Five reasons why people refuse to accept global warming
By S. Tom Bond
When 97 percent of the scientists (that is, the people that are trained to study the problem) agree that global warming is happening and will continue to happen, why do people deny it is going on? As the poet says, “Let me count (some of) the ways.”
Reliance on the mainstream media
Many simply follow the news. With its “On the one hand, and then on the other hand” approach to coverage (to avoid driving off advertisers and readers), the mainstream media do not adequately report the facts that are substantiated by scientific research. Reporting on science takes a special type of reporter, as well as producers and editors with patience and understanding. Lacking those, as we do, the facts get lost in the “she-said, he-said” approach. The facts are indisputable however: melting glaciers, decline of arctic ice, average world temperatures rising year after year, range inhabited by many species moving north, changes in weather, melting permafrost, famine, and drought among the obvious symptoms of global warming.
Refusal to accept new ideas
Many folks don’t have a view that extends beyond their home, job and family. They have difficulty accepting a new paradigm, and new framework of understanding.”
Even when the news about global warming is reported fully and accurately, there is still the problem of humanity’s tendency to resist change. Many people are unwilling to accept new ideas. Many folks don’t have a view that extends beyond their home, job and family. They have difficulty accepting a new paradigm, and new framework of understanding.
One thinks of the change when the earth was thought flat, then was recognized to be a very large sphere, or when the sun was thought to cross the earth, then it was recognized the earth went around the sun. When new ideas are incorporated into the public discourse, it takes a while for most folks to adapt. Today there are a few people dedicated to older ideas, such as the earth is cooling, or that a warming earth produces higher carbon dioxide content in the earth’s atmosphere, rather than the other way around. If someone has ideas based on earlier science, it may be hard to accept global warming.
Some think God wouldn’t allow global warming. It is his creation and it will end in fire when He is good and ready. Global warming – ironically – does not fit their apocalyptic vision. Don’t argue with them.
Perhaps the most basic cause of global warming is as old as mankind: cupidity. The petroleum industry is an elite sector because of its wealth, which purchases political power. What it covets, it gets – all while it spends billions on advertising to implicitly and explicitly discredit global warming and those studying it. There is extensive information on situations where the business elite have interests that gives them an advantage that is contrary to the long-term interest of the society. The business elite persists until the society no longer has some resource it needs to continue, so it crashes. One of the most famous of these is the deforestation of Easter Island, which caused a population crash and an abrupt change in culture.
… all of us need to recognize our limitations and trust experts.”
Of course, training in a science does little to help in business. So this peculiarity of omission of understanding of other areas is not one-sided. My point is that all of us need to recognize our limitations and trust experts. It must be a much greater temptation for a businessman with millions at his disposal to ignore or deny science that will hinder his success than for a scientist with almost no disposable wealth to ignore business ideas opposed to his success. But the future of the earth depends on future climate, not someone’s ego or financial success. That future should be determined by those with data and training who take time to think about it.
Modern society’s disconnect from the land
Finally, there is another reason that is a bit abstruse, but vital. This is the separation of modern man from the biological world of which he is a part. Primitive man was close to his environment. Getting food was a daily preoccupation. If times were good, this took two or three hours a day. If times were bad, 24 hours weren’t enough. He/she was subject to danger from animals, floods, droughts, disease, the next village over and much other uncertainty. Everything including trees, rocks, or storms had a spirit. Many of these had to be appeased. But this religion was his connection to survival.
… our industry is so linked together and powerful it is possible to destroy civilization. The supremacist attitude toward the biological world is that our environment is not viable. This is not sustainable.”
Domination of earth and nature became a way of life. Increasingly, urban man became separated from the biological world from which he came. Dominion over others became increasingly important. And man was dominant over things, apparently supreme. That included the biological world, reverence for which was eliminated from his culture and religion.
Now the whole earth is occupied, and our industry is so linked together and powerful it is possible to destroy civilization. The supremacist attitude toward the biological world is that our environment is not viable. This is not sustainable. To avoid planetary destruction because of global warming, atomic warfare, over population, or resource exhaustion seems like an insurmountable problem. Ignoring these threats to our survival, though, will only work to ensure that the unthinkable becomes reality.
