to Dana Milbank: awakening the neXt generation...
to Dana Milbank Opinion Writer
The weakest generation?
By Dana Milbank
In my mother’s telling, I exist because of the March on Washington .
Her account went something like this: In 1963, she was a student at Goddard College, an experimental school in Vermont that attracted the forerunners of the hippies. My father had come to Goddard the previous year, and though my mom first noticed him throwing peas in the dining hall (this seems to be an inherited trait), she didn’t meet him, she said, until that day on the Mall 50 years ago this week, when Goddard students who had arrived separately executed a daft plan to meet near the Washington Monument.
The effects on our politics has been profound. Without any concept of actual combat or crisis, a new crop of leaders — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin — treats governing as a fight to the death, with no possibility of a negotiated peace. Without a transcendent social struggle calling us to seek justice as Americans, they substitute factional causes — Repeal Obamacare! Taxed Enough Already! — or manufactured crises over debt limits and government shutdowns. Though the problem is more pronounced on the right today, the generational drift is nonpartisan. President Obama has extraordinary talents but shows no ability to unify the nation in common purpose or to devote sustained energy to a cause greater than his own.
Certainly, there are young leaders serving in the capital who are as enlightened as those of any previous generation, just as there are volunteer warriors fighting for America as bravely as any conscript ever did. But as a whole, my generation, untested by trial, is squandering American greatness by turning routine give-and-take into warfare.
Tom Brokaw justifiably called the cohort that survived the Great Depression and fought the World War II the greatest generation. I’m afraid that my generation will someday be called the weakest.
Dear Dana Milbank
It is a shame that Generation X and all present generations of "young" people could feel the way you express your own lack of "causes"...
Of course, the lack of "universal" or "justice" causes can lead to more selfish me-me-me navel-gazing generations (the baby boomers started the process), though in fact there is no lack of issues out there to fight for... One major problem is that these issues could be less obvious amongst the tinsel of our lives where entertainment has become paramount — though these issues and causes still are more than important...
It is most likely that in our search for the happy pill, with the force-feeding of our comforts and the constant bombardment from advertising and colourful packaging, we have delegated our understanding of troubled issues to become not much more than passionate consumers.
Like the masses were bamboozled by preachers in the middle ages, we tend to get taken in by all the magic of mod cons and be annoyingly distracted by the obligatory pre-munched news rather than understand it. It is most likely the people of the dark ages had a better understanding of the natural cycles than we do as ordinary people.
In general, we have delegated the understanding of such processes to engineers and scientists, because we are busy with streamers and doggerels on a dancing show — and to say the least, it is quite complicated to have to deal with the workings of things, beyond knowing how to press a few buttons to talk to someone on the other side of the world... And look, we can touch a screen and things work as if by magic. We have a vague idea how things work but we don't really need to know beyond the fact that they work for us and for our ventures.
Most of what we do in modern times actually rely heavily on someone understanding Quantum physics though as a famous scientist once said "if you understand Quantum mechanics, you understand nothing..." but it works.
Technology has shifted our relationships with other people. A study has shown that many people doing Facebook can become "unhappy". Many surveys and polls are telling that relatively we believe or not in the same things... often the subjects are inane but methodical in order to target our buying habits... A lot of these entertaining activities can distract us from quite sad issues — including hunger and preventable diseases in the world — but what can we do about it — so we do not much. Sure, we might give a few charitable dollars towards a nice kid in India but the government there is spending billions on a nuclear arsenal. It does not make sense...
One of the issues that we don't understand or don't want to understand fully is "global warming". Of course this issue is not as obvious as a black man being bludgeoned by a white society in full daylight... Nor is it as obvious as the ravages of wars on "innocent populations" — wars which can be complexed by unsavoury allegiances.
The issue of "global warming" is also hotly debated by those who tend to profit from its present inductor: extra carbon. The cause of global warming is also confused by scientists who are ill-prepared to defend their position since it's part of scientific rigor to question one's own research and conclusions.
The subject is very complicated due to feed-back mechanisms and inductors that we try to explain with Lagrangian equations and other mathematical models that demand huge computing power to crunch massive amount of data...
I despair at most journalists who are unable and unwilling to understand the processes but are paid oodles of cash to publish ignorant opinions... Dana, you seem like a good chap and possibly eager to learn... and it seems you are looking for a "cause"... Here it is, the most massive problem we could be facing ever. Actually, the biggest problem we, as humans since we left out tree, are facing ever. But it's a long term problem with difficult-to-comprehend ramifications in time.
