Eugene Linden
home   |   contact info   |   biography   |   publications   |   radio/tv   |   musings   |   short takes   

Latest Musing

Imagining a Post Pandemic World

How might a post-pandemic world look and feel? Let’s imagine a creative team at a New York City advertising agency pitching a campaign in 2050 for a new perfume (more than most products, perfumes are sold by attaching to the dreams and aspirations of their times).  The Big Apple, ...

continue

Latest Book

Deep Past
Buy from Amazon

more info

Articles by Category
endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
fragging

Books

Winds of Change
Buy from Amazon

more info
Afterword to the softbound edition.


The Octopus and the Orangutan
more info


The Future In Plain Sight
more info


The Parrot's Lament
more info


Silent Partners
more info


Affluence and Discontent
more info


The Alms Race
more info


Apes, Men, & Language
more info

INSIDE THE MIND OF A CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER


Sunday February 21, 2010

-EUGENE LINDEN
 
 
THE SCENE: THE WASHINGTON MALL ON A SNOWY FEBRUARY DAY.
BOB AND JOE ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF AN IGLOO CONSTRUCTED BY THE GRANDCHILDREN OF SENATOR JIM INHOFE (R-OK).  IN FRONT OF THE IGLOO IS A SIGN THAT READS: “AL GORE’S NEW HOME.”
 
            Bob looks at the sign and laughs,  “Look at that Joe, guess we won’t be hearing any more about that global warming nonsense.”
            “I totally agree. Thank God my main man Inhofe had the guts to stand up to the girly-man liberals and expose global warming for the hoax that it is. [They exchange high fives and fist bumps]. If it weren’t for Inhofe, courageous selfless companies like Exxon, and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page just imagine where we might be – ‘like your electric car, Bob?’ No thanks, I’ll stick with my good old American oil.”
            “Hmm, don’t we import most of our oil?”
            “Whatever. The main thing is: this country was built on oil and it will die on oil!”
            “ Word bro!” The two men start trudging through the snow.  Bob changes the subject. “So Joe, you watchin’ the downhill in the Olympics this weekend?”
            “Didn’t you hear? It’s been delayed. It’s warm up in Vancouver and they don’t have any snow.”
            “Jeesh, how stupid – you’d think they pick some place cold for the Winter Olympics – someplace like Canada.”
            “Uh Bob, Vancouver is in Canada.”
            Bob stops. “So it’s unusually warm up there?”
            “I dunno – something about El Nino.”
            “Don’t El Nino’s happen all the time?”
            “Yeah, why?”
            “Because why would they pick a place for the Winter Olympics if they know that every few years it’s going to get warm and they won’t have snow?”
            Joe is getting exasperated. “Maybe, Bob, because this year it’s warmer than it has been before.”
            “You don’t have to be sarcastic. That’s all I was asking.”
The two continue trudging down the mall.  Bob is still confused about the Canada information. “So Joe, if it’s warmer in Canada…”
“It’s not warmer in Canada!”
“But you just said…”
“What just because it’s warmer in Vancouver, you think it’s warmer in all of Canada?” Joe looks at Bob as though he’d never encountered anyone so dense.
“But didn’t I read something about sea ice melting, the Northwest Passage opening for the first time, permafrost melting…”
“Bob, haven’t you been listening to Rush and Glenn Beck? The scientists made up the data. Look around you [Joe points to the mountains of snow]! Like the Virginia GOP said, ’12 inches of global warming.”
“But you just said that warming in Vancouver doesn’t have anything to do with global warming.”
“Yes…”
“So ,why does snow in Washington have to do with global warming?
“Exactly!” says Joe triumphantly, “It refutes global warming! ”
“So the world’s not getting warmer?”
“Nobody’s proved anything -- the scientists made up the data.”
“That’s just awful – do we have proof.”
“Yup, those leaked emails from England, and then I read in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that some of the claims about global warming in this big fancy IPCC report were based on non-peer reviewed articles.”
“What’s a peer reviewed article.”
“Supposedly it’s one where the scientists’ methods and data are reviewed by other scientists with the credentials to judge the paper.”
“I get it. So they used a non-peer reviewed article because the peer reviewed articles don’t support global warming, right?”
Joe again looks exasperated. “Well no, but that’s the problem. The scientists are all conspiring to suppress the truth that global warming is a hoax. So they get together to prevent the scientists who see the truth from getting published. That’s why these heroes have to get their money from the coal industry.”
“Wow! That’s a big conspiracy. But I suppose now that it’s all out in the open, these phonies will be discredited and the real scientists will get the word out that the world isn’t warming.”
Joe gives Bob a world weary look. “Don’t hold your breath, Bob,  they’re saying that nothing in the emails changes any meaningful thing in the global warming story. These scientists are ruthless…”
“I thought global warming supporters were girly men?”
“… ruthless girly men, Bob. Those emails have some really nasty accusations in them, ridiculing our scientists and accusing them of intellectual dishonesty. Why can’t they just argue the facts?”
“What was in it for those scientists, Joe?”
Joe again gives Bob a condescending look, “What else, money, power, fame, glamour ,girls , or, er, boys. ”
Bob again looks puzzled, “Even during the Bush administration?…Anyway, wanting money doesn’t explain the conspiracy part – you know suppressing the truth.”
Joe looks pleased. “So there is a brain in there [he knocks on Bob’s head]. You’re right. Think about it Bob. This supposed global warming would be happening all over the world, and if something’s a so-called threat to the world, then how do you fix it?”
“I’m guessing you’re going to tell me.”
“World government, my friend. Global warming is just a pretext so that liberals and George Soros can establish a world government. First they’ll take away our guns, then they’ll come back for everything else.”
Bob looks stunned as everything falls into place. “Thanks Joe – that’s one scary bunch of girly men. Well thank god they’ve been stopped! Come to think of it, we’re in a pretty good place. The conspiracy has been exposed, and we don’t have to worry about the world getting warmer.”
Joe gives Bob a sober look. “The conspiracy’s not dead Bob, we can’t let down our guard. Oh, and the world is getting warmer.”
Bob buries his face in his hands, “What do you mean, you just said the scientists made up the data!”
Joe reverts to condescension, “C’mon Bob, I said the data don’t prove anything. That’s different. Look around you spring comes earlier, lakes aren’t freezing, duck season is changing. It’s obvious the world is warming.”
“You mean the scientists are right?”
“Of course not. The warming is natural – probably because the sun is brighter.”
“Wouldn’t they think of that?”
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?
“So CO2 has nothing to do with it?”
“That’s right, CO2 doesn’t cause warming, it rises after warming. Anyway the warming’s all good.”
             “Why is that?”
            “Because it’s natural, dummy! Plants live off CO2, right? Remember the ad: ‘They call it pollution, we call it life!’ If I were a farmer I’d buy land right in the wind shadow of a coal-fired power plant.”
“Bob looks troubled, “But if it’s natural we can’t do anything about it. If we caused it, at least we would know why it was happening and how to stop it.”
Joe narrows his eyes and looks at Bob. “You going all liberal on me Bob?”
“Of course not! But how do you know it’s all good?”
“Trust me, Bob, and remember: Exxon’s got your back.”
 

