This time, last year: April 2012

For a science lab(!), our classes viewed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and another film, The Great Global Warming Swindle. We were then asked to write papers on these films’ scientific merits, something that was impossible for me to do with respect to the latter. While I love the subject, I’m no fan of our instructor, who likes to insinuate things throught his lectures but when, for instance, his comments aren’t representative, he doesn’t allow any opportunity for contradiction. Of course he gets pissy that, within this environment, people text or log onto facebook. Douche. Originally I drafted this at half its length, but given the nature of his comments at the end of class, decided I was fully justified in not relying upon the intelligence of my reader or their ability to follow implications.

Which is to say it’s a little bit of a tirade. 

Whereas Al Gore’s effort merely annoyed me, The Great Global Warming Swindle was an affront. Not for its argument that global warming is based on science that puts a cart before the horse, but for its description of the environmental movement as an anti-industrial, neomarxist putsch by ungrateful people who don’t appreciate modern technologies, bathe or have regular hairstyles. The Japanese scientist was the only one in the film who didn’t resort to highly opinionated statements in place of data they referenced but didn’t point us to. Appeal to authority abounded.

The beauty of science is that it’s self-correcting. We’ve been wrong before, and because we’re likely to be wrong again, I believe in a conservative, cautious approach to our limited resources and a careful consideration that there are unforeseen consequences to our actions, that often come to light and that we sometimes regret. Things also often get pushed through before we fully appreciate what we’re doing, and that can cost us, sometimes dearly, in terms of our health, the food we eat, and our environment. Often the benefit is clear, and outweighs a risk, but sometimes we indulge in something that later proves disadvantageous, even harmful. I take risks when I have a sound understanding of the vectors at play within favorable conditions and avoid those with which I have no prior experience or that could potentially cause damage beyond my means to fix. This follows for the quality of the food I eat, the way I drive, the sports I play, which medicines I take, and seems reasonable, no? (Side effects can include headache, insomnia, sleeping too much, loss of appetite, increased appetite, unwanted hair growth, sexual dysfunction and death? In that case, I think I’d rather be sick, thanks.)

Gore did not supply us with much real data, his was an appeal to human interests; The Swindle ostensibly positions itself as an appeal to reason, but the bulk of its argument is laced with negative descriptions of phenomena outside the scientific findings it smugly references but hardly supplies. Oh, it trots out a great deal of pedigree, but offers censorship & conspiracy theory in place of research we could look at ourselves. Meanwhile, I, for my part, am depicted as an “unreasonable” anticapitalist for having taken the long view of man’s shortsighted shortcomings, and, within the film, all “environmental activists” are repeatedly depicted as rowdy, unwashed mobs. Just like the Unions! Thank you, Ayn Rand.

Have you heard of Ockham’s razor or Pascal’s wager?

I’ll remind you that my prior paper didn’t mention Big Business, Industrial Regulation, or even the Government. My concern is with avoidable waste/side effects and the unreflective behavior of individual consumers–whom I’d compare to cattle if I were part of the production team behind The Swindle, and maybe show seated together in the same room texting, with little dollar signs emanating from their phones and lots of visible brand names on the rest of their stuff. Plus lots of readymade food from recognizable chains… And I’d call it School: The Great Swindle.

But I didn’t include such in my paper. Instead I sketched the behavior I found questionable and offered that as an example for why I believe what I do. A little of that was done in The Swindle, but not without, for example, referring to the precautionary principle as “a beast” and “draconian measure”, or mention of “death threats”, “heresy”, “propaganda”, “anti-human”, “polemic”. Are these results demonstrable? I could fill an entire page with similar sensational language used within the film during various appeals to reason, but that prospectin fact makes me a little queasy. And this is the note they end on. The crescendo they’d built to, abandoning science entirely about ¾ of the way through, and so downhill to so much empirically relevant prose.

