Thursday, February 25, 2010

There's Something About the US

I love my country, but sometimes it baffles me. I don't know what it is about the land or the people here—maybe it's a result of our 70 years or so of global hegemony, but our nation just doesn't care about really important things the way other nations do. Or maybe it's not that we don't care, but rather that we listen too much to people who tell us not to care.

I'm referring mostly to our overwhelming lack of concern for the most overwhelmingly concerning problem facing our planet—global climate change. The science is out; climate change is happening, and humans are 90 percent certain (a conservative estimate) to be the primary cause.

But then we have the talk show radio hosts, bloggers, and yes, even influential lawmakers arguing that they know better than expert climatologists. And people believe them, not because they necessarily think that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Jim Inhofe are remotely knowledgeable about climate science, but because it's so much more convenient to believe them. It's convenient to assume that we aren't having an impact on our changing weather patterns, droughts, floods, sea levels, and storms, because we don't want to have to pay more for our energy, drive our big cars any less, or force our industries to acknowledge the harm they are inflicting on our planet by partially internalizing those deleterious externalities.

No, Americans would rather remain skeptical, deny the facts, and, thanks to the most inflammatory demagogues, even get angry at scientists and those who urge international action (I'm looking at you, teabaggers). I suppose it's partly due to the same problem that we see in the media; when two opposing sides are just as loud as each other, even if one is dead wrong, they will garner similar amounts of credence among their audiences. And in the case of climate change, the skeptics' arguments are just so much more appealing ("don't worry, you're not doing anything wrong") that people are much more satisfied adopting them than the truth.

This is why republicanism is so important to modern government. Mass manipulation and ignorance needs to be offset by expertise and good judgment at the elite level. Even if constituents are not informed, representatives should be, and they should do their part to help their constituents understand the facts, instead of feeding off ignorance and proliferating lies because it's convenient and could help them earn votes ("a vote for me means lower energy prices!"). I appreciate having healthy political discourse in this country, but not when it exacerbates ignorance and diminishes our capacity to protect our country, our fellow man, and our entire world.

Images: Teabagger with sign (New Mexico Independent)

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