Why deny?

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. — Carl Sagan, Cosmos

All my life, science has fascinated me. Science is the ultimate detective story: look for clues, come up with theories to explain them, then test those theories to determine what is true. The scientific method enables us to navigate around our human fallibilities and learn how the universe actually works.

I admit that I don’t have a lot of patience with people who say they don’t believe in science. Science is not like religion; it doesn’t require faith. The evidence is out in the open, for anyone to see and study.

I can, however, understand why someone would want to pretend that climate change isn’t happening or that it will just go away if we ignore it. The problem is huge and scary, and doing something about it will require sacrifice and change, which we humans aren’t very good at.

But I can’t understand how someone can really look at the scientific evidence — even the photographic evidence — of climate change and still loudly, vehemently deny it, even aggressively try to convince people who do accept the science that not only are we wrong, but there is something wrong with us for wanting to act. What do these deniers have to gain by convincing the world to do nothing? Even if they are right — which they are not, but even if — there are many benefits to acting now, not least of which is reducing our dependence on dwindling fossil-fuel resources. But if they aren’t right, what are they arguing so passionately against? Nothing less than the future of the human race. Why would anyone want to be on that side of history?

I recently read something — a short piece in a giveaway magazine, but the message stuck with me. The gist was that as long as we’re fighting one another, our problems will seem insurmountable. But if we can come together and realize that we have common goals, we become more powerful than our problems. The author was optimistic we could do this. I look at the world and I’m not so sure. But I have to have hope, at least for my two-year-old’s future.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I still keep my faith in the human race.

Working less is good for the environment

Alternet has posted a compelling argument for why environmentalists should work less (like we needed any more encouragement to work less). I think this article underscores a pervasive problem with our capitalist culture: that more is always better. We’ve seen plenty of evidence for how pushing people to up their productivity and do more with less resources leads to stress and burnout, and actually may make us less competitive in a global economy because overworked people can’t come up with innovative ideas. This article posits that our drive to work longer and harder also decreases sustainability, with the emphasis on producing more, driving up consumerism and building in planned obsolescence for everything from cell phones to designer jeans. When I look at unchecked growth without regard for the health of the larger organism, I see cancer. For our own health and the health of our planet, we need to figure out how to be satisfied with less. The added benefit is that we get to work less and enjoy life more.