19 August 2014

Interesting to see that yesterday at 85 degrees north (that's 556 kilometers from the North Pole) the temperature reached 11.6 Celsius, or 53 Fahrenheit.  I was thinking about how this would have seemed to Franklin, Peary or any of the historic Arctic explorers, having to worry about their food spoiling as they slogged through the great northern ocean, now dotted with salty melt ponds.  I might have written a little essay about this strange new world we live in, remarking in a restrained tone on the dangers of tampering with an amazingly complex global climate system.

But now Charles Mann (in a Sept. 2014 Atlantic Monthly article which I can't find online) has told us that when "eco-campaigners" write about these things they are debasing the national discourse.  If I understand his argument correctly, I should strive for a middle ground between alarmism and denialism at all times, preferably avoiding all kinds of data, because "for the typical citizen" that's "a muddle, too abstract--too much like 10th-grade homework."

I read your books 1492 and 1493, Mr. Mann, and this Atlantic piece is so far below the quality of those that I have to wonder about your good faith in addressing climate change.  You say it is "as yet mostly invisible," blithely ignoring the sweeping changes in ecosystems such as the Arctic around the globe that anybody residing in these places with eyes, ears, or a sense of smell could notice.  "A tiny practical impact on most people's lives?" There's a whole TV show about that tiny practical impact, called Years of Living Dangerously, in which (for example) Syrian farmers can illuminate for you how their country's economy collapsed after extreme drought and how many of them were driven out of desperation to support ISIS-like rebel groups.

(And by the way, give me a frickin' break about "each side [in the climate debate storing] up bitterness, like batteries taking on charge." Bill McKibben is about as far from a bitter nihilist as you can get.  He has not spent so many years raising awareness about climate change because he hates humanity.  Read his books and you will find much more about constructive adaptations and long-term solutions to climate change than you will ad hominem attacks on coal and oil executives.)

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