Is O.J. Simpson more important than the greenhouse effect? Consider this: I just typed "O.J. Simpson" into a Google News search. The first page alone provided links for almost 2500 recent stories. The results for "global warming," however, totaled roughly 300. Thus, by media standards, O.J. Simpson appears to be at least eight times more significant than climate change.
Obviously, media coverage doesn't always correlate to value. Douglas Futuyma, a professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, recently talked to CNN about global warming. "It's not just down the road somewhere," said Futuyma. "It is just hurtling toward us. Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60."
And guess what? It's our fault.
Global temperatures rise, in part, thanks to the emission of greenhouse gases. In other words, every time we turn on a light, take a shower, or do the laundry, we add to the greenhouse effect. Go ahead, wash your dishes or take a drive or check your e-mail. The acts we take for granted are impacting the planet. It's our fault that ocean levels are rising and species are going extinct and human children face "a very different and frightening world" in the near future. What we call normal is actually consumption and consumption requires energy.
For example, where do you think that fabulous new belt of yours came from? It entailed the extracting and processing of raw materials and a factory-standing on land that was once home to innumerous ecosystems-in which it was assembled. What about the delivery truck that transported the belt to the store-standing on land that was once home to innumerous ecosystems-where you purchased it? We could factor in where the truck was made, the roads on which it traveled-standing on land that was once home to innumerous ecosystems-and don't forget the gasoline/oil issue. If that belt is leather, you might have to add in factory farming, tanneries, and a toxic brew of chemicals.
We shop, the planet suffers, it's our fault.
But what if it's not? What if all those ardent warming deniers are correct? Well, that's where seat belts come in. While some of us fasten our seat belts to avoid getting a ticket, many more do so as a safety measure (what Dubya might call a preemptive strike). We don't wait until we see another vehicle spinning out of control to snap the seat belt into place. We fasten it upon entering a car. It can be a little uncomfortable to wear, but if we arrive at our destination without needing that seat belt, we typically don't regret using it.
To apply this same mentality to climate change-to be unconcerned whether or not the human role in global warming is overstated-would be to live with a vision for the future. The only players with a vested interest in the status quo are those who profit off our indifference and our conspicuous consumption, so why not alter our lifestyle as if our very existence were hanging in the balance? To accept this challenge would be to overcome corporate propaganda...perhaps the dominant factor in our society.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.