Global warming is:
     a) An uncomfortable reality that sooner or later we're going to have to deal with;
     b) A hoax perpetrated by the stooges of Big Brother, posing as environmentalists.

In the (sort of) United States of America, this issue, like almost every other, is strictly binary; attempts to find a middle ground are dismissed with scorn. (Send your scorn to the address below.) But ideology notwithstanding, there are two truths which would seem to be self-evident:

     1) There is a whole lot of carbon dioxide in the air;
     2) Humans are responsible for some of it.

One factor weighing heavily on the side of the skeptics is the indifferent track record of the alarmists. At the beginning of the century, the experts calculated that the world supply of oil would give out in about ten years. Seventy-five years later, between the so-called "energy crises", the experts calculated that the world supply of oil would give out in about ten years. And today, with the price of crude near a twenty-year low...well, you get the idea.

Then there was Thomas Robert Malthus, who, two centuries ago, argued that the difference between arithmetical progression (food production) and geometric progression (population growth) would eventually spell famine and death. The population did go up as fast as Malthus imagined, but while most people on the planet aren't eating the standard narcissistic American diet, actual starvation, though certainly a real problem, is far from universal.

Still, Chicken Little only has to be right once. And while I'm not prepared to say that we must drastically rearrange our lives to avoid an environmental catastrophe, we're certainly not equipped to deal with one if it happens. This past weekend, tornadoes danced through my neck of the woods, with the usual attendant destruction of homes and property, and that should remind us all: If it should come down to Us vs. The Planet, well, we don't stand a chance.

The Vent

15 June 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill