Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Outbreak of Denialis

I’ll love Mitt Romney forever for asking whoever it was if he wanted to make a ten thousand dollar bet. What a wonderful crystallization of the goings-on behind that bland, handsome face. I grant that not all Republicans are so cocooned in their wealth as to be as fabulously out of touch as Romney. And yes, there are plenty of rich Democrats. But it’s no secret that the Republican Party has long been the enclave of the rich—and the scourge of the poor, the dispossessed, the foreign, the “other.” Its perennial platform—fewer taxes, smaller government, less regulation, and a safety net from which the netting has been cut out—makes that clear enough. If I had a little money and my whole purpose in life was to hold onto it, or turn it into more money, I’d by damn be a Republican too. So I get why some people vote for the grand old party.
I also get why some people—often these same Republicans—scream themselves blue in the face denying the evidence of climate change. It doesn’t take a great genius to see why corporations that make billions of dollars extracting, selling, and burning fossil fuels might be interested in debunking the idea of global warming. Except for the earth and life itself, these tycoons, and countless others in allied industries, have nothing to gain and much to lose from efforts to reduce carbon emissions. They run the game, and, sensibly, they don’t want to see the rules change.
What I don’t see quite so clearly is what’s in it for the climate change “alarmists.”  What’s in it for James Hansen, E. O. Wilson, Bill McKibben? I suppose some self-interest could be in play. Hansen got tapped to give a TED talk (which was scary as hell, by the way); McKibben’s probably sold a bunch of books; Wilson may cherish his reputation as the father of modern ecology. But do these constitute motive enough to be so damned “alarming,” to be such “fantasists,” to be so “immoral” as to have conjured up the climate change “monster” when there are so many real problems to be dealt with.
            I’m afraid I got sucked into reading a New York Post opinion column, “Leo vs. science; vanishing evidence for climate change” (, Sept. 14, 2014) that a friend posted on Facebook. After yukking it up over the idea of some pretty-boy movie star trying to talk science, authors Tom Harris and Bob Carter proceed to enumerate the salient climate facts that so many of us have somehow missed. Relying on the work of “Oregon-based physicist” Gordon Fulks, they declare that
·         global warming ceased in the late 1990s;
·         rates of sea level rise “remain small and are even slowing”;
·         the ice caps aren’t melting; and
·         there’s been no increase in either the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events in the modern era.
You can find lots of stuff about Dr. Fulks on line, but for now it’s enough to say that he’s a member of a right-leaning think tank called the Cascade Policy Institute, which describes itself as, among other things, “the voice of free market environmentalism in Oregon.”
The New York Post, of course, is the voice of free market social change in America.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Home on the creek

In winter I can glimpse it through the bare trees, rounding a bend and catching the white light, on its way north to pour into the Etowah River right beside the Indian mounds. It's in no hurry to get there, though. If you're headed up 41 from Acworth to Cartersville, you'll cross over it once and a half-mile later cross over it again. I think I'm safe in supposing that the character of the creek suggested its name.
     It's a fine, wide creek. In our early years out here, when Ruthie was 12 or 13, she and I tried to fish it a couple of times. There was a big outcropping of limestone that slowed and deepened the stream, and we sat on the rocks and went at it with worms and Zebcos. I think we caught a couple of little catfish, which, not being sure which of its unfriendly-looking parts inflicted the fatal wound, we were both afraid to touch.
     That was a while back. We moved into our little cabin in the woods in the spring of 1995. Not everybody would have wanted to, but Dede hasn't got sick of it yet and Ruthie still seems to like coming home. Ruthie and Ben do, now.
     Things do change. A few years ago the county built a water reclamation facility a quarter-mile up the creek. Who knows? Maybe the water flowing past my house today is cleaner now than it's been in decades. What I do know is that every 30 minutes or so, if you're on the back deck, you can hear what sounds like the flushing of the toilet of the titans. Plus, after the leaves fall, our formerly delicious nighttime dark has been blasted by what looks like a small city not a stone's throw away. Across the creek is a 20-acre pasture, from which we can sometimes still hear the lowing of cattle or the muted clacking of the farmer's mowing machine. Now the pasture as been co-opted by a demented person who believes he should fill every evening with the intolerable whine of his radio-controlled model airplanes.    
     Not saying we've got a whole lot to complain about. Most of the year, like right now, we're enclosed almost to the point of claustrophobia by a deep wood of oak, maple, beech, tulip poplar, sweet gum, and sycamore. Deer, wild turkey, and woodland songbirds inhabit the place. It's still quiet here, and lovely. The kind of place, in other words, that people are going to feel nostalgic about when they're all gone.
     Which is going to be the theme of this blog: not just nature, but what's happening to nature, what the human species is doing to the earth, the evidence for and effects of climate change, and the state of denial on the part of politicians and the corporations that own them.
     I read and think about these things a lot, and I'm inclined to share.