Saturday, September 16, 2006

Environmental Defense's Offensive on Reality

Watching a bit of TV, as I have the habit of sometimes doing, I’ve observed several disturbing commercials produced by the Environmental Defense group, in their campaign to “Fight Global Warming”. After seeing a couple of these commercials, I gave in and visited the website. What I found there, combined with the commercials I’d seen, compelled me to write the following email to Environmental Defense within a form on their website.

Since global warming is – pun-intended – a hot-button issue for many people, I thought I’d throw my two cents in.

“Fight Global Warming” is not like the “Truth” campaign, which takes a practical approach to educating the public about just who is being targeted by tobacco companies and the negative health effects of smoking. In their commercials, for example, “Truth” will decorate a sign with bright colors featuring various flavor names, and have kids come up to demonstrate that some cigarette varieties might not be aimed at adult smokers after all. How effective “Truth” really is, though, I’m not sure about.

I don’t disagree that global warming is happening. I don’t disagree that, to one degree or another, humans are influencing the modern processes of natural global warming. I don’t disagree in principle with what Environmental Defense is trying to do, or what I think they’re trying to do, which is get people to care more about the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the “product” they’re “selling” is packaged all wrong, and likely to turn off as many people as it turns on.

You can scare a person with images of blackened lungs on a package of cigarettes, and they might have second thoughts. But you can also instill in smokers, or potential smokers, a sense of value about their lives while educating them about the health benefits of not smoking, so that they freely choose to not smoke…over the long term, it’ll probably work better.

And if you really want people to do something, hope is a far more positive motivator than fear. You can have a candidate for political office who scares you into voting for them by painting a bleak picture of the future “should my opponent win”. But you can also have a candidate who urges you to vote for them by painting a prettier picture of that same future. “Vote for me, and together we’ll work for a better tomorrow!” sounds a lot better than “Vote for me, or else something bad will happen!”

Environmental Defense isn’t giving us hope to work with. What we’re given, rather, is a lot of fear combined with only a little false hope that we can defeat global warming. Such a tactic is something I disagree with, and big time. Intimidating people into doing what Environmental Defense wants them to do won’t likely make people genuinely realize the importance of caring for the environment.

The “Fight Global Warming” campaign might be an equivalent of putting scary images on a pack of cigs, but then, as effective as those medical images might be, a lot of people will just ignore them and smoke anyway. It would be more beneficial if we got people to care about the environment, and reduce greenhouse gases, out of their own sense of a shared responsibility for our only home, Mother Earth.

We can’t hope to stop global warming, but we can hope to lessen our negative contributions to that aspect of natural global warming which is unnatural. In any case, attempting to get people to fight the reality of global warming instead of also learning how to live within it is, I think, a bum strategy.

And now, while it's more than a little redundant, on to the email…hey, it's my blog, people.


To Whom it May Concern,

I'm no environmental scientist, but given the fact that many portions of the planet Earth have experienced periods of extreme cold in addition to periods of temperate and tropical warmth (such as in the time of the Dinosaurs, the ice ages, etc) over thousands of years, why is it that Environmental Defense feels the need to be demagogues on this issue? If the Earth's history, backed up by ice cores, shows periods of great heating and great cooling, doesn't that conflict with the assertion that "The global warming we are experiencing is not natural"? Global warming would still be happening, albeit at a much slower pace, even if human industrial capabilities weren't at the level they are now.

I admit, the ads are scary. The one with the guy talking, a train coming up behind him, and then him stepping out of the way to reveal a small child standing there...that's freaky. Did it make me think about environmental actions? No, not really. It made me want to write this message instead.

I've read enough to know that contrary to much of what is presented on your website, you can't really FIGHT global warming itself; only the HUMAN contribution to global warming can be fought. We can't stop global warming any more than we can prevent what God wills to happen from happening. Can we fight history from occurring? We can fight death, or more accurately we can prolong life as long as possible, but we all still die in the end. Believing that global warming can be prevented is a fool's endeavor - in order to truly stop global warming, you'd have to stop the Earth from rotating, volcanoes from erupting, and then get humans to stop breathing.

After all, what kind of carbon dioxide emissions come from six billion people breathing? Should we have a "Fight Breathing" campaign as well? I'm not trying to mock Environmental Defense. I'm simply urging common sense.

Global warming, not just over hundreds of thousands of years but millions of years, is a natural process that humans have, yes, made worse - but then, if it is a natural process, and we're only speeding it up, shouldn't we be more concerned with preparing for the effects of global warming - both natural and human-influenced - rather than delusionally pretending we can FIGHT it?

You can slow global warming, but you can't stop it.

Isn't the "damage" that WE have caused already done? Combine that with the Earth's NATURAL cycle of warming and cooling, and, well...we can't exactly turn back the clock. Once you start skiing down a hill, it's a bit hard to stop. I mean, the snow's already there...and if you do something wrong when trying to stop...the consequences could be disastrous for you.

Whether global warming affects our lives or those of our children, or those of our grandchildren, it's going to happen anyway. While we spew CO2 into the air in huge amounts, we didn't invent it. Sure, what we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can have an impact, but we didn't create global warming and we shouldn't be made to feel as if we did. As Billy Joel sings, "We didn't start the was always burning since the world's been turning." Quite literally, actually.

Attempting to limit any negative human impact on the environment is noble and necessary, but learning how to live within, how to adapt, to a changing world - a world that is going to change with us or without us - would be nobler still and much more relevant and necessary not just for our children and their children-to-be, but for ourselves. If we only focus on fighting reality, instead of living within it...well, what will that really accomplish?

We didn't start the fire, after all.

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