Friday, April 23

What's That Smell?

Laura E. Huggins, "Earth Day: 40 Years of Imminent Catastrophe". April 22

OUR lesson today is the redemptive power of Love, and the pervasive odor of bullshit.

First, kids, supposing you are suffering from, not Writer's Block, as you're more Just A Guy With Persistent Logorrhea, but an attack of transient global editing, and the distinct suspicion that the World Herself, after a period of benignity, or disinterest, has decided to plot against you once more, as shown by everything you happen to touch turning to complete shit for a 72-hour period. And suppose that near the end of such a period your inexplicably loving spouse comes home, takes one look at you, and asks you what's wrong.

You haven't said a word about it before. She just reads it on you, which, I dunno, may be easier for people without undiagnosed borderline Asperger's than it is for me, but still. Do you want someone reading your thoughts? How much goddam larceny is in your heart, and how much could you risk exposing? And yet she manages to reply with just the right tone of leaving you the space to work on it yourself, and letting you know she's available if you need her to be. And then she leaves you a cute kitten picture, just so you'll laugh at yourself. It's worth the risk, kids. Really.

Now, into such a world, somehow--it's not as if Universal Love isn't supposed to be the fucking cornerstone of Western Civilization or anything--comes the sort of person who imagines this, and everything else, is for sale, that the Hoover Institution is paying top dollar, and that Shit Still Floats, and especially well in a gold commode, while we're at it. Someone, say, like Laura E. Huggins:
On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, prepare to be bombarded with apocalyptic tales of disaster. But don't let the gloom-and-doom-fest get you down. Odds are the doomsters will be wrong.

Odds are, so's everybody else. In the long run we're all dead; in the short term we're all extended tubes with bullshit at one end and E. coli at the other. This is not a rhetorical Get Out of Jail Free card.
To help "celebrate" the first Earth Day in 1970, biologist Barry Commoner wrote, "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."

In a speech at Swarthmore College that year, ecologist Kenneth Watt said, "If present trends continue, the world will be about 4 degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." And a New York Times editorial proclaimed: "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."

Time has not been gentle with these prophecies. Four decades later, the world hasn't come to an end. Most measures of human welfare show the Earth's population is better off today than at any other time in human history. Life expectancy is increasing, per-capita income is rising, and the air we breathe and the water we drink are cleaner. And, of course, concerns about climate change have shifted from cooling to warming.

Yeah, and back then they told us to put butter on a burn, that drinking water while exercising gave you cramps, and Watergate was a third-rate burglary. The first Earth Day came two years after Walt Rostow saw the Light at the End of the Tunnel in Vietnam; three years after LBJ saw it; five years after Joe Alsop saw it, seventeen years after Lt. General Henri-Eugene Navarre saw it, and eight years after Decca Records told Brian Epstein that guitar groups were on the way out. People are wrong about the stock market every second of the day; the Hoover Institution does not seem to imagine this constitutes an argument against Capitalism.

Ms Huggins' Hoover bio doesn't give her DOB, but we think it's safe to assume she wasn't passing out Ecology flag decals in 1970, and has no memory of just how awful things had become by the time the first Federal pollution controls went into effect, two years later. She's welcome to mix her cocktails with unfiltered Mississippi water from below Baton Rouge if she finds it all too error-filled to live with.

Th' fuck causes you to do this, for money or no? How much better can ya eat? Why do Poor Forlorn Corporations need so much of your love? Exxon Mobil made only $45 billion in 2008, and a mere $19 billion last year; a pittance compared to Big Environment (which doesn't even know if it's hot or cold!), I know.

And whaddya get? What do billions in Astroturf, non-profit fronts, and all the other shenanigans you mouthpieces profit from do for this sacred economy? Assuming Congress were a hot-bed of (ill-informed, natch) environmental radicals, what would we accomplish by turning it into a corrupt one? Perpetual demonization may have made for slightly increased profits, but it's sure made for a crappier society in which to spend 'em.