There’s a place for critical thought within the scientific community; this film does not ultimately try to appeal to that. It implies a great deal; it substantiates very little. What studies were cited? Three, vaguely. We were shown lots of graphs and told what to think—no sources, beyond the scientists talking; lots of edits. Then, the environmental movement in toto was reduced to global warming. Straw man? Ad hominem? False dichotomies? Reductio ad absurdum? Hello?

“We can all thank our intellectual betters that science is self-correcting.”   –  Christian Science motto.

No; wait.

There are no ultimate truths, here. I’m perfectly willing to consider—and even scrap—any “beliefs” about global warming. Skepticism, however, goes both ways—and the loaded language (and imagery) used throughout the film triggered a great movement in my stores of salt. I cannot forfeit my critique of mass behavior, cheap congratulatory rhetorical devices, propaganda that calls the other pot black, or my concern for the surfeit of disposable products produced by means which have negative impacts upon us. Plastic saves lives, no? But now we look for the “BPA free” stuff. Why? We were all too happy to drink our water from bottles and bottles laced with it a while back.

The creators of this film bothered to trot out the spectre of terrible poverty and expensive green technology, and accuse environmentalists of being displaced communists (I do not exaggerate! Science!!) but what about the jobs that would be created by different technology and innovation? Or how the first run of something’s always so expensive? Do you not remember how much a Commodore 64 cost, compared to the cost and what you do with an iPhone today? The more ubiquitous they’ve become, the cheaper and better they’ve gotten, but they don’t start out that way. How many people work for Apple? Who’s the anticapitalist? Who is the fear monger? Who is also taking things to an extreme?

Gore didn’t propose a single solution, beyond “reduction”. Changing habits. A need to consider that we don’t foresee everything, and that this shortsightedness can cost us was implicit. (Cigarettes. The family farm. A way of life. His sister.) Who does this change threaten? Why is that possibility of innovation always overlooked in the critiques of the “environmental movement”? Why is that more obvious solution/less “draconian” alternative never discussed? Oh, because the investments are already sunk in the stuff we use now… I see. And who benefits most from our continued use of that? Or from encouraging us to be so grateful for it? But that makes me a Marxist? For understanding the mechanics of a vested interest? Really?

 But monopolies aren’t effectively capitalist.

Could the poor Africans living far away from power lines make use of the energy created by fossil fuels? Would some power company move into and develop a poor area to serve people too poor to develop it? Is a kerosene generator really what you want around a two room hospital? Would you go to a hospital equipt with only a few lights, a few beds and a refrigerator? Was that even a real hospital? Was English even a language that man knew? (Because he sounded like he was syllabizing.) Is it fair to hold an undeveloped nation to a standard we don’t measure up to ourselves? Is this Science?

So the film is a little insulting to anyone it doesn’t flatter. Red flag? Somehow I’m still willing to consider its findings, but that says more about me and the degree of uncertain reasoning I tolerate (and a willingness to approach new data) than it does for the unconvincing pitch of this steaming pile of pro-industrial agitprop. When they had a “lifelong journalist” lament the recent betrayal of craft by environmental journalists who resorted to “sensation” to attract readers, the camel finally kicked. Imagine! A journalist who’d never witnessed a stitch of newsprint sensationalism until those evil environmental ones decided to foist a bunch of lies (financed by the UN and Margaret Thatcher before that—those two being in financial agreement about anything; it’s like France and Germany before the ECSC–not bloody likely) upon us! I mean, it just never happened before. No, no; wait. Google “yellow journalism.”

Again, Science! That’s my way of saying much of the content of this film was loaded, and that gives me a blank franking check to discuss its implications within the body of my paper, both directly and by analogy—as the film does. To have limited my writing exclusively to the “scientific findings” of the film would have required a lobotomy, as a significant portion of it was devoted to something else and I was paying attention. Something else… Something along the lines of the alarmist junk mail my grandfather gets about Muslim hate groups on American campuses, the NATO superhighway, and lurid details of what Planned Parenthood doesn’t want you to know. “Because I know you’re well-informed and a concerned citizen/good Christian, I know you’ll want to know….” Bulk rate. Presorted.

 evil press spirits

Evil Spirits of the Modern Daily Press.


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