Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The environment: Science not Politics

Well, next week I depart for the woods for a few months to audit clearcuts, a mostly peaceful and solitary endeavor, broken only by the daily hurricane of helicopter insertions and the odd bear encounter. I recently read Greenpeace's latest media release about the boreal forest. Its been my job to audit the transformation from clearcut back to forest so when their claims don't match my experience or data, it naturally leaves me jaded. Either they lie because they think its worth it or they're just not very smart and make lots of mistakes, I'm not sure. But when I see that their report has the sigs of some forestry profs from Toronto, I realize just how easily objective science gets hijacked and slaughtered in the name of ideology.
I do look forward to getting away from my civ. I can only endure so much of my fellow species before I really go off my tree. A welcome break from people wailing about climate change who don't understand basic chemistry. A break from robotic eco parrots whistling about carbon dioxide, ignorant that ice core data shows no correlate between carbon dioxide and rising temperatures. Appeals to truth by means of status: "look at all these scientists who believe this" the surest sign that an argument cannot be won on its merits. Yes, I'm really tired of listening to myself complain about how an essentially scientific question is argued by halfwits with and without Phds. Opinion is the raw material of politics, not science. Science is about testing, results, analysis and verification/falsification. So far in the debate over whether man is responsible for the recent warming, I see only the former and none of the later.

And so on Earth Day rather than make myself feel good by imagining that I'm saving the planet (by the way, the planet will be just fine what ever we do or don't do) I chose to do something of substantial effect. I donated money to handicapped kids (a cause with resonance to me as a healed cripple) and purchased some malaria prevention nets (another malady I am too familiar with) to be distributed in Africa. Small tokens it's true but I felt confident that this marginal effort was more than lip service to a cause which I fear the environmental movement suffers from in spades. When people aren't suffering and dying needlessly, I suppose I will contemplate hypothetical impeding disasters such as the environment.