Monday, June 25, 2007

Hey Kids! Climate Change Is Your Boogeyman!

Let me say at the outset that I’m a fan of, of their writer Emily Yoffe, and of the Washington Post.

But if there’s one thing I can’t stand it is a disingenuous argument. And I’ll tell you, nine times out of ten, there’s nothing more disingenuous than playing the God!-What-About-The-CHILDREN!!! Card. And Emily’s column today in the Post about global climate change does exactly that.

Ms. Yoffe has decided to take on Al Gore and his “campaign of mass persuasion” on global climate change. She is concerned. You know. For the children.

“I, however, refuse to see the apocalypse in every balmy day. And I think it’s wrong to let our children believe they’ll be swept away before they get a chance to fret about college admissions. An article in The Post this spring described children anxious, sleepless and tearful about the end; one 9-year-old said she worried about global warming “because I don’t want to die.”

“Usually we want to protect our children from awful events, adjusting the message to suit their age. Certainly we tried to do that after Sept. 11. But an essential part of the global warming awareness movement is the belief that scaring us to death is the best way to spur massive change. Gore explicitly compares warming to the Nazis of the last century and terrorists of this one.”

If you don’t read denial in that first line, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

Yoffe is clearly missing the big picture, which is this: that global climate change is a massive, massive event, and it’s not the kind of thing that is going to manifest itself in a single day, a single week, month or even year. In the larger picture of decades, millennia, and eons, it’s happening quickly, but in the age of instant news and the Internet, it’s clearly not happening quickly enough.

The bigger point is action, or taking action. Should children be scared of global climate change? Yeah, a little bit. They should also be scared of riding in cars with people who have been drinking, and speeding, and not wearing seat belts. It’s why they show Blood Flows Red on the Highway at driver’s ed. Does it mean they’re going to blow up in a horrific accident on the road? No, probably not. Is it meant to scare them? Hell yes. Furthermore, it’s meant to cause them to take action. They’re supposed to slow down, buckle their seat belts, not drink and drive.

Same thing is true here. Look, we live in an organic world that has never, ever seen the kinds of pollutants we’re putting into the atmosphere every day. Even Yoffe admits that change is happening:

“All this is not to say that it’s not getting warmer and that curbing our profligate environmental ways is not a commendable and necessary goal. But perhaps this movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction – even as it believes the human species has sown its own. There must be a limit to how many calamitous films, books and television shows we, and our children, can absorb.”

In other words, we know things are changing, we know that “curbing our profligate environmental ways” is a “commendable and necessary goal.” But God, does it have to be so scary?

Of course it’s scary. But we live in an America where an election was stolen and nobody did anything. In fact, we went ahead and elected the prime thief to Congress. We live in an America where you can call a war hero a liar and a coward and pretty much get away with it. We are living in an America where torturing folks is pretty much okay with everyone. We are living in an America where the president started a war based exclusively on lies. Last time I checked, we're still fighting that war. We are living in an America where the rich – the new robber barons – are getting away with, well, everything you can imagine, and it's all pretty much at your expense. And everyone is solidly focused on jailed heiresses. And the bad news is, we’re all okay with that.

This wasn’t meant to be a rant about that stuff, really, but more about the lack of engagement in America. Emily Yoffe doesn’t want us to scare the children. Or anybody for that matter:

“It doesn’t seem sustainable to expect people to remain terrified by such a disinterested, often benign – it was so nice eating out on the patio! – and even unpredictable enemy. (I understand we’re the enemy, but the executioner is the weather.) Recall that the experts told us last year would be a record-setting hurricane season, but the series of Katrinas never materialized.”

Let me say that this paragraph really galls me. How dare she so casually talk about “eating out on the patio” and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in one paragraph. That is reprehensible.

I hope that people aren’t scaring their kids, telling them their going to die because of global warming. There is, in fact, quite a lot of scary stuff out there, despite how Emily Yoffe thinks it should be. But just because there’s scary stuff out there doesn’t mean we need to raise our children to be scared – we need to raise our children to be activists.

crossposted at The Spencerian

1 comment:

gatordem said...

Apparently this woman doesn't get it. It's all about the kids. It is highly unlikely that the worst consequences of global warming will occur in our lifetimes.

But we all want our childrens lives to be better, so we must act on global warming now. Hell, when I was a kid, we had "duck and cover" drills. Like that was gonna do a lot of good.

Now is the time to act - for the children.