These are but a few of the reasons that we refuse to acknowledge – let alone tackle – the existential threat from global warming. It has been said that we are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.
Well, the facts are in. We have a rational understanding of our natural world; we know how we are negatively impacting it; and, we have debated and adopted plans to reverse global warming. We simply choose to ignore them. That won’t make them go away. However, the same can’t be said for human life – or life in any form – if we continue to argue over facts as if they are opinions.
© S. Tom Bond, 2017. Thomas Bond is an eighth generation West Virginian writing from his farm in Jane Lew, W.Va. He is a farmer and retired chemistry professor. Michael Barrick contributed to this article.
Climate Change info from NASA here.
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On behalf of all West Virginians, I challenge you to serve the people, not your cronies in the fossil fuel industry
By S. Tom Bond
Note: I have penned the following Open Letter to Governor Jim Justice and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton; I encourage you to do the same or join us in signing this by contacting the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance at MLPAWV@gmail.com or use the contact page.
Editor’s note: Both Justice and Caperton have long careers as energy company executives and have records’ – including recent firings at WV DEP – that the state’s environmental groups find counter to the DEP mission as does the Charleston Gazette-Mail. To get a sense of how things operate in Charleston, read this admission by former DEP Secretary Randy Huffman that the DEP is compromised by crony capitalism.
Dear Governor Justice and Secretary Caperton:
How is the air down there in Charleston? Still clean? Do you plan to move out into the country near some of the new Marcellus drilling industry? Maybe near a compressor station with eleven of those big engines, roaring and belching 24 hours a day?
Or perhaps near a well pad where there is 24 hour light and noise and chemicals and diesel smoke with lots of PM-2.5 coming out the exhaust. Particulate matter 2.5 microns or less is now known as a cause of Alzheimer’s-like effects, you know. Going to bring along your grandchildren and your Mom along? Families like that live out here, and the young and the old are particularly susceptible to toxic chemicals, smoke, fumes, and dust.
Maybe you are like the famous story on Rex Tillerson, who has inflicted that kind of misery on many thousands of people. Then he complained when a water tower to enable fracking was erected in sight of his own piece of earth.
Do you think those who drink water without the taste of chlorine shouldn’t complain when their well is poisoned with a complex mixture of water slickers, detergents, and anti-oxidants, antibacterial compounds, and God-only-knows what else? Maybe they deserve car-busting roads and interminable delays when they use public roads too?
I can see you demurring all the way from here. I think that you are like Rex Tillerson, the ultimate not-in-my-back-yard guy!
So you are going to govern the state for all the people. For all the people of West Virginia – like John J. Cornwell was governing West Virginia for all the people, including the miners, at the time of the battle of Matewan? Oh yes! Those corporations provided good living for officers and investors, but not miners. It’s been like that since West Virginia was established. Wealth carried off, mostly north and east, but occasionally to build a motel in Florida.
So I’m being a little hard on you. You are just doing it to bring jobs, jobs, jobs, you say? You do realize gas and oil extraction are capital intensive and labor weak, don’t you? That once the drilling is done by those fellows brought in from elsewhere, they will go away and leave few permanent jobs? You certainly know several companies are developing automated drilling, so drilling labor will go the way of coal labor, too.
Oh yes! Obama killed coal the fable says. You really know better than that, don’t you? Coal companies, going to more mechanization, especially long wall and surface mining that can use huge equipment, killed coal jobs. That Obama fable was a tool, using prejudice and diversion of the truth, to affect voters who were slow to catch on.
What moral code do you have that allows collateral damage to rural residents in peacetime to profit private industry? Forget for the moment all the externalized costs, the true cost of the extraction, the damage to other industries, global warming, destruction of surface value for farming and timber, recreation and hunting. What justifies forest destruction, land disturbances, public annoyances, and public health for fossil fuel extraction? Especially when last year 39 percent of new electrical capacity was solar and 29 percent was wind power. (Coal has been showing a decrease for the last two years.) There is no CO2 from the renewable resources!
