Mar 21, 2007

Welcome Spring & the Change of the Seasons. Just a Reminder Though: Our Lonely Planet is the Only Home We've Got!

Ah, Spring, it has arrived in the northern hemisphere! It’s eternal, they say. I say, it’s also internal; it depends on the outlook. Anyway, we have seasons because of the Earth’s 23.5º tilt. Life, as we know it, emerged because our planet happens to be in the right distance from a main sequence star! It took several billion years for Earth to become the planet we all recognize today; and it will be more-or-less the same for a couple billion years more, until our sun passes from its present middle age to old age when it’ll become cranky enough to destroy all life on Earth.

So, what’s the outlook for our lonely blue dot in a hostile solar system? Let's put some things into perspective. Our planet has been around for over 4 billion years. Most of this time, it was inhospitable to life as we know it today. A couple billion years ago, some blue-green algae—also known as cyanobacteria—began to produce their own “pollution” and helped create the atmosphere we’re familiar with today. Lucky for us, a few celestial renegades hit Earth, some of them really hard, and they changed life, including the extinction of the dinosaurs and the eventual rise of the mammals (like us).

Yes, many species can adapt to the conditions, some better than others. Nevertheless, most, including humans, can exist within a very tiny band of temperatures. The absolute zero (0 Kelvin) is -273 C, or -460 F. The hottest known temperatures are in the millions. In other words, we live in a fragile ecosystem, in a hostile universe, and we’re stuck here for the foreseeable future.

Some Common Sense is Needed

Since the industrial revolution, humans have been dumping huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The oceans have been absorbing as well resulting in increased acidity, which influences sea life, currents, temperature, etc. This is not a natural product, not part of any cycle. To me it’s a no-brainer. The smog over cities, the acid rain are all man-made. I’ve seen the effects of acid rain that has destroyed forests and has polluted lakes and streams, right here in my backyard—my beloved Adirondack park where I visit often.

If 98 doctors told you that you had to stop smoking because you could die of lung cancer (among other terrible diseases smoking promotes), and 2 doctors, who work for the tobacco companies, told you smoking is harmless, what would you do? Would you stop smoking, even err on the side of caution? Or, would you ask the 98 doctors to tell you exactly when you’d die and if they were absolutely certain you’d die because of smoking?

There is a consensus in the scientific community about global warming and that humans are responsible for it. Whatever natural cycle of ice-hot ages takes place, we humans are able to kick the pendulum so hard into one direction that we can break this normal cycle with catastrophic consequences.

Stupidity Can Be Deadly

For all of our advances in science and education, it’s amazing how many stupid people we have in positions of power. I do like a good debate, because I want to find the truth. It’s important for me to know. The more serious the issue, the greater the need to know. So, let’s have a rational debate about the environment, but we can’t waist our time with stupidity. Science is one thing only—the best tool we’ve got to understand the world around us. Not every idea, every claim has equal weight. It’d be a waste of time to debate the views of the Flat Earth Society for example. And, their views can not be brought into the classroom as an ..alternative scientific theory. [Similarly with other fictional theories of creationism, intelligent design, etc. There’s room for such “theories” in places like this.]

Al Gore testified in Congress about climate change, but I doubt he reached most Republicans there. Do you know that only 13% of Congressional Republicans agree with the scientists about a man-made global warming? Of course, you know that several past members of the Bush administration, NASA scientists and so many others have admitted to distorting or were pressured to distort evidence regarding global warming. No surprises here. It’s worth listening to what Gore had to say. This man makes sense to me.

20 of the 21 hottest years ever measured in the human record have been in the last 25 years. The 10 hottest have been since 1990. The hottest was 2005. The hottest in the United States of America was 2006. The hottest winter ever measured globally was December of last year.”
Al Gore, 3/21/07 in his Congressional testimony

Need for Information & Action

Go out, take a nice breath of clean, crisp air and appreciate what we've got. Much of humanity isn't as lucky. The majority of people in the 21st century doesn’t have access to clean water! The environmental problems won’t always be confined only to the underdeveloped world. Bad climate affects everyone. Remember that our lonely planet is the only home we’ve got. Our children and future generations will also live here.

Don’t you think we should seek the truth about climate change and do something about it? At least 100 new people per second (3/20-3/21), over 550,00 (as of this moment), have signed Gore's petition that accompanied his testimony to the US Congress. We need more activists, we need more action. Politics is local and global. Vote, engage, participate, be vigilant.

photo credit: GP


K said...

Nice perspective you've got, but most importantly you put this into proper context. But, I'm a fan of your blog, so I may be biased.. like those scientists who like to scare people about catastrophies and such. Why don't they tell us that "everything is going to be OK"?

Unless, science is not all that smart!

Am' I being too sarcastic? ;)

Anderson said...

Gore has found his niche. He looked very comfortable and knowledgeable. Did you see the exchange between Boxer & Infofe?...

