The world is ending, and we’re all responsible. The greedy industrialists and we rabid consumers keep building factories and wasting more natural resources. We are filling the skies with carbon dioxide and pollutants, causing temperatures to rise around the world. The polar ice caps are melting, leading to tsunamis and further warming. Dogs and cats living together! The end of life as we know it!
At least, those are the dire warnings we’ve all been reading for the last twenty years and more. But what if they’re all wrong? What if the warming trend is just a natural cycle, just as Earth has gone through many times before? What if our factories, automobile exhaust, and love of one-use packaging are completely unrelated to the issue of global warming? What if it isn’t a real problem, or at least not one we can solve?
Today (October 15, 2009) is Blog Action Day and this year’s topic is Global Warming. This got us to thinking. We have a really good – and highly intelligent – friend who argues persuasively that “global warming” is a myth. He points out that the world has always had cycles of warmer and cooler climates and that there is no real proof that our industrial society is contributing to the current warming trend. It may well be that Earth is not so much heating up as emerging from a mini Ice Age into a more normal pattern.
The Principle of the Least Mistake
Another friend of ours loves to use the phrase, “The Principle of the Least Mistake.” The idea is that any time you can “take out cheap insurance”, you should. For example, you are going on a car trip through the desert. Your car is in good condition and well maintained, and you don’t expect any problems, but you take a few gallons of water with you anyway. This action has a cost – You had to go through some effort to pack something you don’t expect to need – but the reward if you do need it might literally be your life. You pay a small cost rather than have a small chance of suffering a major loss.
Conserving, recycling, and minimizing our “carbon footprint” are least mistake actions. Each takes some effort and might not make a big dent on global warming, but a lot of such small actions taken by many people could prevent a big mistake. And, as with many least mistake actions, they can pay unexpected dividends. California is banning incandescent bulbs. Replacing them with compact fluorescent or LED lights will cost us money in the short run, but the long-term benefits include longer life for the bulb and less power consumption. We’ll all win in the long run even if we aren’t helping to save the world.
It Can’t Hurt
There are a lot of small things you can do that might or might not help global warming… but could make your life better regardless:
- Avoid packaged foods. Eat more fresh vegetables and other simple foods. The cost: You may have to shop more often. Preparation will take longer. The benefits: Less waste (from packaging). You’ll save money. Fresh food tastes better and your health and energy level will likely improve.
- Refill water bottles at the store rather than buying new ones each time you run out. Or install a water filter so you don’t need to buy bottled water. The first approach is a pain, but it will save you money. The second has an up-front cost, but will save you time and possibly money in the long run. And you won’t have to deal with all those empties.
- By the way, drink water, not soda. More and more research is showing how terrible sugar is for our bodies. The artificial sweeteners are probably safer, but they haven’t been around long enough for us to be sure about that. Learn to love tea (we make it a pot at a time with a single teabag) or the freshness of plain water. You’ll eliminate the wasted cans and bottles and do your body a favor.
- Next time you trade in your car, get a fuel-efficient model. If you can, take public transportation. Even better – Ride a bike. The cost – You may have to wait for a bus and stand in a crowd. You may have to walk at each end. On your bike, you will constantly be in danger from careless drivers. Oh, but the benefits! You will save a fortune. You’ll never have to worry about finding a parking space. That extra walking – or bike riding – will improve your strength, energy, and general health. So what if global warming isn’t caused by hydrocarbon emissions? You’ll have made your own life better.
Keep Your Cool
Here’s the thing – Even if you disagree with someone’s main thesis, that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to the rest of what they have to say. There may be reasonable doubt about the causes of global warming, the best way to handle health care, and many other issues. But that doesn’t mean that someone who disagrees with us on the major points has nothing valuable to say. I’ve heard some great ideas from people all across the political spectrum.
In the case of global warming, we have a “least mistake” situation. If it’s an inevitable, natural climate change, then perhaps there’s nothing we can do about it except learn to live in a hotter environment. But if we’re making it worse with our industry and personal habits, why not take out a little insurance? Do what you can to reduce your use of energy and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. The costs are small compared to the potential benefits… and you may find you’re making your life better even if the theories of global warming are completely wrong.
Be one of the cool people. You know the mantra – “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.” What can it hurt?