And, okay, granted that this is how things are going to work so long as people are able to band together to commit crimes they'd go to jail for as individuals, with or without the cooperation of Laura E. Huggins. But, y'know, that doesn't mean this We're Right By Virtue of Pointing Out the Other Side's Mistakes routine is makin' any more sense, or getting anything done. Same with the Science Progresses, Therefore Progress Is Inevitable and Tomorrow Will Always Solve Today's Problems schtick. The question isn't whether it fools the Rubes; the question is whether it actually fools you.


Keifus said...

Yeah, these cornucopian motherfuckers really get under my skin. It takes a certain kind of oblivious smugness to argue that innovation has always been underplayed, while evidently possessed of no respect for what scientists (people who innovate, generally) think about said problems, or, god forbid, any particular understanding of the technical issues themselves.

And good catch on how that cleaner water came to be, contra Ms. Huggins regulatory philosophy. Man, the 70s-vintage environmental laws are some of the few things the government has got right over the years.

Meanwhile, in other news, peak oil is currently predicted within a decade, and we're up to, what? seven billion now? Are the alarmists of the seventies to be judged so harshly for being off by all of a measly generation?

heydave said...

Hah, your timetables weren't precise, and not all of your predictions were right.

"Smug" is far from adequate to describe this Huggified crap.

PR said...


Kathy said...

Like Y2K problems, the Swine Flu epidemic, and a lot of the predicted environmental disasters, many problems did *not come to pass* because we took Sane Precautions. God, these people are stupid. How do they tie their shoes in the morning? Do they even know their own home address?

I used to work as teacher's aid in a handicapped ("MR") class; the kids I helped had terrible difficulty understanding even basic things, but you know what: They TRIED. They tried SO HARD that I never resented helping them, or thought my time was wasted. Those kids showed me one of the best facets of human nature: absolute determination to learn & do something worthwhile, without blaming or bullshitting.

I feel nothing buy contempt for these idiot liars.

Julia said...

It's worth the risk, kids. Really.

But that's the rub, isn't it?

What if that's not what you want. What if your world view - and more importantly, your career - is built around the idea that right-thinking means crushing the weak, more or less because you can? And, of course, because it pays better than work.

If someone left you kitten pictures, would you tell? Hell, if it was you puzzling your damage out instead going to the gym to drown whatever it is in demographically-appropriate endorphins and maybe insulting a homeless person on the way home to put balance of the world right, would you tell? If one of you was secretly human and the other one was OK with it?

I would think that would send an unacceptable signal to your shiny little hobbesian peers about which side of the predator/prey line you sit on. When everything of value in your world is part of a zero-sum game, that's probably not a great idea.

And, more to the point, it would be highly unlikely to get you that colonial in one of the increasingly-rare communities where the groundwater won't make your kids grow up all twisty.

Augustus Mulliner said...

This cretin really does give us the corollary to the conservative argument -- after a generation of assiduously stocking all levels of administration with liars, thieves, morons, thugs, fixers and the human equivalent of textured vegetable protein -- that government is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I steeled myself and scanned Ms. Smuggins' little article. One sentence twinkled very brightly in her constellation of dismissives, as she effortless took down the Rev. Dr. Malthus:

"But are resources really finite?"

You can just hear her, can't you.

I guess working for The Property and Environment Research Center (oh, brother) immediately translates one to a favored, non-material plane, where one can - however - still savor the pleasures of the material.

I hope you're feeling less bullied by the material plane, Doghouse. Kitten pics work for me, I know. Puppy pics, too. And volcano pics.

Li'l Innocent

Julia Grey said...

Any infant in a pinch.

D. Sidhe said...

My partner sends me lolcats. They don't lift one out of the depression for that long, but there are always more of them later, so it's been okay so far.

The Sailor said...

Actually, that 'cooling' science was hyped by a couple of pet scientists and the MSM. Most scientists were still thinking 'hmm, we don't have enough data yet.'

It's kinda,sorta like the meme that 'people believed in a flat earth'. Yeah, some morons did, but not anyone who'd ever lived on a coast and seen ships arriving and departing and sail over the horizon.

The un-amazing thing about science is that we constantly revise our work.

The MSM loves them some memes and factoids.

Mr. Riley got it right in main, I just gotta be nitpicky about details, because I work in science, (which we try to approach truth, but it's an ever so infinitesimal struggle.)