contact Eugene Linden

Short Take

Relaxing COVID-19 Restrictions will Kill, not Save, the Economy


 

[This is a more developed version of the previous Short Take}

Those who want to relax mandates on self-isolation and social distancing to save the economy have got it exactly backwards. Reopen society too soon, and we risk destroying the economy as well as public order and our shaky democratic institutions. The reason comes down to two words: supply lines.

 Supply lines for necessities such as food are already under stress. Those going to grocery stories encounter random instances of empty shelves and vegetable bins. Smithfield Farms shut down a South Dakota plant that supplies roughly 4% of the pork in the nation after over 500 of its workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Other giant meat processors such as Tyson have also shut down plants for similar reasons. Farmers in the West are having trouble finding workers to harvest the crops now reaching maturity in the fields. And even if they manage to get the crops picked, farmers are out of luck if the truckers fail to show up, or the flow of packaging for their products get interrupted. 

Right now, these disruptions are episodic, but that should be concerning because we haven’t even seen the end of the first wave. What we have seen is that vital front-line workers such as nurses, doctors, EMT’s, and other first responders have had trouble finding protective equipment and maintaining morale. Some have staged walkouts over the dangerous conditions, and these are workers with a sense of mission.

By contrast, for most of the hourly-paid workers who keep supplies made, distributed, and sold, their work is a job that pays the bills. It would be appropriate if society recognized that they played a vital role, but mostly these workers encounter demanding bosses, monotony, and surly customers. If sick, they are not going to work – nor would we want them too. And they are not likely to risk their lives if going to work exposes them to contagion.

Disruption of one link, e.g. the trucker that delivers food the last mile, could halt a supply chain. COVID-19 is a threat to every link. Should a second wave hit before there is a readily available, cheap and effective treatment, it’s a very high probability that many supply lines will be disrupted and filling the gaps could easily overwhelm the nation’s businesses. 

Even today, on the evening news, we see images of vast caravans of cars lined up to get supplies from food banks. Imagine two weeks of empty shelves in the stores that feed our cities. How likely is it that civil order could be maintained in that situation? Will people suffer in silence if they realize that they can’t buy food for their kids because our leaders reopened the economy before a treatment was available because they wanted to prop up the stock market (which is how it will be portrayed)? If we want to look analogues for what life is like once supply chains break down, they’re readily available today in cities like Mogadishu, Kinshasa, and Port au Prince. 

 Thus far, the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic seems to be a mélange of Boss Tweed, Don Corleone and Inspector Clouseau. For the next act, the administration has a choice: Churchill, who bolstered British morale during the London Blitz, or Pol Pot, who sacrificed millions of his countrymen for a bad idea. Let’s hope those around Trump can convince him that the cure for the disease is the cure for the economy.
 



read more
  designed and maintained by g r a v i t y s w i t c h , i n c .
© Eugene Linden. all rights reserved.