Seeing red

 Going Green
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  October 24, 2013

Listen, people. I’m annoyed.

I’m annoyed that when the Natural Resources Defense Council of Maine hosts a talk with a renowned climate scientist like Michael Mann — the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and a lead author of the paper that included “the hockey stick graph” oft-used to illustrate how our planet is getting warmer — his presentation centers on how to rebuff climate-change deniers. Because they still exist. In the face of incontrovertible evidence such as species migration, extreme weather events, and rising sea level, fossil-fuel lobbyists and the politicians they support continue to spread misinformation and skepticism about the cause and even the existence of climate change. (This battle between evidence and ideology is so widespread that some people specifically study “science communication,” learning how to explain scientific ideas to non-experts.) And so, even when faced with a roomful of like-minded thinkers (it was an NRDC event, after all), an internationally respected climate-change scientist feels compelled to “make his case” rather than discuss the deeper implications of global warming, and what to do about it.

I’m annoyed by the Waterfront Protection Ordinance brouhaha in South Portland. Hear me out. While I do find the big-oil-sponsored opposition campaign to be distasteful (not to mention transparent), I don’t feel that the Protect South Portland people, in their passionate (and legitimate) desire to block the transmission of tar-sands oil through Maine, crafted the best ordinance they possibly could. What seemed like a clever strategy — use language that would make it difficult if not impossible to build the infrastructure necessary to process and export tar-sands oil piped in from Western Canada — has morphed into a classic economy-versus-environment battle. The Waterfront Protection Ordinance, as drafted, invites too many questions about how the existing businesses in South Portland would be affected by its passage and thus leaves it vulnerable to oily attacks.

I’m annoyed that anyone on the planet could be surprised by the information revealed in a new study by the progressive International Forum on Globalization (a San Francisco-based think tank): Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to gain as much as $100 billion in profits if the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built. I’ve never been less shocked by anything in my life.

I’m kind of annoyed with Canada for having tar-sands oil in the first place.

I’m annoyed by headlines like these: “Despite End of US Shutdown, Antarctic Research Projects Still Getting Cancelled;” “[National Institutes of Health] Scrambles to Catch up After US Shutdown;” and “[National Science Foundation] Asks Scientists to Give It Time to Regroup After Shutdown.” During the 16-day partial government shutdown, scientific conferences were cancelled (including one about artificial gravity that might have helped mitigate the difficulties of long-duration spaceflight), Food and Drug Administration inspections and Centers for Disease Control health-surveillance efforts were curtailed, and the peer-review process for scientific studies was hampered. These are serious consequences and to dismiss them is to undermine the very importance of science and research in our country. Not to mention that science is at least as important to our future as our nation’s military operations, which went unhindered, and way more vital than the free workout gym available to members of Congress, which also was considered “essential” and therefore exempted from shutting down.

(While I’m thinking about the shutdown, I may as well point out that Congress’s ineptitude had a very personal impact. On my weeklong honeymoon on Maui, we were unable to see that Hawaiian island’s main attraction: Haleakala National Park, where Haleakala volcano sits dormant. So basically Tea Party Republicans also ruined my honeymoon in addition to wrecking scientific inquiry and embarrassing the United States on an international scale. That’s annoying!)

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