On Challenging Peoples’ Patriotism

WAMC FEB. 25– 2010

Dr Steven Leibo is the professor of modern international history & politics for the Sage Colleges

Audio from WAMC Northeast Public Radio

“On Challenging Peoples’ Patriotism”

Watching the tube the other night I heard something that quite surprised me. Bill Nye “the Science Guy” was denouncing those anti-scientific climate change deniers for their lack of “patriotism.”

His point was that in their zealous campaign to deny the dangers of man made climate change, they were undermining the entire scientific establishment which has been at the heart of so much of American innovation and economic success. Very strong words for a guy I usually think of as the Mr. Rogers of science education.

But of course Nye is not another Mr. Rogers. Rather, Nye is a science educator who has spent years trying to help us understand the threat of radical climate change caused by up our continued use of fossil fuels.

And it’s hardly just his efforts. In fact, Nye himself and quite probably lot of folks listening to my voice now were probably first warned about all this back in the years when Elvis Presley dominated the radio waves by Bill Nye’s memorable predecessor Dr. Frank Baxter whom so many of us still remember fondly.

Yes, by good old Dr. Baxter whose cool movies so pleasantly broke up the school day back in the 1950s. As in 1958 when he dramatically warned us

To See Baxter Video href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg”>

But back in Dr. Baxter’s day scientists were only just speculating on man-made climate change. Sure, scientists even then had long understood how the green house gas belt around the planet works to retain solar heat – had known it for more than a century. And for more than a fifty years scientists had also understood the implications of humanity’s thickening that green house gas belt with more fossil fuel burning.

But in Baxter’s day, the real impact had yet begun to be felt, and the scientific evidence was only starting to come in. But Bill Nye himself lives in the early 21st century when for decades the impact of man made climate change has become the stuff not of scientific prediction but of recent historical climatic records.

So the question remains. What does one think about those anti-scientific activists who keep trying to deny the emerging climate crisis not by offering their own scientific studies, studies vetted by objective outside specialists but by viciously undermining the reputations of those who are merely trying to warn us and protect our children?

What does one think of those climate change deniers that jump on each example of scientific refinement and reevaluation as if it were representative of scientific fraud rather than the essence of a constantly questioning scientific methodology.

What does one think of those folks who claim every snow storm disproves the first law of thermodynamics that governs the earth’s heat balance?

What does one we think of those folks who have their heads so deep in the sand they can’t even read the literature on peak oil and notice the growing Asian based competition for this so obviously diminishing resource, folks who have their heads so deep in the sand they can’t see how much our dependence on Middle Eastern oil keeps us trapped in struggles throughout the region.

People who can’t even understand that we would need a conversion away from petroleum even if humanity were not dangerously interfering in the planetary heat balance. No under the circumstances it seems to this commentator that Mr. Nye’s comment about their being “unpatriotic” hardly quite captures the dangers these clowns are putting us in.

About Steven Leibo

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3 Responses to On Challenging Peoples’ Patriotism

  1. Bob says:

    Finally listened to you versus reading the text. I will listen from now on, as I get the emotion of your argument. You made many good points, however, I would be cautious to make this a “Us versus Them” situaiton as that is part of the reason why there is no movement. Don’t get me wrong, it is not your fault, but becuase of the scope of the problem, and what changes that need to be made to our way of living, comprimise is the only way to approach this. People are only going to sign on if they; a. don’t see this as a threat to their way of life, or b. a enormous climate disaster takes place making it obvious to everyone. That is the sad truth. The over-politization has hurt all of us, and both sides are to blame. As a conservative that has skeptisim about all the info that is being put out about climate change, I am however open to conversation and to learn more. I am (many others would be as well) willing to work together with Liberals in a constructive way to help solve these problems. Why can’t we just do this!!!

  2. Steven Leibo says:

    As always I don’t see this as a liberal or conservative thing.. just something about the impact of thickening the belt of greenhouse gases around the planet. Reagan, Stalin, FDR, Mao.. all different political stripes worshiped growth through the use of fossil fuels and now that has turned out to be problematic in ways we could not have imagined. But more to the point with this post.. Bob: Are you old enough to remember Dr. Baxter? I use to love those old 16 mil. films they showed in class in the 1950s!

    Professor Leibo

  3. Bob says:

    Sorry Dr. Leibo, I am not old enough to remember the 50’s, however I love to study that period of great expansion. Remember I have agreed to be open-minded on climate change, but like many things in our society it takes us a long time to accept the reality and change our ways. Think of smoking as a good example; should this be legal? How much could we lower healthcare costs if people did not smoke? In fact, I think smoking should be illegal. We derive no benefit from it, but still allow it. Why, because we do. Continuing to use fossil fuels is the same way. As far as being partisan, I may have a bias there as well.

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