How do you decide people are unworthy of protection? Simply because of rural residence? Those who can’t afford to move elsewhere, or too attached to the family plot?
Hey guys, people out here are probably more astute than you think. Some of us don’t think very far ahead, and few are articulate, but, given time, it all becomes too clear.
West Virginia has the highest rate at losing population in the nation. We have the lowest ratio of employment to employable people in the nation. College kids have been heading for the door, and so are a lot of high school grads.
Is corrupting the environment and allowing the wealth of our state to be carted off by favored industries your best game? That is the past, present (and future?) of Almost Heaven! We country folks keep hoping for better!
S. Thomas Bond is an eighth generation West Virginian writing from his farm in Jane Lew, W.Va. He is a farmer and retired chemistry professor. He is interviewed in Keely Kernan’s Documentary Film, “In the Hills and Hollows,” which is about the impacts of the fossil fuel industry in West Virginia.
Postscript: Please note the irony of the slide show of beautiful West Virginia scenery on the governor’s website. Let’s not let him have a pass on using the state’s natural beauty to disguise the extreme damage he has done to the people, environment and legal system of West Virginia. – M.B.
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Families who refused to settle out of court awarded $4.2 million for the harm caused to their land and lives from fracking
By S. Tom Bond
DIMOCK, Pa. – The controversy over the environmental impact of fracking upon the people and land of Appalachia – especially in the shale fields of Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia – recently took a stunning turn here earlier this month when a jury agreed with two families and awarded them $4.2 million in their lawsuit against Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas. See the article about the settlement on the FrackCheckWV website.
No eminent domain for corporate gain.”
Scott Ely and his wife, Monica Marta-Ely, and Ray and Victoria Hubert of Dimock refused to settle for mediation of their nuisance suit, which was filed in 2009. In doing so, they have done a great thing for all of us. They took the risk of going to court and refused the minimal value offered by the corporation, despite the fact that many of their neighbors settled years ago. This showed publically how the neighborhood valued their property, both its singular and personal value.
This decision shows that the environmental impact of fracking is inextricably linked to fundamental issues such as private property rights and values. The value of property (or friends or anything you like) is not the same as a corporation values it. What a jury of peers does is to value property according to community values – the value as the neighbors understand it, not how the aggressor sees it!
This settlement raises some interesting questions and metaphors. Do you think my wife isn’t worth more to me than she would be worth on the open market? She is 79, grey and somewhat bent, but we get along. I don’t want to adapt to another, and I’d like to keep her around. It’s the same with my farm – I’ve been here for 52 years. I know about its past back to the ones who got the land grants, I know what it can do, and I remember a lifetime of what has gone on here. I have heirs who are interested in working it. Of course it is worth more to me than to a stranger.
What if someone comes along and takes it for his profit? Rest assured, he makes his effort for profit, not for the public good, otherwise it would be cheaper for the public equal to the amount of his profit. Corporations are notorious for their single value outlook, one of the huge ways they are not “persons.” Indeed, their hypocrisy knows no bound. Rex Tillerson, the chairman, president, and CEO of ExxonMobile Corporation and several of his neighbors, include former House Majority Leader Dick Armey – both strong supporters of fracking – sued an energy company in Texas to stop the construction of a water tower close to their property. In their lawsuit, Tillerson, Armey and others argued that the tower – which, if completed, will contain water to be sold to fracking companies – will diminish their property values and cause “discomfort and annoyances to persons.” See here.
Tillerson has learned what those of us living in the fracking fields have known for a decade – almost all personal property is worth more because people don’t use it just for profit. If the compensation is the single value of “market worth,” people get cheated.
There is an element of class warfare in fracking. Few people who aspire to become rich by investment or astronomically high executive salaries are genuinely democratic (small d, of course). Their values and ours don’t match. Indeed, Laura Legere of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Cabot’s attorney Jeremy Mercer described the efforts by the attorney for the Ely and Hubert families as an effort “to throw skunks into the jury box.” This is, indeed, the language of class warfare.
