Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tipping Points

There's a great article in the latest Mother Jones on the different factors that color our planet's ability to respond to global warming. It's a long article and I won't include it here but there were some snippets that I found particularly interesting. The first is on how our station in life affects our views on global warming:

" ... found that Americans fall into "interpretive communities"—cliques, if you will, sharing similar demographics, risk perceptions, and worldviews. On one end of this spectrum are the naysayers: those who perceive climate change as a very low or nonexistent danger. Leiserowitz found naysayers to be "predominantly white, male, Republican, politically conservative, holding pro-individualism, pro-hierarchism, and anti-egalitarian worldviews, anti-environmental attitudes, distrustful of most institutions, highly religious, and to rely on radio as their main source of news." This group presented five rationales for rejecting danger: belief that global warming is natural; belief that it's media/environmentalist hype; distrust of science; flat denial; and conspiracy theories, including the belief that researchers create data to ensure job security." -- 2005 study by Anthony Leiserowitz, published in Risk Analysis

And the second on the need and the ability of our country to take action in the face of a threat:
"We also changed with breathtaking speed in 1941 when we recalibrated the entire economy of the United States in one short year to fight global enemies in Germany and Japan. The effort was promoted by the government but carried forward by individual citizens. Obviously, our powers of transformation are magnified by visionary leaders. Mahatma Gandhi's Salt March in 1930 ignited Indians of diverse religions, languages, and ethnicities to unite in the common cause of independence. Gandhi, in turn, inspired Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Biko, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who catalyzed their followers to change the world as well.

Leaders can rouse us against them, too. Whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said, "Let them eat cake," she inspired change that reverberated far beyond Europe. Likewise, when George W. Bush says we can't act on global warming until we "fully understand the nature of the problem," we can use his callous disregard as a rallying cry.

The truth is, we can change, and change fast, even in the absence of perfect knowledge. Like cockroaches, our hallmark is adaptability. Long ago, we looked out from the trees and saw the savannas. Beyond the savannas we glimpsed other frontiers. History proves that when we behold a better world, we move toward it, leaving behind what no longer works."

That's a recurring point with global warming naysayers ... waiting for "perfect knowledge". Or at least that is the reason they give. If they actually cared about having all the facts before taking action, they would have never invaded Iraq on a false premise. But in the case of global warming (and Iraq), they don't care what knowledge they have at hand. They will twist whatever data or testimony they have (from questionable sources) and use it to promote the policy that they have already decided on for other reasons. After all, we know who/what is really in control here -- (big) oil. If you needed any proof, Exxon Mobil is being allowed to influence what is considered science in our classrooms. They actually have the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) so scared that the organization is turning down a donation of 50,000 DVD's of An Inconvenient Truth:

Science a la Joe Camel

I'm sure I've overused Stephen Colbert's quote but it's so fitting -- "Reality has a well-known liberal bias". Conservatives will paint science as "left-wing" if it doesn't fit in with their worldview. That's a dangerous thing when it affects how our children are taught.

Sadly, it looks like it will take the courts to force any kind of action by a "see-no-evil" administration:

High court to hear global warming case

White House Sued for Not Doing Report on Warming

1 comment:

CyberKitten said...

It still gets me every time when people say that they don't 'believe' in Global Warming.... Then again I think that most people are ignoring it in the (vain) hope that it'll just go away....