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Looking Beyond the Mark
Volume 13, Number 5: 3 February 2010

Looking beyond the mark is an unfortunate malady of our peculiar times, one that is dragging humanity down to disaster, as it preempts our resolve to confront the serious problems of the here-and-now. As a result of the counterfeit confidence we place in the mantra that we are "saving the planet" by reducing our "carbon footprints," we are becoming immune to the serious needs of people throughout the world right now, as we focus our intellectual and technological energies -- and our next-to-nonexistent finances -- on the great beyond, acting as if we had the power of God to remake the planet's climate in the image of our computer-generated scenarios of salvation.

A case in point is the 6 November 2009 Editorial in Science, where Rosina Bierbaum and Robert Zoellick write, with totally unwarranted confidence, that millions of people in densely populated coastal areas and island nations actually will -- not might or may or could -- "lose their homes as the sea level rises," similarly stating that poor people will "face crop failures, reduced agricultural productivity, and increased hunger, malnutrition, and disease," which forceful words convey the pair's absolute certainty of the impending occurrence of the consequences they describe. Likewise, they unequivocally declare that "extreme events such as droughts, floods, and forest fires will become more frequent, making it even harder for developing countries."

But let's think about it. How can any mere mortal claim to know the future? ... and to know it with such absolute confidence as these two exude? Clearly, none of us can. But speaking in such absolute terms makes it oh so much easier to proclaim -- in an almost revelatory manner -- that "all countries must act together" to do the many things that Bierbaum and Zoellick, and others of their ilk, have claimed they must do, in order to avoid the host of predicted climatic catastrophes that otherwise will most certainly, in their enlightened view, come to pass. What is more, they adamantly contend that we can indeed do these things and thereby prevent the climate crisis they envision. And how do we know that we can do them? Simply because they tell us we can do them, proclaiming that "we can indeed shape our climatic future."

So they expect all this? ... that we can shape to our liking earth's climatic future? ... while the intelligentsia, from whom their words spring, either cannot or will not solve the more tractable problems of the present? Let's think about it some more.

Why, as Bierbaum and Zoellick admit, do 1.6 billion people in the developing world still have no access to electricity? Why do we still have hordes of hungry people living in poverty? Why do great numbers of them lack clean and safe drinking water? And why do so many of them die, long before their time, killed by diseases that could have been controlled with but a tiny fraction of the money that the Enlightened Ones would channel into fighting the imagined consequences of an uncertain future that may never occur?

This is not science. This is not logic. This is lunacy. In fact, this is immoral lunacy.

Let's stop looking beyond the mark and start focusing our energies on solving the very real problems of the very real present; for if we will not help those who need our help currently, we will only more surely not provide that service for those who might need it in the future. As Bjorn Lomborg (2009) has clearly articulated, and as another had long ago wisely stated: "the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Let's put first things first, which are humanity's major present problems, upon which almost all of us can agree, and do that which will do mankind the most good ... and do it now! We need not neglect the present to ensure our future.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Bierbaum, R.M. and Zoellick, R.B. 2009. Development and climate change. Science 326: 771.

Lomborg, B. 2009. Bjorn Lomborg: Obama's options on global warming. The Providence Journal accessed 24 December 2009