Monday, July 03, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

The Mummy's Return

Remember that 2000 presidential election, Bush? The one you managed to steal with a strong assist from the Supreme Court Justices? That was the year your people did a good job of lambasting Al Gore for his supposed lack of those things that appeal to the American electorate: the charm, the charisma, the style... Remember the brown suit? And what fun the media had at his lack of fashion sense, his sartorial ineptitude. How your champions managed to focus the attention of voters on the quality of his voice, his wooden, almost mummified facial expression?

Well, Bush, the mummy returns. With a vengeance.

Unless your mind is still completely closed on the subject of climate change--and I regret to say I consider this to be a strong possibility--you owe it to yourself to see Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." In fact I think you owe it to all of us.

It's a terrific movie. Some say it's a bit too polemical. Maybe. Some say that its motivations are purely political. It did not seem thay way to me, and frankly I wouldn't much care if it was. I'd personally welcome another run for the presidency by Al Gore. He's a man of principle, I believe, and is strong on what your Dad dismissed as "the vision thing." He has been making a case for better stewardship of the planet for more years than any other politician of note, and no matter how much he's been laughed at for claiming to have invented the Internet (did he ever make such a claim?) he did most certainly have the vision to see its importance a good long time before most of us. I include Howard Dean, whose particular genius was to realize its importance as a grass roots political tool and a way back to the practice of democracy in a country in danger of losing it.

Anyway, back to the movie. Supported by carefully researched and scientifically tested arguments, it makes a convincing case that a) the earth's climate is changing faster and more radically than at any time in the past--or at least in the past 650,000 years, covering several fluctuations between ice ages and periods of warming; and that b) that this change is being brought about by human activity.

We've had some divergent opinion on this topic in our comments section in the past couple of weeks, Bush. I realize there are those who believe that the arguments put forward by these scientists have been improperly exploited by polemicists bent on fear-mongering, and that the current climate phenomena are nothing more than the natural cycling of global temperature shifts. I realize too that I myself am no scientist, and that I am therefore forced to rely on what I as a layman can read and understand--in the same way, I hasten to add, that I have come to rely on those more expert than myself in computer technology to service my communications needs.

That said, it's my own belief that just as the debate about evolution has been closed to all but a few fanatical dissenters with no more than their own beliefs and desires to support them, the debate about the reality of global warming has been resolved by the scientists. To dismiss it as no more than a "theory" is analagous, in my mind, to persisting in the argument that the world is no more than six thousand years old and that dinosaurs roamed the earth along with Adam and Eve.

The Gore movie is careful to present as much data as interpretation of that data. It is not purposefully alarmist in tone, although the net conclusion should alarm us all. Its intention, if I read it right, is to alarm us all into action. While it does not suggest that any one action will bring about the salvation of our Earth, it does propose multiple ways--most of them eminently practicable--in which we can all become better stewards of this uniquely beautiful and precious planet we have inherited, and which we will hopefully leave for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Denial and resistance benefit no one at this late date. They simply provide us with the excuse to sit back and do nothing. It behooves us, surely, not to indulge in specious arguments about unhelpful distinctions between theories and facts, but to act with forethought, circumspection and respect, and a due sense of reponsiblity for the proper maintenance of our home.

I've heard it said that you plan NOT to see this movie, Bush. I hope that's not true. I urge you to see it, along with all those who happen upon this page in our journal and who have not yet taken the time--no matter what their political persuasion or their prconceotions about Al Gore. Whether or not its warnings prove justified in the course of time, his film does make a weighty case for addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves.


Dave said...

Hey, Peter,
While, of course, I agree with you entirely about this issue, I find you a bit too soft on some things.

The debate on evolution has not, I'm afraid, been closed to all but a few fanatic dissenters--more like a hundred million, the fifty percent of the public who believe in creationism, many of whom cite the pseudo science supporting it. The capacity of believers for denial is inexhaustible. I heard recently that 80% of Americans believe in the coming Armaggedon, 20% expecting it in their lifetimes. Now, if we could link Armaggedon to global warming, we might get the evangelicals on the side of science. Yeah, sure!

Still more problematic is your comment that denial and resistance benefit no one at this date, as if apathy were the primary motive. I assume this is a momentary nod, since denial sure as hell benefits the oil companies, the automobile companies, the logging companies, etc, as well as those who have investments in them (and their political representatives). The denial of conclusiveness is exactly similar to such denial for decades by the tobacco industry, which claimed that the jury was still out, first on cancer, then on addiction, and now on the effects of second hand smoke. Scientists are rightly skeptical by profession, but they don't come close to the economically motivated skepticism of corporations that have much to gain by business as usual and fuck the planet.

denn said...

P: There is a webcast here that shows some of the excellent Stephanopoulis show on Polarization. Very good show, and the kind of show a sage would appreciate, for it looks at the division critically of both sides in the biggest split since the Civil War. The polarization is feeding on itself.
plus, I was floored by the comments the red state people were making about liberals.

idea 2: Some think right and left are no longer the issue, that those who see America in 20th Century terms vs. those who see a new, different idea of the country is the source of the division.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, both, for the comments. Dave, I appreciate the wake-up: I slipped into some very sloppy thinking there. The holiday weekend, perhaps: the mind took a vacation. But you're absolutely right on both fronts. I should have thought further, harder... And Dennis, thanks for the link. I'll check it out. Cheers, PaL