What corporation would be interested in anything but making money? Should enjoying life, appreciating the people around you and preserving the good world around us be considered worthwhile values? Those of us who are stewards of the land entrusted to us believe so.
The court victory by the Elys and Howards should embolden us to preserve and protect the rights that go with our private property, and say together, “No eminent domain for corporate gain.”
© S. Tom Bond, 2016. Bond is a retired chemistry professor and farmer in Lewis County, W.Va.
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Big-spending United States military is the largest polluter on earth
By S. Tom Bond
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the United States has the world’s largest military. Financed by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $581 billion annually, it accounts for 36 percent of all that is spent on the military in the world. China, with $129.4 billion is second, a mere eight percent of the world total. Third is Saudi Arabia with $89.8 billion, about five percent of the world’s military expenditures. Russia is a close fourth, spending $70.0 billion, somewhat more than 4 percent of the total. Notably, only two out of the next ten are not United States allies.
Maintaining worldwide presence costs over $2 trillion
The United States has 12 aircraft carriers, ten of them nuclear powered, and all of them larger than any carrier belonging to any other country. In fact, nine of them are rated almost two-and-a-half times as big as the next country’s aircraft carrier. The newest, the USS Gerald R. Ford, launched in 2013, cost $12.9 billion. This does not include the cost of the airplanes, equipment and personnel.
One type of aircraft (the F-35) costs $182 million to $299 million per plane. Multiply that by hundreds. American taxpayers maintain the largest collection of foreign bases in world history: more than 1,000 military installations outside the 50 states (see here and here).
While the cost of maintaining these bases is very difficult to ascertain, Juan Cole gives an official figure and an educated guess: “Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of ‘The Global War on Terror’ in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.”
The world’s largest polluter
Grasping the size of the military is essential to understanding its reliance upon fossil fuels and the cost of that reliance, as Joyce Nelson revealed in a recent article. The Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products in the world, burning through 395,000 barrels of oil a day. The current annual cost – $16 billion – could easily track upwards when oil prices stabilize. It takes a lot of fuel to run big ships, like cruisers; a lot to run a land army with tanks and trucks; and a lot for an airplane with afterburners that go through 300 gallons of fuel a minute. And, it takes a lot for keeping up those 1,000 bases overseas in over 130 countries and more than 4,000 at home.
Because of the huge amount of oil it uses, the military is also the greatest source of global warming. In a remarkable piece originally published by the International Action Center, Sara Flounders wrote in 2014: “There is an elephant in the climate debate that by United States demand cannot be discussed or even seen. This agreement to ignore the elephant is now the accepted basis of all international negotiations on climate change. It is well understood by every possible measurement that the Pentagon, the United States military machine, is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and the world’s worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many other toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements. Ever since the Kyoto Accords or Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1998, in an effort to gain United States compliance, all United States military operations worldwide and within the United States are exempt from measurement or agreements on reduction (“The Pentagon – The Climate Elephant,” International Action Center, 14 Sept. 2014; and, Global Research 17 Sept. 2014).
So, in the international debate, the military is exempt from having to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and doesn’t even have to report them. In spite of this exemption, the United States Senate did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, for fear it would hurt “the economy” (read “the oil and gas industry”).
Additionally, extracting tar sands oil produces more CO2 than production of normal oil. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences shows spills of it are different and more dangerous than ordinary oil.
One of the grimmer facts revealed by the Counterpunch article has to do with Canadian tar sands oil. It reported, “Only about 20 per cent of tar sands crude can be refined into oil [and gas] for a conventional car, but the product from it is almost identical to jet fuel. This helps explain the demand for tar sands oil, which is costly to extract and refine.”
It continued, “Scientists concur that the production, refining and burning of tar sands crude release at least 23 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil.” And, “Emissions from fighter jets and planes cause disproportionately high impacts on the climate because of the way they mix with atmospheric gasses at high altitudes. Much of this fuel comes from tar sands oil.”
Certainly, it is probably that this exemption for the military fuels the reluctance of other nations to make concessions in greenhouse gas reductions.
