Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Everything in moderation? A tale of two global problems

Two major topics lately are bird flu (H5N1, aka Avian flu) and climate change (aka global warming). These potential catastrophes have several things in common: they both are at a global scale with vast impact, both are scientific, and both are hyped, in one way or another (downplayed or over-played). More bird flu deaths and spreading have brought that issue back in the headlines and a recent report of notable significance by the IPCC have evermore raised awareness on climate change and its partly human causes.

Some say — or seem to be saying — the demonic West is being selfish about bird flu’s affects on places like Indonesia; some — countries and corporations alike — are controversially commercializing/politicizing a potential pandemic, risking lives for their own profit and selfishness.

Some say rich nations need to work on reducing greenhouse emissions; some are (somewhat) hypocritical for saying other industrial countries are causing all the climate change problems. Some are stating the latest international report on climate change is too rhetoricized and vague (somewhat contrary to the IPCC’s clear standing on the topic, but I get the writer’s point). Some send mixed signals by treating the environmentalism relating to global warming as a new hyped-up religion of sorts and saying nothing in the studies have really changed. Some say the battle against human-caused climate change is a war. Some, including powerful Washington think tank AEI, even offered large sums of money to people in exchange for their disputing the IPCC’s recent report. This kind of scientific corruption is nothing new and some has been linked to the US government and energy corporations like Exxon — whose products promote global warming — in the past.

Me? Well I am worried about bird flu, though I shall not lose sleep over it, and climate change is not the best thing either. Neither are impending doom, a monster that will eat you when you sleep at night, and neither are totally harmless. The sureness about global warming’s impending eventuality, and the fact we know it is already showing its effects, is more than that of bird flu. Bird flu is more chance-related in whether it will be a real danger (i.e. will the disease spread from human to human and in what form).

I think we need to work on climate change by finding alternative energy sources like geothermal power — which could serve ten percent of the United State’s electricity needs by 2050 at minimal cost. Solar-harnessing, as well as sources getting energy from the kinetic movements of wind and water, (solar power, wind power, water power, respectively) are also promising, easy, virtually non-polluting power alternatives that are cost efficient in the long term, especially if they help hamper the economically damaging effects of global warming. While I am not as committed or hyped as Al Gore on the subject, action needs to be taken by citizens, governments, and companies alike.

People, governments, and companies also should be prepared for bird flu. Preparation and preventative measures are fine, they’re moderate; hype, scaremongering, or denial can all lead to great harm, albeit different types of harm, for both the issues of climate change and bird flu. The EU is being tough on both issues, working on the bird flu problem since before it reached Turkey and the Russian Urals — long before the US media finally jumped on the bird flu wagon, although late and with plenty of confusing hype. The EU is not doing a great job with global warming, but it’s a start. They now have proposed arguably the toughest auto emissions standards on the planet. When you really get down to it, bird flu is just another potential pandemic and climate change is coming no matter what, human caused or not. What worries me about the latter is that really humans may be pushing climate change to a dangerous level where its effects will be all too disastrous. What worries me about both is if they are too hyped, it will be like the boy who cried wolf. People, including policymakers, will be tired and confused by the hype and mayhem and any efforts against a real threat would be hampered greatly by such a consequence.

There are the global-warming-is-human-stunted-and-dangerous deniers and the people crying wolf. The latter are promoting and feeding hysteria, for example, saying last summer’s heat and Hurricane Katrina of 2005 were both directly caused by global warming and not just a weather pattern to an extent (then why wasn’t there another Katrina in 2006, I ask). Lastly, there are the people who neither like the hype nor the denial. I am one of those people. It will be easy for those uneducated on these topics, partly by fault of the media and their governments, to be in any of the first two camps and easily switch between them. If there is no unseasonable heat this coming summer I am sure there will be plenty switching from the hype to the denial camp; if there is, I am sure there will be some switching from denial to hype — for the wrong reasons.

Be prepared for global warming; use common sense and preventative measures for bird flu. Don’t buy into the often propaganda hype sometimes utilized by individuals and bodies to promote their causes — whether they are hyping up awareness about bird flu or climate change or playing down either issue. Both are important issues, and one can do more, politically and personally, to work against the inevitable one, human-caused global warming, than the other one.

Songs stuck in my head right now: "I Bet You Would Look Good On The Dance Floor" by the Arctic Monkeys and "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service.

Technorati technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

No comments: