• Listening to Scientists

    I hope that, by now, everyone has heard of the tragedy in Washington. A geomorphologist wrote a report about the potential for a large mudslide in a Corps of Engineers report… 15 years ago.

    At least one state legislature has demanded that climate change not be considered in planning along the Atlantic coast of that state. Here’s some pictures of the Bolivar peninsula in Texas before and after hurricane Rita. The town of Sabine Pass, Texas has been (and I mean this quite literally) wiped away bey two hurricanes in a span of less than 5 years.  And most of the residents have moved back.

    We know the benefits and dangers of vaccination. Autism is not one of the dangers of vaccines, but the resurgence of measles and whooping cough are dangers of not vaccinating.

    We know the dangers and benefits of GMOs. Reduced pesticide use compared to conventional (and organic) farming. Improved crop yields (from weed and pesticide control rather from designing crops for increased yield).

    Yet, in all of these cases, there are large populations of people who reject these obvious scientific conclusions and evidence. Usually for the most prosaic of reasons. My friend wanted a house on the beach. I know her house was on Bolivar, it may even be in those “before” pictures. It’s not in the “after” pictures. Guess what?  No insurance company was willing to write her a policy for windstorm damage. Her very expensive beach is gone and there’s no money for her to rebuild it.

    The insurance companies know the value of science. The farmers know the value of science. The developers of houses may know, but the specifically don’t tell anyone else (it’s not their job). And when a city council who doesn’t understand science decides to zone an area for residences and then a predicted mudslide wipes away that subdivision or village, who pays the price?

    There are dozens of major cities all over the world that are built inside the blast radius of major volcanoes. I won’t even mention the cities built on known faults.

    Yes, if we try to eliminate all risk, then there will almost no where on Earth we could live (that might not be a bad plan…). But there are reasonable, predictable risks and there are risks that are almost totally unpredictable. Under normal conditions, a hurricane gives plenty of warning. You and your loved ones can get out of the way. I’m not such a big fan of living in earthquake or volcano zones.

    The point is that people have this blind spot when it comes to science. It’s much like the religious people who pick and choose the parts of their holy book they want to believe. We love cell phones and LED TVs and cars. We ignore pollution problems and infrastructure problems.  We love having a table full of food, we don’t think about how much arable land is available for farming and how we’re going to feed 8 or 9 or 10 billion people with less and less farmland… especially once global warming really kicks in.

    Science doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not. Things happen. As Luke Skywalker has said, “You can either profit by this or be destroyed.”

    There’s a lot of very cool things on the horizon. Including the possibility of significantly reducing hurricane damage with wind turbines that provide power with out fuel induced pollution.

    I think we need to spread the word on this. In a very general way. Not get into fights, but point out that insurance companies take into account global warming and sea level rise. Point out that farmers use GMO crops and like them. Point that there are a LOT of serious issues looming on the horizon and if we don’t deal with them, our kids will have to… just as we are dealing with our parents’ legacy.

    Call me a believer in scientism. I think that science is the best possible method to deal with these kinds of issues. In fact, it’s the only known method for dealing with these issues. As Rick Perry has shown, prayer doesn’t stop droughts.

    Category: CultureLifeScienceSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat