May 15, 2007
Be worried! Be very worried! (Or else!)
Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.There's a lot more, of course, but the fear of an imminent Atlantic conveyor belt breakdown (which I do remember) seems (so they now say in the NYT) to have been wrong:
"The concern had previously been that we were close to a threshold where the Atlantic circulation system would stop," said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We now believe we are much farther from that threshold, thanks to improved modeling and ocean measurements. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current are more stable than previously thought."One of the things which most bothers me about politics is that there are a lot of self appointed thought police running around, who make it their job to prevent people from simply being allowed to think what they think. If you show even a hint of independent thinking (to give just one example, suppose you support gay rights and gun rights at the same time), activists who believe in laundry-list political alignments will come down on you, and alternately attempt to either tar you as a liberal or a conservative, or admonish you for not living up to their view of what it means to be one thing or another.
Why can't I just be allowed to think what I think? has been one of my pet peeves over the years, and it was -- and remains -- a primary reason for blogging.
The debate over anthropogenic global warming adds a new twist to this, because it ratchets this phenomenon up by supplying the self appointed thought police with what they regard as new turf. Their jurisdiction extends well beyond mere opinions about anthropogenic global warming, and into the delicate area of whether one is sufficiently worried!
Thus, it's not enough to acknowledge that the planet might be warming, or even that there is anthropogenic global warming. While it's true that denial of anthropogenic global warming remains a consummate sin (which has been likened to Holocaust Denial), insufficient worry is seen as deliberate complacency -- a more insidious evil.
If you think about it, to a true believer (and self appointed scold), the attitude of "Yeah, so the planet is warming! I just wanna live my life and be left alone!" can be seen as worse than denial. That's because it's tantamount to outright advocacy of an immoral lifestyle. If we compare the dynamics of this newly manufactured morality system with the dynamics of the old one, it's like the people who acknowledged that, yes, Bill Clinton behaved in an immoral manner with Monica Lewinsky, but they really didn't care.
To not care in the face of immorality is wicked! Wicked! And the wicked will burn in the lower circles of hell! (Well, in this case, not with Bill Clinton, but with Inhofe, Cheney and Bush.)
To the enforcers of worry, the details of what we should worry can be changed to fit the dominant worry theme. In this case, anthropogenic global warming is the greater worry, and if the breakdown in the conveyor belt doesn't cause the predicted cooling in the manner predicted, well, no problem! The predictions can be revised at any time, and new facts can be made to fit. The main thing is that the morality based worry is still there.
Leading Rapturist Hal Lindsey is a good example in the religious field. His predictions of how the Rapture will happen are revised as current events change, but the bottom line is that the people who want to worry must be kept supplied with fuel for their worries:
Via Pajamas Media, Dean Esmay explores a related version of the scam involving religious huckster Hal Lindsey, who's been rewriting and re-spinning his Apocalyptic interpretations almost too many times to count. As Dean says, the man has no shame. But since when did shame have anything to do with offering people the emotional satisfaction that they crave? I think it takes great talent to get people to keep coming back and lining up for more even after your original hoax has been discredited. Having shame would only get in the way.Forgive my cynicism, but just as I don't want to worry about getting the Rapture right this time, or getting socialism right this time, so I don't want to worry about getting anthropogenic global warming theory right this time. I'm more worried about the people who want me to worry than I am about their latest revised theories.
However, people who refuse to worry and who manifest that lack of worry by persisting in patterns seen as violative of the new morality may be in for a rude awakening. Even driving down the street can be seen as a crime against the environment deserving of punishment -- as happened in Berkeley a few days ago to an elderly man. Here's the video report (link here):
Remarkably, even the activists' own video shows them shoving the bikes under the van.
Not that attacking immoral vehicles is anything new. In San Francisco last month, small children were given a similar lesson in "conspicuous virtue".
I'll say this for the Rapturists. They might be into conspicuous virtue, but so far it doesn't seem to extend to attacks on people for driving down the street.
posted by Eric on 05.15.07 at 10:35 AM
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