I’m reminded over and over again how maddeningly unproductive arguments become when the participants throw around unsubstantiated claims and figures. It seems like this is happening more and more in a fast-paced society where no one has the time to dig into the details of an issue. I’m as guilty as the next person of forcefully defending a position that feels right but which I can’t back up with any hard facts.
David McCandless took the time to do a broad study of Global Warming arguments/counter-arguments and did the background-work to back up the components of each side. It’s shocking how deeply buried some of this information ended up being.
Perhaps now we can get down to the reality of the matter and move on from there into an argument worth having.
I am a geek. I read technology blogs, carry an iPod, work for a tech company, receive regular tech support calls from family and friends and am never too far from internet access.
Lately, though, I’ve discovered a rather unexpected trend in my habits. Nearly all of the things I truly love to do for fun are conspicuously devoid of any technological component. It’s almost as if such routine exposure to technology drives me to places where I won’t be reminded of it at all. Strange, huh.
When I was younger, I was the kid who brought his laptop to the campfire circle while camping on the family trip in Canada. These days the thought of sitting in serene silence without any hint of developed civilization have replaced the need for constant connectivity to the outside world.
Contented shivers make their way up my spine at the thought of a week in the woods. I sit and wonder whether the constant drive to develop new more powerful forms of technology is the only way to improve civilization. After all, the capacity for happiness has existed way longer than the knowledge of electricity or industrialization.
“Please turn off all portable electronic devices.”
Okay, so I’ve read reports about the mostly cautionary purpose for this request, protecting against hypothetical interference with airplane-to-tower communication among other things (see CNET: Cell phones to take flight). Studies have shown that the tiny amount of power drawn by little iPods and DVD players is no threat to the massive equipment those planes pack.
Still, though, where I might have once rebelled and used my iPod anyway, I’ve changed my mind. I now agree wholeheartedly with the stewardess. Sitting in the back of Sun Country flight 395, I watched the passengers, previously distracted and occupied with music and games and news and movies from every direction, stop. The father points out the window at tiny rows of house lights, a new sight for the 6-year old peering out beside him. The mother sits and reads a novel with real words on real pages with a real story. Two strangers talk about Thanksgiving plans and family and kids and life, growing closer for an instant than many do living side-by-side amongst the business of connected, high-paced society, before flowing back apart to different destinations.
No ears are plugged; no eyes glued to the screen.
Every of us within this flying shell is hit with the majesty of existing actively in the world for a moment, and we’re always slightly surprised that it’s not as boring as we expected.
“Hey! We’re going to land!” pipes up the kid across the aisle.
And then we’re back on the ground – back in the real world.
“You may now turn on all portable electronic devices…..”
Upon the shores of an endless sea
rests noble Thomas, a honey bee
whose thirst is for the finer fruit-
riches like tunes from the gentlest flute.
Though large the span, no awful feat
for the small one to grasp such things so sweet
at the horizon’s edge for him to see,
a modest contented honey bee.
To his loyal peers, taking pause,
he speaks his joy, such urgent cause
of things to see, to know, to do
just beyond the rolling blue.
I’ll have you know, he booked a flight
and gathered those fellows without a fight.
They all were strapped in good and tight
and arrived contented that evening.
“Life is bitter, sweet and tough.”
Why believe that sour bluff?
Things are ours to love or hate.
Why turn down a happier state?
Living on a college campus and walking to class puts me outdoors a fair amount in a given day. So naturally, I’m one of those people who checks the weather forecast each morning as I get dressed.
For me, though, the actual forecasted highs and lows mean very little without some context. Is 60 degrees (F) warm enough for a t-shirt? Do I need to break out my winter coat? It’s all relative. Take a look at a comparison between today and yesterday, the idea being that I was outdoors yesterday, I know what the felt like.
Yesterday vs. Today Back to Back
Have you ever found yourself sitting in class, or reclining on a hillside beneath a beautiful sunny day, and realized the depth of things within which you were immersed? Walking along, deep in thought or worry about the difficulties of the day, it’s pretty easy to walk along a path or through a front yard, lost in the list of things to do.
But sitting among blades of grass spiraling up out of the earth, I look out around me and open my eyes. Life is sorted into layers upon layers; first details of the grass, before the grass itself, before blades together composing the field into which each is lost. Beyond that are the hills whose curves the field blankets before reaching to the trees just over the ridge, where shadows from clouds in the sky lazily skim across the horizon before getting lost in the curature of the earth itself.
What could be sorrowful in a world such as this? I imagine sitting there, camera raised up before my eye. I slowly cycle the lens, focusing close up and slowly panning out until those things nearby are lost in blurred fuzziness and the horizon is framed in crisp detail.
Does a stream of consciousness need explanation? Does an article need a title? Stop for a moment and try a new lens. There’s so much to see.
Check out these two articles in that order. It’s amazing what people can do to science.
Junk Science: Hey Al Gore, We Want a Refund!
An ‘error’ is not the same thing as an error
London Justice Burton heard a case regarding the problems with presenting Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to classrooms across the UK. The justice acknowledged the value of the film as professionally produced and well-meaning but struck down 9 major errors in the presentation. These pertained to Hurricane Katrina’s path of destruction, melting snow on Mount Kilimanjaro and the loss of fish communities dependent on coral reefs, among other things.
In none of these cases does the justice find Al Gore’s assertions to be false. Rather, the claims he finds have to do with a lack of sufficient comprehensive evidence for global warming as a cause, and possible other factors potentially responsible for the discussed climate changes.
Frankly, Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize this past week not for incredible scientific discoveries on his part. He’s a smart guy but not by any means a leading expert in every one of these areas. The value of this film doesn’t depend on the simple mass of how many proofs it can come up with to advocate global warming. Global warming is almost universally recognized by the scientific community as a very real and important factor in how we interact with the environment around us. This film takes this absolute truth and portrays it in a way individuals can relate to. A film like this is important because it helps the public throw away the unsupported statements and censored reports coming out of the Bush administration.
Justice Burton didn’t call Gore’s statements untruths, simply not fully and completely proven so far, and even at that, the justice was only citing inconsistencies between the film and the current formally accepted body of scientific research. That’s a lot more than we can say for most of the arguments against global warming.
Justice Burton’s Judgement