Is a large military necessary?
In light of recent terrorist attacks, the military is sacrosanct, at least in GOP debates. So, questioning whether a large military is necessary is not popular in many quarters. Yet, it is necessary. If you want to read deep mendacity, just conduct an Internet search of the phrase, “Why is a large United States military necessary?” Among the answers you find “defense” ranks high. Yet, to our east and our west, our nation enjoys natural fortifications – oceans thousands of miles wide. Our neighbors to the north and south of us are friendly.
Yes, there are threats, but they are overstated or of our own making. ISIS or Daish is 30,000 people at the most, lacking ships and airplanes, and with territory as fluid as a pool of mercury. If it wasn’t for oil smuggled out through Turkey, a United States ally, and Sunni businessmen from United States and allied countries that pay its bill, ISIS would be less of a threat.
Despite recent economic troubles, China has largely been propped up by United States economic and fiscal policies. Russia, as students of world history understand, is simply attempting to reclaim lost territory and prestige from the collapse of the Soviet Union and expansion of NATO. In short, the potential military threats faced by the United States could arguably be mitigated through improved diplomacy. Certainly, the competition from China and Russia is not new, so responsible diplomats can negotiate competing interests without dropping bombs or fighting proxy wars.
According to Alexander J. Bacevich, writing in The Washington Post, “… to judge by outcomes, the Army is not a force for decisive action. It cannot be counted on to achieve definitive results in a timely manner. In Afghanistan and Iraq, actions that momentarily appeared to be decisive served as preludes to protracted and inconclusive wars. As for preventing, shaping and winning, this surely qualifies as bluster…” Certainly, the military is required to honor orders from its civilian leader, the president. So, poor diplomacy by politicians is largely to blame for military failures. Whatever the reasons – strategic, tactical or both – it is clear that a large military does not ensure the achieving of our political, economic and diplomatic agendas.
The military probably has been useful in South Korea, especially, and Taiwan and perhaps a few other places in holding the line since World War II, but not when called on to fight land wars, particularly in Asia. I concur with Bracevich: “Defense per se figured as an afterthought, eclipsed by the conviction that projecting power held the key to transforming the world from what it is into what Washington would like it to be: orderly, predictable, respectful of American values and deferential to U.S. prerogatives.” Such projection of force also provides a fertile field for U.S. business interests, I might add.
The changing financial world order
The United States came through World War II with industry and the civilian population relatively unharmed. At the Bretton Woods Conference, the U.S. dollar was made the world reserve currency. That meant other countries had to have the dollar to buy from a second nation. Today the euro, the Yen, the Pound Sterling, the Australian dollar the Swiss franc and the Chinese renminbi are all used. The U.S. dollars, often called petrodollars, are coming home.
Our business has changed from making things to making money, a situation called financialization – using money to make money. Our “soft power” – economic strength – is fading fast.
The unbridled use of limited fossil fuels to secure access to fossil fuels is the ironic result of our huge military. It is, to say the least, counter-productive.
Some of our resources are well on the way to depletion, namely, water, oil, natural gas (we have reached the stage of using extreme extraction methods while the rest of the world is still has abundant conventional reserves), phosphorus (for fertilizer), and we never had much aluminum, rare earths or lithium. The United States has only 1.9 percent of the dry surface of the earth to draw from, and about 4.5 percent of the population.
How would we replace really serious losses of the military? Women have recently been permitted to join all jobs in the combat arms. A bill making it possible to draft women is in the hopper. Does that sound like strength?
Perhaps surest of all is the realization that United States military strength is largely devoted to controlling oil, whether in the Middle East or the South China Sea. The oil the military burns is so the United States can control access to the world’s oil.
Our national course needs to be set using a lot more brains and considerably less “testosterone.” After all, a man manages a bull.
© S. Tom Bond / Appalachian Chronicle, 2015. Michael M. Barrick contributed to this article.
S. Tom Bond is a retired chemistry professor and a farmer in Lewis County, W.Va. He expresses his gratitude to Jessica Ernst, who circulated the Counterpunch article which inspired this essay.
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