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April 24, 2013

To Tell the Truth

Jeff Niemitz, April 24, 2013

By Jeff Niemitz

One of the many things that Bill McKibben said during his recent visit to campus that resonated with me was the need to tell the truth about climate change. This notion was reinforced in positive and negative ways by Michael Shellenberger (kind of negative), David Orr (very positive), and most recently Michael Mann (from an objective scientific sense of truth). In my world and I think for the most part most peoples world telling the truth is the best action. If we were to lie to our spouse or partner, they would eventually find out and it would not go well with us. We see this all the time with philandering celebrities and politicians. But lying is a learned trait and thus must have a cause. My grandchildren are quite young and to the best of my knowledge do not lie. They don’t know how yet. I’m sure they will lie at some point and my children will catch them and discipline them accordingly. Why is it then that corporation and politicians get away with lying to the public about climate change? Do we really think they don’t know better? The answer it seems to me is that we allow them to tell us lies. They lie to us because in doing so the control and have power to do what they please without consequences. I’ve heard it said that oil companies are not in the business of finding oil, they are in the business of making money. They would say that this is of course good for everyone because we can then pay stockholders and find more oil. But when the consequences of those actions bring harm to every human on the planet there is a need to be the collective parent and “discipline” them. But can we do it? In my opinion we live in a country that applauds the individual for their accomplishments first and foremost. It is really all about us and our small sphere rather than the common good. Altruism has been subplanted by entitlement. Commitment has been made fungible if a better deal comes along. We see it throughout society in the developed world. So we will need to overcome our human nature it order to make something happen; not an easy task.
It struck me that McKibben and Mann most recently laid our very simple and well founded facts about the processes of climate change and the irrefutable evidence we now have to substantiate the changes that are occurring. The question is when are we, those who will be affected by these changes going to do something to change the status quo? When will we not allow the oil companies to lie and get help from Congress to do it?

In the prophetic words of that wise man Yogi Berra, “it’s deja vu all over again”. Forty plus years ago when I was in college we staged a protest about the Vietnam War (Pause for Peace Coalition protesting the Cambodian Invasion); a war we all deeply thought was immoral and untenable despite what the Government said to us. Protests in those halcyon days turned the tide. We are in the same situation now. It is just that, in a much more profound way, the consequences to come involve the survival of the planet and not just for us but for our decendents. I suggest that McKibben is right. Civil disobedience may be the answer. Waiting for another and greater catastrophic climate event to change hearts and minds will not happen soon enough. Power to the Climate People!!!


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