Our choices should reflect our priorities. In a democracy, the political dynamic, like market pricing, can be seen as a “rubber meets the road” barometer of the value we set on a concept or ideal. Sometimes, though, the first casualty of political debate is intrinsic value. For instance, the debate about global warming is skewed in political discourse by discounting the intrinsic value of the very planet we inhabit. What’s worse, to the ideological extremists currently in power in the United States, there is no debate at all.
Our universe is a vast space with billions of galaxies that host fusion and fission reactions on a massive scale, explosions beyond imagination, interstellar winds, magnetic fields, intense radiation, gravity waves, particle bombardment, matter, anti-matter, dark matter and more. There are more stars in those far-flung galaxies than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth: stars that rip mass from other stars, stars so dense that a mere handful weighs hundreds of tons, and stars that spin 1,000 times per second.
And somewhere amid it all is this tiny planet Earth, hurtling gracefully through space. A blue orb that, fortunately for us, has an atmosphere that steadfastly protects us from the potent winds and rays and forces that would otherwise desiccate the planet in a relative instant. A delicately balanced atmosphere gave rise to water, and in turn gave rise to life as we know it. That’s what is at risk from our choices: our atmosphere, our water and life as we know it.
Implode the piers and watch the bridge fall. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, is increasing at an alarming rate, raising ocean temperature and acidity to levels that even now cause ecological distress at catastrophic levels. Witness the bleaching of coral reefs and crustaceans that are slowly dissolving in the “stew.”
David Horsey of The Los Angeles Times says correctly: “Global warming is the foreboding thunder in the distance. Ocean acidification is the lightning strike in our front yard, right here, right now.”
Developed countries are addicted to CO2-yielding fossil fuels. Relentless slash and burn deforestation in developing countries increases CO2 on one side of the scale and reduces its conversion to oxygen on the other. As the Arctic thaw progresses, the CO2 banked in the northern tundra is poised to make a ham-fisted showing in atmospheric chemistry. Synergy, in this case, is not a good thing.
Maybe it’s already too late for our children’s grandchildren. Meanwhile, we are led by a parade of myopic climate science deniers, with President Donald Trump — to borrow a phrase from horror master Dean Koontz — “out front twirling a baton.”
The ability to think and analyze is the most remarkable achievement of mankind. In the last half century (hardly a “phfft” in the ascent of humanity) we have assembled an incredible store of knowledge about what we are, where we are and how we relate to the machinery of the universe. Too often, the powers-that-be have feigned ignorance of that knowledge, or resisted it, or remolded it to a self-serving purpose.
In the United States, the new administration has orchestrated an attack on climate science and the scientists who study global warming. They use an intimidating “belief-based” political dogma that ignores and suppresses facts and have disregard for university-level research and scientific assessments by trusted institutions.
This assault is another in a disturbing series of ideological detours around inconvenient truth. More to the point, though, it threatens our atmosphere, our water and life as we know it.
Parkville resident Robert Sholar has a master of science in environmental health engineering and has practiced in the field for 40 years.