Happy Earth Day, Even Though We're All Doomed

(AP Photo/Courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center)

Today, April 22, is Earth Day — a day to celebrate the earth as a unique, beautiful, and special place. Despite NASA spending hundreds of billions of tax dollars looking, we have yet to find another place quite like good ole planet earth.

But the warnings of the doomsayers are growing louder — we’re warming up, we’re killing off too many species, we’re poisoning the air and water, we’re growing too much food, we’re growing the wrong kinds of food, omigod! the rain forests, the bees, the birds, fertility rates are plummeting and, of course, there are way, way, way too many of us.

All of that may be true. But we continue to plug along, stumbling on technological solutions to our very real problems, so that the very real and heartfelt warnings of well-meaning people aren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

I am cheered by the fact that we are about 4.5 billion years old. It takes a lot to destroy our planet — comets, asteroids, cosmic rays, solar storms have all done their best to create a lifeless hunk of rock, and yet, life perseveres.

Yes, we could be better stewards of our planet. I don’t want to see the elephants,  tigers, or even the snail darter go extinct. Some of our actions as a species have been shameful. And we could think a little before throwing that plastic bottle overboard when we’re fishing our favorite lake or river.

But we shouldn’t posture or preen, or brag about how concerned we are about the planet. Earth is what it is, what it always has been, and probably what it always will be. The titanic forces that shape our planet — its landscape, its climate and have impacted such a large part of our history — don’t need human intervention to kill us off. One unlucky change of course by an asteroid and all that concern and worry by greens about our planet would come to absolutely nothing — nada, zip, zilch zero.

Acting as if the threat doesn’t exist is probably wise. But this old hunk of rock has endured a lot in 4.5 billion years. It’s disturbing to see people lose sleep over climate change when we’d probably never see the comet or asteroid that would end our pretense of civilization and wipe out modern society in less than a day,

At one time, the doomsayers claimed there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone, that India and China would suffer scenes of unimaginable tragedy with people dying in the streets of starvation. Then came the green revolution and China and India are now exporting food. The concern over overpopulation morphed into a concern that we were running out of oil. That prediction proved to be even sillier than mass starvation.

Why is it the doomsayers are never called out for being so spectacularly wrong? In the past, their errors didn’t cost trillions of dollars and millions of jobs. But what if they’re wrong about climate change? Not that the climate doesn’t change or isn’t changing now but these specific, terrifying predictions of doom—life if we don’t stop using fossil fuels we’re all going to die—are being used to justify all kinds of mischief by governments.

And if climate change is such a rock-solid certainty, why are opposing scientific views squelched? This fear that contrary views are somehow dangerous and need to be censored is more terrifying to me than anything the climate can do to me. If we are going to allow double-digit trillions of dollars to be sucked out of the economy, costing jobs, lives, and people’s peace of mind, you would think climate change advocates would welcome the debate.

In truth, I know very little about atmospheric physics, meteorology, or any other climate science discipline that needs to be understood in order to make an intelligent, informed decision about what should be done. We, like politicians and activists, depend on scientists interpreting their findings and judging the efficacy of that information by filtering it through our own biases.

It’s an imperfect system, but it’s all we have.


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