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What the Earth Knows

July 11, 2010

Global warning,  climate change, or whatever its current name, has been the subject of debate and a political hot spot.  Some say the “science” is settled; others say it doesn’t exist.  There are experts that agree the earth is warming; equally learned people say it isn’t.  A few say there is warming but humans and their lifestyle aren’t the cause.  On and on it goes.

There are two things that frustrate me about the subject. One is that so many from both sides are willing to debate the issue by parroting what someone else has said or told them.  They haven’t done any independent research or investigation.  Secondly, it’s become more of a political issue than one of science.  That, in my view, is dangerous.  If, through legislation, we totally disrupt the way we live our lives and run our businesses as a result of some political “will to win”, no thanks.

I’m not a scientist, geologist, meteorologist or anything else ending in “ist”.  I’m just a guy trying to figure this out on my own.  Therefore, when I read something from someone with proven and unquestioned credentials that makes sense and is logical, I take notice.

Robert B. Laughlin is one such person.  Mr. Laughlin is a professor of physics at Stanford University and a co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Physics. This essay , “What the Earth Knows ” is adapted from his new book on the future of fossil fuels.  He writes about the Earth in an interesting and factual way.

There’s no point taking this space to regurgitate everything he says but allow me to quote from just two paragraphs.

He writes this about the earth:  “Common sense tells us that damaging a thing this old is somewhat easier to imagine than it is to accomplish—like invading Russia. The earth has suffered mass volcanic explosions, floods, meteor impacts, mountain formation, and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor. We don’t know exactly how the earth recovered from these devastations, because the rocks don’t say very much about that, but we do know that it did recover—the proof of it being that we are here.

Climate change . . . is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth
routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining
itself. The earth doesn’t include the potentially catastrophic effects on
civilization in its planning. Far from being responsible for damaging the
earth’s climate, civilization might not be able to forestall any of these
terrible changes once the earth has decided to make them.”

My conclusion from this essay is that being so egotistical to think that, barring an all out nuclear war, we humans will destroy the planet isn’t logical.  In fact the earth would survive such a war. It wouldn’t be too good for us and it might take thousands of years for the planet to heal but it would.

Politicians should spend their time and our money on things we can control and work on initiatives that the majority of us agree on; those that make our country a safer place to live where we can follow our dreams and raise our children.

As a consumer if you want to by a hybrid car, go for it.  As an investor if you want to buy corn futures or own a windmill company, great.  If you support nuclear power over hydroelectricity and coal, that’s fine.  Set your thermostat at 82 if you want. Recycle you’re trash for sure.  I would do these things because I would get better gas mileage, make money, support a more efficient method of power generation, reduce my utility bills, and it makes sense, not because some politician told me I had to in order to save the planet.

The essay is one based on facts, not emotions.  It is one of many things I’ve read that has helped me reach my conclusions.  I realize some who read this will think me wrong but if you do I hope it’s because you’ve done your own research rather than relying on someone with an agenda telling you what to think.

  1. Leslie Stone permalink

    I thought of one “ist” that you are: an anti-alarmist…

    It’s always better to make decisions with a cool head, knowing that the actions you take can achieve the objectives you seek. Dr. Laughlin’s article certainly puts some perspective on our ability, or inability, to “save the planet.” We can take steps to improve our quality of life and be good stewards of the natural environment. If we want to save the planet, maybe we should be working on technology to prevent asteroids from colliding with the Earth…

    • Yes, I like at asteroid idea. It would give NASA something to do if we’re not going the explore space for a while.

  2. Leslie Stone permalink

    Ha! Another “ist” that you are: an optimist…

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