You should read The Rebublican War on Science by Chris Mooney.

donegal said...

I enjoyed most of the links you have in this post. I didn't know about the Creation Museum!!! Whoa! They spent $25 million to promote ignorance! ooooooo

Now, I'm not sure that the Flat Earth Society is for real.

w32 said...

I don't know if the FES is the same made-up organization a science guy set up in Dover, PA (or, was it elsewhere) and argued that his theory of a flat earth should also be taught in schools as an alternative scientific theory!!!!

kelly said...

I understand why the energy industry (oil, coal, etc) may want to argue differently about global warming and the human effect, but why so many "average" people don't care to educate themselves about what's going on.

Yes, it's a matter of politics too. Why the conservatives don't want to accept the scientific consensus? They paint everyone as a fringe lunatic enviro fanatic and dismiss all calls for controlling the emmissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere....

Is it because once your opponent finds something good (like the much-despised Al Gore) you have to deny it at all costs? It's so stupid. The environment affect all of us, poor & rich, progressives and regressives alike.

Grow up people. At least give your children a good chance to grow up.

anonymous in state of nature said...

Some conservatives would say, if it's in the interest of the people, the marketplace will solve this problem without a big government to over-regulate our lives!

And, the libertarians give them a standing ovation. [well, they can stand up because they don't have diarrhea since gov. regulations provide us with clean, safe water]


dr o said...

so, the earth will be destroyed someday? that's sad.

now, does it matter by what means and when?..

Andros said...

Hmmmm, well, I think it matters when and how. We humans have been around for a couple million years, and moder humans for less than 100,000 years or so. This time frame is a tiny blimp on the grand scale of evolution. Earth has been around for over 4 billion years, and the sun will be around for longer than that.

I still think we are a primitive species with a lot of defects & problems but with a lot of potential. We've managed to do so much in so little time (relatively speaking). If we manage to survive for a few more million years, then, I thik, we'll be much smarter and perhaps very different than today.

It's very disturbing, however, that most Americans today believe that Jesus will return to earth within their lifetime--in the next 50 years! This would mean the end of the world as we know it!. Apocalypse & rapture! The faithful will go to heaven--where there's no need for all the earthly delights, etc--and the rest will perish into hell. Crazy stuff, but very real because it exists in the minds of people...

anne said...

This is when religion is very harmful, because it promotes ignorance and a worldview full of hate and divisions: the faithful v. the infidels. And, God, of course, will only accept the faithful.

I can't say it's shocking that they spent $25 million to built that crap, eh, that creation museum, because they want to perpetuate stupidity. Yes, we have to call it STUPIDITY! When you say, I don't care what the facts are, I only accepts what's in this Holy Bible as true, then obviously you have a very narrow, closed mind.

It's rather pointless to try to reach those people. I mean if they want enlightenment they should reach beyond their nose--where the Bible is stuck--and look elsewhere for information and explanations.

Ah, but that takes time & effort.....

Andros said...

It's not that creation museum, but the general beliefs of Americans. Some 60-70% believes that the Bible is totally or mostly true in every sense, factually! Nevermind that science (based on fossil evidence and atom-dating techniques) tells us otherwise.

Maybe our education system has failed to reach the minds of most Americans. Maybe religion has a good grip on people here. But, when 60% literally believes in the Adam & Eve story, Noah's Ark, Mose's parting of the Red Sea, etc, it's not only stupid but dangerous.
[here's a link on such beliefs.]

Circular logic: How do they know that those claims are true? Because the Bible says so!

Andros said...

I forgot to mention, check the sidebar under IS THIS FUNNY? It says much more on this.

Currently it has an excerpt from Sam Harris's book. It'll stay up for a while longer, but eventually I'll replace it with something else.

bart said...

I see that you like the Simpsons. In simpsonesque fashion, there was this solution to global warming:

We drop a big ice cube into the ocean to cool things down

Ooooh, like my father does with his drinks!

drew said...

We have a screwed up way of spending our money, because we are not wise.

It costs less to pay for preventing measures. Healthcare should be like this too. It's cheaper to have annual checkups and prevention than emergency-room treatments and trying to fix things when they're fully blown.

The environment is no different. We should rather pay up front to prevent a catastrophe than pay later to clean it. And, yes, some things may cost more, but so do good brakes for your car!

drew2 said...

I must have been channeling something....

I came across this great post on Alternet. It's about how ..conservatives cost us more money! But, the general idea is it's better to pay up front and save big bucks later.

Read the article here

aphrodite said...


I'm already embarassed in advance, for when my kids grow up and ask me...

When they'll suffer the serious consequences of what goes wrong due to our over-utilising natural resources and over-exploiting our planet without giving anything back, I wonder what I'll have as an excuse to tell them "er, yeah, know what, we didn't know back then... couldn't plan... who would have thought..."

Shame on us!

(kids already think that spearmint-the plant comes from spearmint-the chewing gum...)