Sunday, August 17, 2008

Words of wisdom on the environment

Says Lorne Gunter:

There are reasons scary stories about air pollution have moved over time to the back pages of newspapers, just as scary stories about global warming already are.

They're the same reasons scary stories about acid rain, asbestos, PCBs, alar, nuclear winter, the hole in the ozone layer and the predicted extinction of almost everything, including us, did in the past.

First, because the reality seldom turns out to be as bad as the prediction.

What crisis?

Second, because the predictions are often presented without context.

Third, because if everything is a crisis, then, by definition, nothing is a crisis.

Fourth, because such reports are often based on the absurd idea that present human action predicts future human action, ignoring our capacity for change, adaptation and technological innovation, brought about in part by rational, as opposed to hysterical, concern for the environment.

I think there are some genuine environmental problems in our world. Smog/air pollution is one of them. You don't need a study to prove that it has a detrimental effect on people.

Apocalyptic predictions of the future bother me because they inevitably turn out to be untrue or exaggerated. For the past half century, the population explosion was supposed to bring chaos to the world. When I was a kid, it was thought that global cooling was supposed to inaugurate the next ice age.

And so forth.

They remind me of Christian millenarianists-- who await the Apocalypse. They pinpoint a date for wholescale destruction, and they're wrong.

That's not to say there are no problems. But as Gunter said, we can adapt. And sometimes a problem can turn into an opportunity. The population explosion in China isn't hurting their economy or status. Global warming could mean opportunity for the North as it would make certain regions of the world more inhabitable. Our consumerist culture presents an economic opportunity for recyclers...and so on and so forth.

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