Friday, October 1, 2010

Robert Laughlin & Psycho-Anti-Green George Will

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     It would be like trying to explain to a an adult who does not already instinctively understand that something like, say, pyromania or child molestation is wrong, to try to explain why the ongoing human snuffing out countless other species is unacceptable. On that topic, I will admit that it is hard to believe that George F. Will still has the power to disappoint. But leave it to Mr. Will, in his 9-20-10 Newsweek column, “The Earth Doesn’t Care,” to take an article by physicist Robert B. Laughlin, about the changes on earth over the vastness of geological time, about which it is always good to be reminded, but also about which pretty much everyone with a good high school education already knows, and attempt to turn that into yet another juvenile Pee-wee Herman--like wedgie against the environment and environmental science.

     Of course it is always useful for scientists to remind us of the vastness of geological time, which, in turn, is dwarfed by that of astronomical time. And it is true that eventually, one way or the other, some solar burp, a big mother asteroid, or you name it, will terminate all life on earth. But what does that mean? Does that give someone the logical basis for merrily running out and offing the next 37 people they bump into on the sidewalk? Hey, why not, because in geological time it means zip! Furthermore, if Will is really intending to give us a wakeup call from an actual honest to God scientist, then why is Will so totally dismissive of thousands of  scientists who are deeply concerned about global warming and other environmental problems? True, their word does not have to be gospel, and, in fact I pray they are wrong. 

     But many of these scientists are themselves geologists and physicists. And is it really such a stretch to imagine that the human gushings-out of never-ending tons of foul gunk into the earth’s atmosphere might someday seriously alter the earth’s atmospheric system? On the other hand, since George Will seems to have been arguing over countless columns that, one, global warming is not happening, and, two, that even if it is, it makes no difference, maybe it is just best he continue to play in his book-lined study and leave the rest of us serious adults alone to try to solve these problems among ourselves.

     It is revealing that Will seems to be comically unaware that he is undermining his own argument when he cites the Laughlin exception on permanent earth damage: “Laughlin believes that humans CAN [caps added] ‘do damage persisting for geologic time’--extinctions that are, unlike carbon dioxide excesses, permanent.” Let's see, permanent earth damage that the earth doesn’t care about. Okaaay.

     But now comes what to George Will must be a clever slight of hand, but to anyone reasonable awake will be about as difficult to detect as observing an amateur magician trying to slip a red and gold glittering bowling ball out of his jockey shorts and into a deck of playing cards: “Today extinctions result mostly in human population pressures … but ‘slowing man-made extinctions in a meaningful way would require drastically reducing the world’s population.’ Which will not happen.”

     This is obviously the “fallacy of the false choice.” We either have to ‘drastically’ reduce the earth’s population--or nothing. And we must reduce extinction in a ‘meaningful way’--or nothing. Result? Oh well, so sorry, Sally Salamander--you’re fried!

     Of course this ignores the fact that the world is already not only staggeringly overpopulated, but that this overpopulation is continuing to drastically worsen, some of it, particularly in the United States, by purposeful legal and illegal immigration polices that will eventually increase population growth by hundreds of millions of people. (Fortunately most reasonable people know enough to ignore pro-overpopulation economists and columnists who forever keep yammering on about the falling “rate” of world population growth, which is only made possible by the fact that the growth RATE each year is recalculated against an ever-growing higher population BASE.)

     But let’s try to get Will’s argument straight once and for all. Even though thousands and thousand of species are being wiped out by overpopulating humans, we can’t even at least try to save, let’s say, hundreds of  species otherwise condemned to death (and improve human quality of life to boot, say, in the world’s teeming slums) by at least trying to slow the world’s population growth? Apparently not. Or how about saving even more species by leveling off population growth (which would have happened in the U.S. about now had we not embarked on an immigration binge starting in 1965-70)? Nope, we can hear George and his fiends yawn. And if something can be leveled off, can it not someday be lowered? “No way, Jose,” they would undoubtedly say. But why not? Because anything we do it must work--remember that scary word--‘drastically’! And, also, don’t forget, apparently saving just many hundreds or a meager several thousands of species would not be, you know, “meaningful.”

     Therefore, when it comes to the mass irrevocable wiping out of countless hapless species of plants and animals, commands General George F. Will the Courageous, above the sounds of the land-clearing slaughter--Let her RIP!

     Of course this is not the only clumsy slight of hand. The entire column obviously attempts to blur the concept of geological “earth” with the concept of teeming-with-life “earth.” Yes, of course, the earth someday, due to some astronomical or geological catastrophic event, is likely to turn into a big dead smoking cinder. Or maybe humans will destroy most of the life on earth before then. But, not to worry, the budding geophysicist triumphantly assures us: “The [geological] Earth doesn‘t care”! Yes, M. Will, most of us, including some elementary school kid working on his classroom science project somewhere near you, were already well aware of this profound pundit revelation.

     Finally--thankfully leaving Will’s rococo yet scattershot attempt to airily dismiss the destruction of the environment, the teeming-with-life earth that made all human beings and all other living things possible, including George F. Will--there is one thing that we know for sure: 

Just as there are geological laws, so are there biological ones.

     Populations that forever grow out of control eventually come crashing down. This is true even in societies that are wealthy and specialized enough so that they can pay people to be cheerleaders for their own biological Armageddon. But what makes this more tragic still is that today, for the first time in history, humans live in a era when clear scientific and historical evidence is easily at our fingertips to enlighten us on environmental sustainability and what eventually happens to populations that overshoot it. This means that not long ago we could have humanely brought our numbers under control and concentrated on the quality of life for all humans, rich and poor, as well as non-humans, rather than today‘s political-media elite mantra: Growth-growth-growth at any cost! Getting out of this catastrophe in time is still possible, but far more difficult.

     And, as icing on our Happy Deathday celebration cake, we now have people like George Will, who finally, in a backhand way, actually admit that the environmental destruction has gone very far, but uses that as the very reason why now nothing can or must be done. You see, doing anything “meaningful” would be too “drastic.” How convenient for we the human despoilers.

     According to many scientists, humans will have taken out over half of the earth’s other species before human populations crash toward some future environmentally devastated Dark Age.

     But, alas, as the old English proverb says, “There is none so blind as those who will not see.” 
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Border Enforcement + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.