Think About It: Hot topic

I’m pretty sure that Mother Nature doesn’t read my columns, but she might as well have given the coincidental happenings following my last column.

First, the strong winds about which I complained stilled about the day the column appeared. We in greater Sequim woke to see a red fire ball in the sky shrouded by smoke from Canadian forest fires.

A friend told me that same day, a photo of a forest drowned by encroaching salt water appeared in The Seattle Times and I saw a video of people wadding through knee deep water on the streets of Miami.

Al Gore — remember him? — was all over the media announcing the release of the sequel to the film “Inconvenient Truth,” called “An Inconvenient Sequel; Truth to Power.” (I wish he had asked me about the title, but he didn’t.)

Gore says, “The first movie was aimed at those who knew nothing about climate science and global warming.”

“The sequel chronicles what has changed — for better or worse.” (Nicole Brodeur interview, The Seattle Times, Aug. 6, 2017)

I googled the new film to get more information and the top site claimed it was Gore’s “search for relevance and wealth” and it was all “pseudoscience.” No room for another point of view on this site, although it did offer a free viewing of the film.

Then, in another whiplashing attention-grabbing headline, someone leaked a draft report by scientists on growing concerns about global warming from 13 federal agencies to the The New York Times (Lisa Friedman, Aug. 7, 2017).

Many speculated the leaker leaked because the report required approval of the Trump administration, who is on record saying, “the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.”

To be concise, President Trump publicly pronounces, “Climate change is a hoax.” He claims that the Chinese created the concept of global warming to make the U.S. non-competitive.

True to his intentions, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord Agreement and appointed an EPA director who doesn’t believe in climate change, or perhaps, better said, the resulting regulations on industry.

Sense, nonsense and balance

This is the point at which I will remind readers that I do believe in science. As I wrote in a column a few years ago, I received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, not a Bachelor of Nonsense.

I can’t imagine human progress without science. Most of us over 50 would not be alive because our life expectancy would be somewhere around 40 if we managed to avoid tuberculosis, typhoid and diphtheria. Neither would I be typing this column and electronically submitting it.

The true debate is not about the science; it can’t be. It makes no sense to throw out the body of environmental knowledge that’s grown over at least 150 years. So, what should we be talking about?

Here I return to my E-experts and several readers.

Both my E-experts said that science hasn’t changed; rather, what’s changed is the conversation due to the public’s lack of a sense of urgency or immediacy around solving environmental problems and corporate campaigns in the form of contributions intended to minimize the cost of complying with regulations to control pollutants.

Another reader already had thought about it and concluded that the real problem is too many people, which is hard to disagree with since people have for quite some time cooked, traveled and heated with fossil fuels.

The reader’s comment reminded me of an item I read in which the author made the point that scientists have known for a long time that burning fossil fuels releases carbon into the air. In those days, people were burning coal for heating and cooking and not causing a problem.

But eventually, we arrived at the point at which so many people were heating and cooking that the carbon emissions were beginning to adversely impact the quality of air.

It wasn’t just people cooking, eating and traveling that lead to poor air quality and eventually global warning; it was everything civilized countries and businesses responding to markets did for survival, development, growth and profitability.

In fact, one reader who I have named my third E-expert pointed out to me that I was off base in believing individual action around hair spray and recycling was a difference that could make a difference.

As evidence, the E-expert sent me a link called “Forget Shorter Showers” that made the case that the overwhelming accountability for global warming was our industrialized civilization, not individual behaviors.

If you have interest, here is link — scroll down to “Forget Shorter Showers”: www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2017/02/climate-films-to-watch-in-2017/

As much as we can be relieved that we, as individuals, aren’t doing more, we are faced with a far greater question. Does this mean turning our progress trajectory inside out?

Jobs, Earth, harmony?

We aren’t talking about science, we are talking about jobs, standards of living and survival in an economic system that thrives on growth of people and pollution. The question posed at the end of my last column “Do human beings have the capacity to live in harmony with the Earth?” is more than most of us can get our head around.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to moderate a League of Women Voters forum on Port Angeles’s Nippon Industries, then owners, proposed an energy producing biomass boiler that burns forest wood slash for power production. Opponents were raising concerns about the impact of concentrated biomass burning on the North Peninsula, particularly in the areas of forest health and human health.

A very respected community physician emailed me to say that he was more concerned about the health effects of lost jobs. We need only keep up with the news to realize the prevailing fears about loss of job and declining standards of living.

Two quotes taken from “The White Working Class” in a discussion on the compelling promise of jobs said it this way, “Oil brought jobs. Jobs brought money. Money brought a better life.”

“Pollution is the sacrifice we make for capitalism.”

The questions get deeper and richer. The answers get deeper and harder. Perhaps, we need to add to our discussion the question, “Do human beings have the capacity to live in harmony with each other or itself?” and solve the fears and pressures of advancing civilization.

More to think about. More to come.

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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