November 6, 2011

Life 101

I used to hate science and economics. I rarely read anything in those subject areas unless school work required it, and I chose a university in part because it required no science. They did require six semesters of economics, which was bad enough.

Nowadays, the tables have turned completely. Most of my reading is either science or economics: the former out of love; the latter out of necessity. Let's face it. With the economy in the dumper and the world seemingly going to hell in a hand-basket at an ever accelerating rate, a working knowledge of how the economy disfunctions is basic Life 101 material these days.

As for science, my love of it has grown slowly over the years, as I have patiently unfolded layer upon layer of riddles wrapped in enigmas to arrive at a dim sense of just how incomprehensibly complex and beautiful and mysterious every single thing in the universe is, from the humblest scoop of dirt teeming with microscopic life to a night sky teeming with galaxies. That self-study has helped me to see more clearly the nexus between action and reaction.

Case in point: global warming. It's not necessary to dig all that deep into science to get it. Common sense tells you that we have burned enormous quantities of fossil fuels in the last 100 years. Common sense tells you that where there is fire there is smoke, and that smoke has to go somewhere. You can smell it from a long way off, so you know there is something real and physical in the air. Looking at smoke rising out of a chimney ought to give the average person a clue as to where it is headed. We burn stuff, and smoke goes into the atmosphere. Action. Reaction.

Jesus, how hard is this?  And yet ... despite a growing stack of increasingly dire reports warning in absolute terms that we are experiencing already the effects of climate change due to global warming, there are those who adamantly insist that it isn't real. They chose instead to ignore the science. They chose instead to ignore the warning signs that Mother Nature sends our ways. They chose instead to keep on with business as usual.

And so my grandchildren and everyone else's grandchildren will learn the hard way that it pays to know a little bit about science. They will also pay the price of this generation's indifference to science and fact.

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