This article is posted to complement the release of the author's first book,
Air Pollution's the Answer!. NOW Available on digital and print platforms.
The ability to ask questions and, more importantly, the need to ask them is a kind of intuition that comes with age, not just individually but culturally. As we carry phones that are capable of answering our every unknown, the idea that the human race does not know how to ask a question will have readers clicking the next page as quickly as a finger tap. But, had a few more questions been asked and fewer judgements been made, what is now called Environmental Policy may not have even needed to be an issue.
Education, as defined by something more than the ability to read a public notice or write your name, has only been around for a century or so and was never intended to create a world of college graduates. Recognizing that people were easily victimized without a basic education, new settlements and poorer communities saw to the opening of a school as soon as was physically possible. Only when conformity became a workforce necessity did government finally get into the education debate. The ability to think independently and ask questions did not work well in the days following the industrial revolution. Employers needed workers with common knowledge and common beliefs. In 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act would be the first in a long line of education bills that would standardized what American workers needed to know and value. While those skills have turned the country into a great economic power, they have also contributed to a country divided by misinformation, political grandstanding and distrust. Climate change is a direct response to a society that was taught to conform not to think.
In some respects, the country has regressed into a different kind of illiteracy. With the advent of the computer, it has become the god to which all questions are asked. It tells us what is fact and as long as the computer says so, the information is never questioned.
Before an answer can be found for climate change, the public must question its faith in the computer and the value of its information. People must ask questions and expect more than copied and pasted answers. Here are three questions about environmental policy that can, and should, be asked.
Why is infrastructure always the answer?
The Great Depression was a horrible time in this country, both financially and environmentally. The steps taken by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had never been done before but put the country to work while giving it something people didn't know they needed. The goal of infrastructure, then and now, is two-fold: to put people to work and to build something that is not necessarily needed. How does the conversation change when someone asks a different question? What do we have to show for all this infrastructure?
As FDR and Truman laid out the plan to put people to work, we can only imagine the discussions.
FDR to Adviser: And who will be responsible for the upkeep on all these CCC projects?
Advisers: Once the economy is back to "normal" there will be more than enough tax revenue to keep things in good shape, Mr. President. What we are doing here is top-of-the-line. These improvements will last for decades and bring huge amounts of revenue into the states. They will be so proud of what we have given them that they will be happy to keep them like new!
FDR: Well then, since that problem has been solved, Let's get on with it!
Of course, that isn't how things worked in the end. Every locality and state is grappling with the cost of maintaining parks, highways, drainage projects and utilities that it neither asked for nor had any experience in managing. Yet, the practice of hiring cheap labor to do back-breaking work is an institution the American workforce may never overcome.
Environmentally, what is it that is needed here? For most, if not all of its history, the United States as chosen to go bigger rather than better. More land, more jobs and more people have been the goals. Environmentally, those areas which were the most successful are now hurting the most from its environmental cost. Should Americans trust the rhetoric like the illiterate public it once was or should it ask a lot more questions of our elected representatives, expect them to have a basic education in something other than economics and the law and require the infrastructure to be compliant with the environment not the other way around?
In the eighty-five years since WWII ended, has the goal been to grow the economy or build something just because it could be built. Hard and inflexible substances such as steel and concrete go against the environment which is constantly changing. How will the environment respond when we again try to mold it to human expectations?
Why is the principle of global warming called "greenhouse gases"?
Did you know that the man who is credited with developing "greenhouse gas theory" did not invent the greenhouse, nor does it appear that he ever owned one? So why would a person who had no experience with a greenhouse decide to call his work on radiation "greenhouse gases"? Moreover, what would make him draw such sweeping conclusions that are now used to predict the end of Earth as we know it? That is a good question and one that the computer and internet never seem to address.
Much like now, greenhouses in the mid 1800s had one purpose and only one purpose, to grow plants when the weather did not allow it to be done outdoors. For the average person, it did not matter how it worked but that lemon trees could be grown in the dead of winter as a cure for scurvy and that orchids and other fresh flowers were always available to decorate the homes of the wealthy. Additionally, medicinal herbs were grown as birth control, laxatives and immune boosters long before today's natural food trend became big business.
But, to the scientific community, particularly those who studied sunlight, the greenhouse presented a puzzle to be solved. Anyone who tried to explain how the greenhouse worked named their theory "greenhouse something". Just like the company who markets the candle in the image above to get customers to buy this product over others, the word "greenhouse" was used as an attention getting device. The competition in the scientific world was great, even then, and the use of such a word had just as much weight as the brand Apple had in the 1970s. Multiple scientists worked on similar findings which became the basis of our knowledge of heat instead of climate. It is only because of the internet and people believing what is on it that greenhouse gas theory has morphed into something that is different than the study of sunlight. Just because one scientist concluded that three gases held heat does not mean they are causing the planet to warm up and die. Climate change is real but if carbon dioxide, ozone, and water vapor had really been to blame, the planet Earth would have died eons ago.
Could Green Energy and its policies be responsible for shifts in climate?
Once the idea of carbon-based gases is thrown out as a cause, what could possibly be to blame? Yes, human population has tripled in the last fifty years but there is no indication that population alone would cause such changes. Even without people, the number of animals producing carbon dioxide far out number mere humans. Could it be that, instead of finding the answer, leaders are reacting to fear rather than fact. Is it that fear that is causing climate change?
How many times have harmful treatments been used as ways to “cure” a problem?Dunking and stoning of women seen as witches was common to cleanse their souls. Cutting off hands to stop stealing or blinding because a man looked at the wrong woman did not stop either behavior. It might be the use of leeches that fits this scenario the best. Common two centuries ago, using leeches to drain bad blood out often continued until the patient could not restore itself and died. Could it be that modern science by going after and removing gases is using the same concept on the atmosphere?
Discussions of what needs to be done to ward off climate change have become unbelievably scary. Reducing carbon dioxide would jeopardize our food supply, turn our landscaping and yards to dirt even with rain and lead to massive starvation.
As Americans are we willing to let this happen all because we trust computer models more than practical knowledge gained by asking questions? I hope not.