The North Pole Is Fine (But Jumping To Conclusions Is Not)

jump-to-conclusions-matAll it takes is an unseasonable day, and people start talking about climate change. For the record, I absolutely agree with the overwhelming consensus of climate experts which says that global temperatures are on the rise, that human behavior is a significant contributor to this, and we need to address this issue immediately to continue to have a habitable planet. But skeptical thought cannot end there. We are just as susceptible to confirmation bias and misinformation as anyone else, and it is always smart to know what we are talking about before we jump to conclusions.

Case in point, the below image of a buoy near the north pole floating in what looks very much like a lake. The accompanying text implies that this has never happened before, and global warming is the culprit. A guy at my office showed me the picture and reacted oddly when I said it may or may not be due to climate change. Judging by his reaction, he seemed to be waiting for me to say that I didn’t buy into climate change or something of that nature, when the reality is far from that. I am not an expert, and I’ve learned to try to not jump the gun with conclusions in areas where I am not an expert. On the topic of climate change, I am about as much an expert as I am in Latvian percussive music of the 1920s, so I have to hold my opinion until I find out what the actual experts say.
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An Infographic – Seven Billion People

I don’t have a clue who the people from Masters Degree Online are or what their game is, but one of their people has offered to send me infographics that they put together, and this one I really found interesting. It’s about the earth’s population, some trending, some comparisons, and all kinds of neat stuff. I haven’t fact-checked it, so please if there are errors or things you find misleading, let me know here and I’ll forward those to the authors. After the graphic, I’ll provide my thoughts. And you can click to embiggen, and view the graphic after the fold.

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Oil And Energy

I heard recently that if one in ten vehicles were hybrids, we would end our dependence on foreign oil. I have no idea if that statement is true it not, but exploring alternatives is not just in our best interests, it is fast becoming a necessity.

Oil, despite what some will tell you is not a renewable resource. In theory, we can make a series of synthetic products as good or better than the oil we currently suck out of the ground, but still we suck and suck. It keeps many people gainfully employed, people like me who, at least until the end of the year, work for oil and gas companies. Those high gas prices people bitch about? Yeah, those keep food on a whole lot of tables.

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Outside My Window

Outside my window I can see a lot of beautiful green trees, mountains, houses, roads, cars, and a few office buildings. These things are amazing to me. What’s more, I don’t need a creator for them to be amazing. I understand these things and they stand on their own two feet without some cosmic force to lend them awe.

Trees are fascinating to me. For starters, it always blows my top to think that we are, however distantly, related to them. All things began with the same primordial ooze in whatever form and function that took. The trees that I can see may all be green, but they are a myriad of shades of green, each tree having it’s own diversity of colors and textures. Trees evolved to handle different requirements.

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What’s More Important, Greens?

I’m not a member of any political party. There is no party that really matches my personal leanings that closely, and even if such a party exists, my faith in politicians is not the kind that would make me want to lump myself in with them. There are those who say that I should join a party with the intention of pushing my personal leanings, but I disagree with that. In reality, I don’t expect a large group of people to be like me enough that I would agree with them on even most things, and so I choose to vote each election for whomever I feel is the most in line with what I want to see, party be damned.

That said, though, I’ve had a lot of respect for the Canadian Green Party. They seemed like a party that had put a lot of thought into their platform, which I liked. In the most recent federal election, many of my friends chastised me for not voting Green. I had chosen to not vote, but for good reason. The Conservative candidate in my riding was someone I have a great deal of respect for, though we differ on many opinions. I did not feel I could vote for him, but I did not feel that any of his opponents would be able to do the kind of job I knew he would do. As well, I knew he would win in a landslide, which he did, so my lonely vote would not possess any real sway. I defended my position of not voting Green because I didn’t feel the Green candidate in my riding was worthy of my vote.

So it saddens me to see the article I just read on Skeptic North which outlines some very unscientific thinking in the Green Party platform such as this:
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Fake Leaf Is Awesome And Makes Me Think Of Energy

Scientists have created a fake leaf. I imagine that if I said this to 100 people on the streets of My Home Town, I would probably get at least a handful of people telling me that science is wasting money doing stupid things like inventing leaves when God already invented them, and they work great. Those people couldn’t be more wrong.

An artificial leaf isn’t what you might think. It is a photosynthesis device, and that’s where things get a whole lot more nifty in this story. What scientists built was a cost effective doohickey that uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and create energy. That’s essentially what leaves do, but for the first time, we’re doing it better. By an order of magnitude.

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Politics And Truthiness

America has power. It can legislate anything into existence or non-existence. If it passed a law claiming that pelicans were flightless birds, then the might of their political truthiness machinery will make it so. It truly is an awesome power.

What’s that? You don’t believe me? You think that the natural laws of the universe are no match for the human-imposed legislation of the biggest superpower on earth? Well, that’s just crazy talk, the ramblings of one of those fundamentalist science types who are slowly eroding every aspect of our modern life. None of our institutions are safe from these negative nellies, not even the most wonderful of them all, the Republican Party.

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The Golden Spruce

I am mere pages away from finishing The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant (who I must admit I want to refer to as “Johnny Valiant” because it sounds way cooler) and thought I’d pass it along to the readers. My good friend Keith Morrisson (who, for those who know me, is the other half of the duo I play my upright bass in) passed the book along to me, and I’ve very much enjoyed it.

It’s sort of three stories in one, all true, and all tightly intermingled because the story of the golden spruce would make no sense without an understanding of the history of the Haida natives of the BC coast, the history of the logging industry, and the tale of Grant Hadwin, a logger and environmentalist.

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Climate Change Comic Strip

I’m no expert on climate change, but I’m also smart enough to recognize that the people who are denying it so vehemently are almost exclusively those who benefit from the consumption of products that create climate change. Vested interest loses them points in the “who do you believe” conversation. Meanwhile, the scientists who are studying this data from as unbiased a position as possible are almost completely of the opinion that this is the case. So I’m going to side with the experts and not the profiteers. It would be like saying that eating Big Macs is healthy because Ray Kroc told you all those dietitians were lying.

That said, it’s a hard argument to make to John Q. Public, or at least it’s being presented as a hard argument. And then along comes a web comic that puts it all nicely into perspective. You have to love it when someone comes up with a simple way to explain a complicated issue without dumbing it down or fudging the facts. Enjoy and share!


The Plan For Ending AIDS In Africa

Okay, admittedly, that’s kind of a misnomer. There isn’t one. At least not one that presently shows any real reason to believe it would work. In order to truly end the threat of AIDS as a widespread pandemic both in Africa and the rest of the world, we need to do three things:
1. Make people aware of the fact that condoms are just good.

Okay, it’s really just one thing. I admit it, but bullet points usually look nicer if you have three or more things in the list. In order to make that one point stick, we need to do three things:
1. Slap the mouth of any religious zealot who insists that condoms promote AIDS, that God hates you if you have sex, or that condoms are not a viable preventative for AIDS transmission.

Again, the bullet point list with only one bullet. It’s a sign of lazy writing, isn’t it?

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