Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

“The Road to Perdition”


My apologies to the makers of the 2002 film “The Road to Perdition” (with Tom Hanks starring as a hitman with a young son and a conscience) for borrowing the movie’s name.  I was never crazy about the film, but I loved the title.  And it just seemed appropriate for this post.

A few days ago, my wife and I were watching “Hardball” on MSNBC.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a program hosted by Chris Matthews, dealing almost exclusively with current politics and current issues.  We watch it nearly every day simply because it goes into a lot more depth than your average 30 – minute national news program.  He’s also not afraid to ask very pointed questions, or to have two “guests” on at the same time who happen to have opposing views.  Some exchanges can get pretty intense.

Such was the case 3 days ago.  The topic was climate change.  Speaking for the “majority” view was congressman Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia.  Taking the opposing view (that it’s all some kind of gigantic hoax) was congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.  To be fair, Moran did a very poor job, in my opinion, of making the case for humanity’s role in global warming.  His basic argument was that the majority of those who are experts in the field suport the idea that the earth is warming because of CO2 emissions from manmade sources.  In a televised discussion, that’s not only kind of dull, it’s pretty weak.  The guy was simply unprepared in my view, which made the other guy’s arguments look “good”.

Rohrabacher threw out some of the old chestnuts often used by the “it’s all a hoax” crowd.  One of them –  one that Moran surprisingly couldn’t answer – was the “Greenland” argument.  In a nutshell, it goes like this: Greenland is called Greenland because about 1,000 years ago when it was named Greenland (supposedly by Eric the Red) it was, in fact, green.  The earth, during one of its natural temperature cycles, had warmed to the point where Greenland was something of a garden paradise.  Today’s warming, if it exists at all, is just another in a long series of natural up and down temperature cycles.

That argument, of course, is completely false.  Well, the Eric the Red part might be true, but that’s about it.  As is the case with many natural materials, it’s not too difficult to determine the age of ice.  Greenland’s ice cap, which covers roughly 80 % of the island, is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of years old.  And the thickness of that ice hasn’t changed all that much over that time period.  So it’s hard to believe that Greenland has gone from a medieval vacation spot to what it is today after just 1,000 years.  The only mystery seems to be why good old Eric decided to call the place “Greenland”.  But that’s another story.

The point, however, is that a lot of people will believe this nonsense, especially when it comes from someone with some measure of credibility (like a U. S. congressman).  According to a recent Gallup poll, 41 % of Americans believe that the threat is “exaggerated”.  Not to mention the fact that there are real advantages to believing people like Rohrabacher.  Most importantly, it doesn’t require any action.  The status quo is just fine.  And it’s much, much cheaper for everyone.  No need to develop any new technologies, no need for any kind of new taxes, no need to use less oil.  Mother Nature is the culprit – humans are innocent.

Rohrabacher also said that the warming cycles here on earth closely parallel those on other planets, like Mars and Jupiter, and that all of those cycles correlate well with solar cycles.  No, really.  He actually said that.  I fully expected that the next thing out of his mouth was going to be that the earth was the center of the solar system or that man had never landed on the moon.

I’ve never been more convinced that Stupidity is a dominant gene in the human species.  You can’t debate it, you can’t reason with it, and too much of the time you can’t beat it.  It’s just there, leading us merrily down “The Road to Perdition”.


2 Responses to ““The Road to Perdition””

  1. The Landscapist

    are you trying to make me feel guilty about the amount of heating oil I use to keep my indoor basketball court and driving range warm and toasty throughout the north country’s long winter – not to mention the atmospheric pollutants my gas-powered heated underpants give off?

  2. Paul Maxim

    Yes, Mark, the indoor basketball court and driving range have to go. We all have to make sacrifices. But far be it from me to deprive you of your heated underwear. In fact last winter, when you talked about the need to go out and take pictures when the temperature was something like -23, I couldn’t help but wonder how you managed to keep your fingers warm enough to manipulate the camera’s controls. Thanks for clearing that up!


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