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Maybe the Sky IS Falling!

Sky FallingThe advent of the internet is in a league with the development of nuclear weapons. Both changed the world. And hand-in-hand, they may shepherd humanity to its ultimate end. The threat of nuclear holocaust has hung over the human race since the Enola Gay laid waste to Hiroshima seventy years ago. As these weapons spread to ever more parts of the world, the threat only increases.

But the internet? How can it be the atom bomb’s bride and carry the bouquet of humanity’s doom?

As with any marriage, some things are best left unsaid or at least, not spoken until they have been thought through thoroughly. The internet has removed a set of checks-and-balances that has served humanity for eons. The instantaneous communication of the internet acts as the midwife of our doom.

When I was a child, a postage stamp (there was no such thing as email) cost three cents. A letter took about a week to go from Michigan to my cousins in Tennessee. However, for an extra penny, you could buy an “Air Mail” stamp. Your letter actually got to fly on an airplane to get to its destination. It cut delivery time down to about three days, a modern miracle of efficiency.

Today, with the internet and programs like Skype, I can converse with voice and video in real time with friends in Australia for free. Through social networks of all types from Facebook to Twitter, I can share thoughts with literally tens of thousands of people all over the world in an instant. In some respects, that is nothing short of fabulous. But so are a few other things that would quickly bring an end to civilized society, for example, unrestricted sex, free euphoria inducing drugs and x-ray goggles. Too much of a good thing can be quite bad. Unrestricted, instantaneous communication is one of those things. Continue reading

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Still Don’t Believe in Global Warming?

We humans are programmed to make assumptions, to extrapolate, to assume things move gradually from the past and into the future. If we see an object rolling down a slope, we’re wired to conclude it will gradually gain speed and ultimately reach the bottom of the slope. This ability serves us well when shooting clay pigeons, jumping on escalators, and swatting flies with a newspaper. Problems arise when the phenomenon being observed is more complicated than the simple, linear events we’re accustomed to seeing.

Consider a couple of rather poignant examples. House prices will always go up so buying a house is the only safe and secure investment a person can make. For a long time, that was true. House prices bounced a little, but by and large they increased continuously for a long time. But nothing increases forever, not even entropy. Many Americans were lulled into a false sense of security, but have now learned the meaning of terms like “short sale”, “up-side-down”, and “sheriff’s sale”.

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Dick’s Thinking

The torture question just won’t go away.  Dick Cheney and others like him continue to defend torture as a justifiable activity when it produces information and makes America safer.  In his recent press conference, President Obama raised some bigger questions when he asked if the same or more information could be obtained using more civilized techniques.  He also suggested a greater debate might center on the question of “Is America actually safer as a result?”  It is conceivable the information obtained is of value, but that its value is more than compensated for by the loss of standing on the world stage.  Simplistically stated, if we use torture in violation of international treaty then we have demonstrated our contempt for treaties and we have essentially given justification to all our enemies to use whatever techniques, torturous or otherwise, they see fit.  We’re now in the gutter with them.

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Time to Panic – Part 4 of 4 – Now What?

In the first three parts of this series, I’ve tried to avoid the techno-jargon while addressing the absolute minimum I believe every American needs to know about the global warming debate. In Part 2, I emphasized that it may literally be a matter of life and death that we come to grips with the concept of a “tipping point” before we reach one.  Part 3 tried to shed some light on the most common arguments against anthropogenic (human caused) global warming and why they are fallacious.  In this final part, I talk about a couple of common sense considerations that should leave little question as the qualitative, if not quantitative, impact of our actions on the planet and mankind’s future upon it.

“I won’t drop it.”  [CRASH]

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Time to Panic – Part 3 – The Moon-Bats of Denial

If the debate over global warming could be reduced to an “applausometer” type test where the loudest whistles and yee haa’s carried the day, the question would still be undecided.  There are substantial numbers of Americans that insist global warming is a myth.  A few acknowledge it is a reality, but only insofar as it is a natural, cyclical phenomenon and we just happen to be on the up-slope right now.  There are even groups largely from the evangelical wing that insist it’s all part of “the plan”.

There will always be people that take contrarian positions on pretty much anything and everything.  It’s not limited to global warming.  I suspect you can still find people believing the earth is flat, the stork delivers babies, gravity is a myth, the earth is the center of the universe, you can turn lead into gold, Bush has a brain and Michael Jackson is normal.  At my wife’s high school reunion I actually shook hands with a classmate named Travis Walton who spent three days as a prisoner on a flying saucer playing cribbage with aliens.  I’m not beginning to joke (except maybe about the cribbage; it may have been pinochle).  What should alarm you is that he says it with a straight face too.  See for yourself – http://www.travis-walton.com.

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Time to Panic – Part 2 – Tipping

When talking about global warming, scientists speak of “tipping points“. I suspect the average citizen has a cognitive grasp of the concept, but is light years away from a deeper understanding of a tipping point in this context – the “gestalt” so to speak. But if we are to avoid the annihilation of the human race, it is critical that main street America, including Joe the Plumber, gain a deeper understanding of tipping points. Once you witness one for the global climate, it’s probably too late to survive it.

There are tipping points all around us. They generally don’t carry the consequence of a global warming tipping point or you probably wouldn’t be here to read this. A tipping point is generally approached in what appears to be a very gradual fashion, frequently without any notice that you’re getting close to it. When you get there, however, you’ll know it. The problem is you generally can’t reverse it. You can’t go back. If you didn’t want to go there, you’ve got a serious problem because you no longer have the option of return even if you’re wearing Dorothy’s red shoes.

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Almost a Time for Panic – Part 1

On the topic of global warming, I’m a pessimist. I’m afraid the human animal is not evolutionarily prepared to understand and deal with the problem we face today. We’re capable of producing scientists that can see the problem, analyze it and recommended solutions. But frankly put, as a race, humans carry too much other evolutionary baggage to make it possible to shepherd themselves through the crisis. It’s not that we’re too stupid to see it coming or deal with it; it’s that we have other attributes that have served us well for tens of thousands of years that will prevent us from successfully dealing with the impending doom.

Greed, avarice and the ability to deny the inevitable have served us well in our old tribal environments, but they won’t get us through the current crisis. The inhabitants of the Easter Islands have given us strong evidence that human beings won’t sacrifice temporal pleasures for long term survival. It would be great to interview some of these people, but sadly they no longer exist. They “consumed” themselves into nonexistence. 

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