeah, yeah, well continue holding onto your pants and try to ignore that there were 60 tornadoes in Okla from 1950-1961. But in 2011 alone there were 120. Indeed! The final days are headsmackers. B. Froman (Because I can't get Blogger to accept my Wordpress sign in.)

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    1. I'm sorry about my nasty comment czar and my nasty share button. I don't know how any of it works. But Barb, right on. It's like what I read recently: "stupid should hurt." I guess it does, but if you can't connect the dots between the hammer and the lump on your head, we do not have an effective feedback mechanism.

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  18. I plug along, writing about lichen and multi-legged critters and rain forests ... Hoping somehow, against hope, that someone else will discover that the earth is worth saving. I don't think it's working.

    We're in a rut now where "Kill the messenger" seems to be the normal response.

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    1. We'd all like to make the big score, but maybe the little contributions will add up. Education is pretty damned important. Keep doing it.

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  19. The New York Times ran a leading article this morning on the demise of the polar bear. I can't read it. I can't bear to read at least half of the articles on the same page because they're all so disparing. Every Secretary appointment by the angry yam is worse than the last, and I have every reason to believe that all of them think Global Warming is a Chinese hoax. Meanwhile, they are preparing for war, evidently with the Chinese, their opening volley a call to the Taiwanese prime minister. I'm feeling rather worn down this morning, in case you hadn't noticed.

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    1. We all are. I'm thinking about cranking up the heat and enjoying the ride out. We do have twelve cases of IPA in the basement.

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  20. I've read this blog post 4 times. It is utterly mystifying why so many people do what they do, believe what they believe,and feel themselves superior to people with actual credentials. Remember when Rick Santorum said "Obama wants everybody to get a college degree, what a snob!" I know a sickening number of families that are raising their kids to think like that. What a befuddling mystery, and a sad one. Galileo was threatened with torture, tried for heresy, imprisoned, and had his works banned because he observed that Copernicus was correct that the sun is the center of the solar system. Wouldn't it be something if our new president was asked to explain a little bit about Copernicus and Galileo? Do you think he has a clue, or cares about a world that demanded scientists give only pre-authorized opinions?

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    1. Well since you asked, no, I do not think he has a clue. He is proudly uneducated and, I think, not even all that smart. Average intelligence, spoiled, and both defensive and offensive.

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  21. Jesus,what a world. I used to brag about being born at just the right time to be able to get off the planet before it all turned to shit. Now I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it. Brilliant piece, my friend.

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    1. Right? It's like, if we get another twenty or thirty years (at the outside), we'll be witnesses for sure. Still, I want my thirty (I have a ton of beer in the basement). On the other hand, our big earthquake is looking better and better!

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