But I'm Not a Scientist..
Man, oh man, it sure seems that it is all but impossible to approach certain topics from a non-partisan standpoint these days! Discussion on anything from favorite football teams to whether you prefer light or dark chocolate seems to have a political slant. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, or at least the chocolate part is . A while back, I had a conversation with a friend that touched on this, and they said something that has been ringing in my head ever since. My friend (We’ll call her Alice, since I don’t remember who it actually was) said that the dangerous thing that seems to have happened is that people have begun taking their beliefs as fact. This idea troubles me. Fact shouldn’t be subjective. Fact isn’t moral or amoral, and it most certainly isn’t Republican or Democrat. A fact is something that has been proven to be true, without room for argument. As long as you are alive, or at least not in a coma, you will wake up every day. That is a fact. Do you want another fact? The sun is bright. There is no one that can dispute either of these things. I suppose that since we now have facts on the table, we should have an example of something that is construed as a fact, but in truth it is not. Many people seem to believe that marijuana is bad for you and should remain illegal throughout the nation. This is not a fact, it is an opinion. You could easily make the argument (that would be closer to scientific fact), that alcohol is leaps and bounds worse for you than marijuana ever could be.
Let’s bring it back to the set of facts that I’m writing about. And yes, I mean facts, not opinions disguised as facts. Over the past few years, we have encountered one of the warmest spring/summer’s on record, massive droughts cover much of our country, and as a contrast to the droughts, the Midwestern states just wrapped up a winter that set records for having the most days (53!) below zero, which brought no shortage of snow. When was the last winter that there were more days below zero in Minneapolis? 1874-75. Scientists worldwide agree that the world as a whole is getting warmer, and in many places the winters are getting colder, both of which will have drastic effects on virtually every species on the planet. There are some people that say that it’s just part of another natural cycle for the Earth, and yes, the Earth has always gone in cycles, and there is bound to eventually be an intense warmup & cool down, which will probably lead to another ice age. But even though there are cycles to our planet, it is foolish to believe that for everything we have put into the atmosphere that we have not altered the natural cycle.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of high level policy makers that have gone on record as saying that they can’t comment on climate change because they’re not scientists. If you take this at face value, it seems like one of the most astute and pragmatic things that any of our elected officials have ever said. I never like to be the bearer of bad news, but sadly, that’s not quite how they meant it. What should come as no surprise is that instead of meaning this as a rational statement to find solutions and consult actual scientists about possible solutions and future actions, it was meant to delay legislation and serve as an excuse for inaction. “I’m not a scientist” also means that “I’m not going to vote for that piece of environmental legislation, even though I know it probably helps solve the problem, and I’m not going to vote for it because I’m terrified of the 24 hour news cycle, and that I would look like anything less than the most extreme embodiment of my party.” Ok, that last quote I made up, but that’s what these politicians are really saying. Anyone with a reasonable and grounded mind can see the writing on the wall.
I applaud these policy makers for being able to at least begin admitting that they don’t have all the answers, even if it was motivated by excuses on par with those given by 3rd graders. So let’s not get cynical about it, and pat these politicians on the back. They’re admitting that they have a problem, which if you’ve ever been in rehab, you know that is the first step for finding a solution. In this case, the next step is asking the people that actually are scientists what is happening, and what factors are contributing to this.
Right or left, Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter which way you lean, the time for action is now. Real, live, actual scientists all around the world are pressing for change and trying to talk sense into many of these politicians that write our policies. The environment, and it’s well-being should not be a political stance. Not caring about the environment, and willingly trashing (pun intended) all legislation that supports it is not a conservative value. However, it is completely stupid and terribly shortsighted. Politicians always like to hold press conferences where they can talk about how they just want to leave this country a better place than it was when they got here, so their children inherit a stronger tomorrow. Let’s start calling them out on this. If they truly are more worried about tomorrow than today, about their grandchildren’s livelihood than their current ability to hold a job, they need to start passing environmentally friendly legislation.
Hopefully by now, you’re saying to yourself something like “Yeah, damn right, politicians! Start passing legislation that improves the air we breathe instead of advocating for more coal mines.” So the next step is action. And this is where it gets a little tricky. While I understand that the popular thing to do in this country when it comes to protesting politics is to make a pretty sign, and go chant some slogan in front of some semi-important building. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that doesn’t work. At all, ever. So let’s do something that matters. What makes this country turn? Money. What do these politicians care about almost as much as getting reelected? Money. Go out and make a statement. Instead of buying a fancy crossover, or SUV, buy a Nissan Leaf. Instead of buying a few dozen bottles of water at Costco, buy a few reusable Nalgene’s. Make a statement with your purchases, and the companies that curry for political favors will notice, and then hopefully, they’ll start passing that awareness on to our politicians in Washington.