Prior to the beginning of the industrial age, we hunted a LOT of whales. The upside: They provided a ready source of oil that we could use to power our civilization in many ways. The downside: Over-harvesting caused many species to go nearly extinct. Humankind’s response: Whales are still hunted today.
During the industrial age, heavy fossil fuels were exploited extensively to build our civilization. The upside: heavy crude products were readily available, inexpensive, and very efficient at producing energy. The downside: CO2 emissions caused by the burning of heavy crude have put the earth’s climate on a path of global warming, which is damaging civilization in many ways, including drought, extreme weather, sea level rise, and various health concerns. Humankind’s response: Drill, baby, drill.
Recently, we have come to appreciate certain advantages of light fossil fuels–natural gas. The upside: It’s cleaner to burn. Although it still produces significant CO2, overall emissions are decreased. The downside: The process of extracting natural gas, hydraulic fracturing or fracking, causes earthquakes and groundwater pollution. Humankind’s response: Exempt the process from all significant environmental oversight and regulatory compliance.
Even more recently, we have begun to develop wind and solar power in a significant and economically competitive way. The upside: Zero pollution. The downside: ?? Humankind’s response: A dedicated and well-financed effort by the fossil fuel industry to prevent clean energy from ever being developed.
We have explored in this forum many times the crucial question that must be answered by all of us as we work to protect our families, our communities, and our society: Why do we listen to whom we listen to? Is it because they tell us what we want to hear? Is it because they tell us the truth? Is it because what they tell us will not disturb our worldview? Or is it because what they tell us WILL disturb our worldview in ways that are very important?
A student recently told me that the most valuable thing she got out of my class was that she never again accepted anything she was told at face value. She developed the habit of fact-checking everything. The surprising result was that she was able to dissipate a lot of anger that she felt towards things she hadn’t really understood about society, and had been badly misrepresented in her media sources. She then transferred that anger towards those who had been lying to her, and from there it was just a short step to where she stopped listening to them. So:
- Do you still believe that hunting whales is worth the risk of having them go extinct?
- Do you still believe that burning heavy fossil fuels is worth the risk of runaway global warming?
- Do you still believe that fracking is worth the risk of earthquakes and polluted groundwater?
- Do you still believe that development of clean energy is an evil commie liberal conspiracy?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, then perhaps it might be a good idea to trace back your sources of information and clearly identify who’s lying to you. Because somebody is.