Climate change presents crisis, opportunity
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Nature doesn't do bailouts." These were the words of former Vice President Al Gore at the 2012 Climate Reality Project training conference in August. The updated "Inconvenient Truth" slide-show included more definitive scientific conclusions -- but it also provided a message that was as clear to the eye as it was to the mind.
New images of jet wheels sunk into melted tarmac and heat-buckled railroad ties from this summer's extraordinary heat wave spoke more clearly than any speaker ever could. This is not normal, and it is only the beginning. Climate change is already here, plundering the living riches of the natural world that sustains us, threatening bankruptcy of societies and -- though the fact is hard to fathom -- menacing human survival.
It is a strange reality to accept, but once we do, the choice is simple and stark. On one side lies assured destruction at the hands of our own poor stewardship. On the other lies a future of cheap, healthy, American-made energy, driving a sustainable economy that will be there for our children and grandchildren. It is difficult to swallow, but that is exactly what we must do.
As a child, I was always taught that knowledge can forestall tragedy. At age 7, very sick with measles and at risk of deadly complications, I asked my father why I should have to take that repulsive antibiotic crushed into a spoonful of jam. "Because" he said, in a cool sing-song, "if you don't take it, you may die". That seemed funny. My father would never let me die! But he had shown me a glint of steely reality, and I swallowed the bitter stuff.
Climate change holds a monstrous potential for tragedy. But as is frequently the case, there is opportunity in adversity. To survive, we will have to make massive investments in new kinds of technology and infrastructure. This mobilization of the American economy will create huge numbers of jobs and help assure energy independence and prosperity for generations. To be sure, there are narrow private interests who want to maintain our current state of affairs. They will pay top dollar to shout down hard-won scientific conclusions with well-marketed lies and half-truths. It is our duty as free Americans to see through this public relations nonsense, and trust the collective brilliance of our people to bring us safely into a flourishing future.
In a sense, this is the only choice that we have.
Education imperiled by sectarian dogma
I find irony in Karl Priest's complaint about the state of science education in public schools when he cannot accept the reality, the fact, that evolution is the founding principle of all the biological sciences. For an explanation of part of public education's recent failures he need look no farther than attempts by religionists who have undermined curricula in not just science education but history and civics as well.
A well-informed public is necessary for democracy to work, and that begins with school. It is, therefore, government's duty to ensure a quality education for all. Eliminating public schools is counter to that mandate. Private schools do not have to accept students; nor are they necessarily accountable for teaching misinformation. Money is better spent on making sure there are quality educators in schools open to all who value factual information instead of sectarian dogma.
While West Virginian schools may not have rankings worthy of a proud Mountaineer tradition, it seems obvious to me that Mr. Priest's exit from teaching is a positive sign. Schools need dedicated teachers, not misinforming ideologues.