Healing Our World: Weekly Comment

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

The Earth Is Heating Up Despite the Lies

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.

-- Nancy Wood

I have become really tired over the years of presenting the “other side” when discussing global warming with students or the public. While I knew that the vast majority of climate scientists are convinced that the Earth’s temperature is increasing due to a build up of greenhouse gases from human activities, the news media regularly reported that there were scientists who claimed it wasn’t true. I dutifully presented both sides. But recently, I learned that even I was duped by a carefully orchestrated effort to convince the media and the pubic that there was division among global warming researchers.

It turns out that major energy companies were underwriting a pre-planned and well funded campaign to lie to us all. And the Bush administration joined the ranks of the deceivers this week when the Environmental Protection Agency was directed to eliminate a long section describing the risks from rising global temperatures from a soon to be released report on the state of the environment.

Topping

John C. Topping, Jr. has been president of the Climate Institute since its founding in 1986. (Photo courtesy Penn State)
John C. Topping, Jr., president of the Climate Institute and a former Republican staff director of the Office of Air and Radiation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told the Cox News Service earlier this month that some energy companies devised a plan to attack the credibility of climate science in the late 1980s. Playing off the news media’s tendency to include both sides of an issue - and not looking too closely at the details - the companies were able to create the impression that scientists were deeply divided over whether or not global warming existed. Topping said, “It was all very shrewdly done.”

As a result of this manipulation of the news media, further fueled by most mainstream reporters’ lack of critical examination of the issues, people were led to believe that science was still unsure of the cause of global temperature increases.

The truth is that most climate scientists have thought for a long time that the significant rise in the Earth’s global temperature that came to light in the 1980s is due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, largely from the burning of fossil fuels. Many of the scientists who dispute the validity of global warming have deep ties to energy industries.

A recent study challenging global warming was underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute. Two of the study’s five authors have ties to the coal and gas industries. Two others are senior scientists with an organization supported by ExxonMobil Corporation.

In the book “The Heat is On,” author Ross Gelbspan writes, “The contradictory statements of a tiny handful of discredited scientists, funded by big coal and big oil, represent a deliberate – and extremely reckless – campaign of deception and disinformation.”

Modern science represents itself as universal, value free and able to arrive at objective conclusions about life. Yet how can any endeavor be free of judgment and completely objective, especially when politics and business interests interfere?

glacier

Melting glacier in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State (Photo courtesy North Cascade Glacier Climate Project)
Even if a research program is free of political and industrial entanglements, studies have shown that a researcher will nearly always observe data and draw conclusions that fit within the boundaries of her or his expectations. After all, humans are thinking, feeling, and subjective beings. Add to this dynamic political maneuvering and payoffs, and scientific investigation no longer becomes the purveyor of objective truth.

Vandana Shiva, a theoretical physicist and feminist scholar from India, observes that modern science claims to be a liberating force for humanity as a whole. Yet worldwide experiences do not support this claim.

Science and technology are used throughout the globe as a political and economic force to bring lesser developed countries up to North American standards. In these developing countries, in order to support this new set of values brought about by these supposed improvements, the separation from the natural world must, sadly, increase. For example, healthy, productive land is cleared for cattle ranches, the consumption of meat increases, and the production of local food ceases as production efforts are deflected to exportable goods.

Cancers that have been unknown until now in the lesser developed countries are on the rise as peoples' lifestyles shift towards high animal protein diets and the abuse of substances such as caffeine and tobacco. The increase in stress that accompanies a more consumer oriented lifestyle, the quest for the "American Dream," results in higher blood pressure and an increase in circulatory diseases such as heart attacks and strokes which, together, kill 15.3 million people a year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that shifts in the lifestyles of the industrialized world, made possible by scientific and technological advances, have dramatically impacted the health of the world. Diseases of affluence are now rampant in developing countries, as they are in the West, and WHO estimates that cancers from these diseases will rise a remarkable 40 percent by the year 2020.

The mainstream news media seems dedicated to promoting an ideal that may have never existed - that science is absolute and objective. With the recent revelations of journalistic fraud, and the lack of oversight by editors of very well known news organizations, it is not too hard to conclude that the assumptions we have been making about our world based on news reporting by these organizations will need reassessment.

Since the scientific revolution in the 1600s, people in the developed nations of the Earth have walked inexorably down a path towards reliance on technological solutions to life's choices. These technological solutions have inevitably involved the creation of huge amounts of chemicals and materials that we now know to be toxic, and the need for their disposal.

refinery

Oil refinery in Teesport, England (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Yet we do not choose to stop using substances that we know cause harm. Those who lead our industrial complex and those political leaders who support economic health over human and ecosystem health have chosen instead to continue producing and disposing of toxic substances in our air, water, and soil.

Even the concept of disposal is flawed and fallacious - there is no place for our toxic trash to go except here on our Earth, dispersed in our air or buried or dumped among its inhabitants.

There is no such place as "away." Everything is still in our backyard or someone else's backyard. The inescapable web of life brings us into daily contact with these substances, and with their life threatening effects.

But everything is OK, isn't it? So many people are tired of all the talk of doom and gloom. Everything is going to work out, most hope. That is certainly a very safe and comfortable belief.

But the danger of such a belief is that we fall into what I call the Lullaby of Misplaced Responsibility. When we do not wish to examine the dark side that naturally accompanies the activities of our greed based society, then we won't want to take responsibility for any of the consequences, whether intended or unintended.

I believe that all will be all right, too - eventually, but only after much hardship and darkness, and only if we the people force our eyes open.

The effects of these toxic practices on our world and our health can no longer be debated as they were when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962 and awakened the world to the folly of ignoring the interconnectedness of all life.

Eight generations have now grown up in a world where toxic substances have made their way deep into the webs of our lives and of our planet. Many thousands of generations of animal, insect, bird, and plant life have felt the magnifying effects of toxic exposure. We have consumed many of these toxics in our foods.

Global warming is real. Pesticide poisoning is real. The greed and corruption of many of our political leaders is real. We have to stop denying and hoping that the worst is not possible and begin facing the realities of our world. The idea of there being two sides to every issue has been overstated and abused. Look into your heart, past the social conditioning and the fears, and see the truth.

RESOURCES

1. See an article about the energy industry ties of global warming researchers at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/124642_warming02.html

2. Check out the Climate Institute at: http://www.climate.org

3. Learn about Ross Gelbspan’s book at: http://www.heatisonline.org

4. Keep the media under control with the help of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting at: http://www.fair.org/

5. Get help watching the media from the Center for Media and Democracy at: http://www.prwatch.org/cmd/index.html

6. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them it is time to put planetary health ahead of greed and self-interest. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

7. Get a very different perspective on the news from: http://www.indymedia.org/

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of "Healing Our World," A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light," available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html and “Of This Earth, Reflections on Connections,” available at: http://ofthisearth.org. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}