This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



February 2008

Global Middle School Warming

This evening I spent what seemed like many hours trapped in the hell of a middle school symposium on global warming. Let me just say I left it with an overwhelming desire to immediately go out and buy the largest SUV I could find. Preferably a coal burning SUV that belched clouds of dark acid-rain causing fumes. That I would drive (alone, no carpooling) from here to Brazil while throwing non-biodegradable plastic bags out the window every few hundred feet.. Where I would then burn as many hundred acres of rain forest as I possibly could.

In more detail… there were student presentations (which was OK because they were kids and it was cute) and there was a Q&A period with local experts (which was really in need of an active moderator, because several of the panelists didn’t know when to shut up, or how to use a microphone).

But the big thing that bothered me the most was that the whole thing was as if everybody had watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and just accepted every sentence in it completely without any sense of doubt or questioning at all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that most of the “factual” things in that movie and pushed by the global warming crowd are in fact very well supported by the current research on the subject. It is true that there is a strong scientific consensus at this point. There are questions around the edges of course, but there is consensus around the basic outline of what is going on.

Having said that, there is still no excuse for accepting it without question and not having a full examination of the potential counter arguments. Kids should be taught to be constantly questioning EVERYTHING and never taking anything at face value. At least in what I saw tonight, both with the adults and the children, there did not seem to be anything at all other than full throated global warming alarmism. No questioning. No doubt. No, this was just how it is. Period.

In general, show me anybody who is 100% sure they are right, and I can assure you, they are most likely wrong. The people who are serious and really know what is going on talk as much about the places where we DON’T know as the places where we do, and are constantly looking to refute their own arguments to find the holes in their logic. Knowing what you don’t know is much more important to wisdom than knowing what you know. Those people who act as if they know the certain truth… no matter what that truth is…. those are the ones you always want to be most careful of. Those who critique themselves and… to use a phrase used at my company… who are “vocally self-critical”… those are the ones you want to pay attention to.

In addition to the question of the FACTS of global warming (which again, I think are most likely true, I’m just disturbed by the lack of doubt or questioning of the premise at all) there was also a completely one sided view of the potential approaches for dealing with it, completely ignoring that there is very active debate on what is right and what is wrong there, and what is the proper balance between being eco-friendly and the impact on our economy and our way of life. And also even if we SHOULD do anything about it. There are people who don’t deny “climate change” is happening, yet believe that actively trying to “do something” about it would be counter productive.

And there might even be some good in global warming. Yes, some areas become hot and less hospitable. But vast areas in high latitudes may become MORE hospitable. And would a fully navigable Arctic ocean really be a bad thing? You would actually save quite a bit of oil by letting a lot of shipping go that route rather than having to go around the long way… And if the oceans rise a few feet and half of Florida gets submerged, would anybody REALLY miss it? People are adaptable. They can migrate. Would another migration to adapt to some climate change really be all bad?


The viewpoints expressed were 100% slanted toward the positions that the right way to “deal with” the problem is to modify the way we live, to make concessions of convenience or flexibility such as using canvas bags at the grocery or driving more efficient cars…. and more disturbing that these suggestions, which are fine as suggestions… the universal acceptance and promotion that government should be activist in legislating and restricting what people can do so as to help the environment. I’m fine with people deciding on their own that the right thing to do is X, Y or Z and doing it or convincing their friends to do it, or taking private actions to make it so other people might want to do it. (This is true even if I don’t think X, Y and Z are actually the right things to do.) But the second you make it a law that I *must* do it, then I get pissed. (Don’t get me started on mandatory recycling… I practice civil disobedience on that almost every day…. BECAUSE it is mandatory… I probably wouldn’t object to doing it on a voluntary basis.)

And here I was just getting increasingly annoyed, because it was so clear everything was oriented toward people sacrificing to make the world better, or making laws to force people to do what a certain group think is the right thing to do. There was very little talk about (for instance) eliminating the problem through dramatically advancing technology so we could reduce impact while NOT changing anybody’s way of living or forcing anybody to do things they don’t want to or which are more expensive… or of looking at solutions that involve interesting solutions like counteracting global warming by intentionally causing a controlled nuclear winter. Set off a couple hundred nukes in strategic places, we could solve global warming over night… but nobody ever even thinks about that!

OK, that last might be a bit radical, but we should be thinking of interesting technological and engineering solutions, not just automatically saying we need to make our lives less convenient by using less oil and using public transportation instead of private cars and all that sort of nonsense. Or even worse, by mandating all sorts of additional governmental restrictions on what we can and can’t do. That just annoyed me. This whole thing was pushing a particular political perspective. It wasn’t unbiased research or reporting into a real problem and a range of possible solutions. It was pushing a very particular agenda. At the very least they could have presented at least SOME of the arguments for other possible approaches… even if just to then argue against them. But it was all just so completely one-sided. And that just bothered me.

All in all, the kids came off as brainwashed, and the adults came off as pompous know-it-all holier-than-thou assholes.

OK, perhaps that is a bit harsh, but that is the truth about how I felt when I left this thing.

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