In a nutshell, scientists have been on the case of the greenhouse effect for a long time — about 250 years. Scientists and mathematicians like Laplace have paved the way to greater understanding of natural processes. It's only in the past fifty years though that scientists have turned their attention to the changing data of "global temperatures" in earnest. Even in the days of Arrenhius who postulated at the end of the nineteenth century that humans were adding roughly more CO2 that nature could absorb, the ramifications were not fully understood. His equation is "simple" (if you are a physicist mathematician) and accurate, yet expresses only an empirical formulae that fits onto observations.
Even in the early 1930s, scientists still had the dinosaurs living at 6 million years ago, while we now know, with some fine degree of precision, that it was around 65 million years ago that they became extinct — at the beginning of the Tertiary Period, though the extinction process lasted about one million years..
In a way, the science of global warming, based on statistics and geological record has also evolved to tell us with more precision where we are at — and of course helps make some dire prognosic about where we are going to...
This science that deals with a complex enormous amount of data, also uses difficult equations for non-mathematicians to understand, thus the "global warming is crap!" is often the quick answer to a problem which is not as obvious as a car crash.
To the contrary, global warming is a discreet increment of change, which for the serious scientists is an alarming amount, though we mere mortals are unable to "feel" or "see" what it's all about — unless, like me, are old enough to know that "the seasons are not what they used to be"... That discreet increment is not so large as to make us panic tomorrow. But the scale of change and its momentum carefully measured and extrapolated from observations, at the name conjures on a global scale, should make us panic YESTERDAY...
The latest IPCC report tells us that there is 95 percent chance that this PRESENT change is human induced. This is a way for science to tell us that the change towards warmer climes is 100 per cent induced by human activities, while other influences such as earth wobbles and sun variations may account for a certain amount of on and off "cooling" during this unexpected warming of the geo-climatic era we're in now.
How most scientists (97 per cent) can be so specific while the others few dispute the findings?... With strong support from a gang of lobbyists that control the source and profits of our CO2 emissions, and also the help of a complicit media, the very few scientists, paid to dismiss the prognosis, tend to control the debate.
I have checked the data — having been involved with some scientists since 1979 on other subjects, including climatic changes over eaons and extinction associated with these changes — and I can assure that some changes to the earth surface can be more surprising than we can imagine...
Even the last big change 14,000 to 10,000 years ago — the end of the last ice age, which left profound marks around the globe, including sea level rising of about 100 metres (more than 300 feet), exposed glacial valleys and also associated with the extinction of the megafauna, such as the mammoths in Europe and the diprotodon (a two-tonnes wombat-like marsupial) in Australia — is to be noted.
But this was a change that took about 4,000 years to be complete, while with the present warming, as calculated with conservative margins of uncertainty by science, we are inducing a similar differential of temperature in no more than 250 years — and still rising "fast" beyond this date marker... As a cause, this is one of the most difficult to fight for, because we cannot feel the incremental shifts... It has to be said that no violent storm can be specifically attributed to such a shift. Yet anyone who has lived long enough would have to recognise that the world climatic conditions have changed towards the warmer.
We will be all dead, you and me, when the shift hits the fan. But it will hit beyond what we would be prepared for. Thus I urge you, should you be in search of a "cause" to invest some time with proper serious scientists who have studied the data and formulated some views. Unfortunately, very rare are the scientists who are across all disciplines involved in this large scale problem...
Some denialist scientists would argue that the natural processes are the inductor of such change. There is a place for this approach in some record of the scientific data. But one thing is undeniable: the rise of temperature in the last 3 million years has always been accompanied with a rise of CO2 AND vice verso. The natural variation of CO2 in the last 3 million years has been more or less contained within 180 and 300 ppm in the atmosphere, leading to higher temperature of up to 10 degrees Celsius in the highest concentration of CO2. Due to the size of the relative interaction there is is some elasticity in the correlation, but correlation there is.
At the start of the industrial evolution in 1850, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was around 200 ppm. Presently it is above 400 ppm and RISING. In short by burning fossil fuels, humans have added around 200 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere... The temperature has risen by only one degree Celsius so far, but it will rise way beyond that sooner than we think.
Do the sums, while considering a lag time...
Dana, become a voice for science. It needs people like you. I know, sounding the alarm on a slow trend may appear overdoing it. It's not like urgently attending a wild fire or a car crash scene... But the ramification of not being alarmed NOW are quite horrendous. Change WILL BE massive...
Note: picture at top supplied by a friend of Gus...