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Monday, June 26, 2006

The Ecology of Fear

O mediums! O to teach! to convey the invisible faith!
To promulge real things! to journey through all The States!
Walt Whitman (1819–1892), Apostrophe, Leaves of Grass.

The Ecology of Fear. Porcupine was taken by this term when he heard it used by a naturalist. It refers to the fact that animals, like antelope, will graze right up to the edge of a river causing loss of grasses and erosion when they have no predators to dread. But, introduce a couple of wolves into their area and their behavior changes markedly. Instinctively fearful of the wolves' howl, they retreat to the forest for protection, and do not graze upon the banks any longer, stemming silting and erosion. Hence, the Ecology of Fear.

We have our own wolf howling in the person of Albert Gore III, former Vice President of the United States. Porcupine attended a special screening of 'An Inconvenient Truth' at the Cape Cinema, and would recommend the movie to anyone. It is well done, thoughtful, and interesting.

Mr. Gore is a self admitted world-class wonk, who was first captivated by lobal warming theories while still an undergraduate. He is not new to this debate, having written a book on the subject while still a Senator, and he now refers to the problem by the more credible name of . His analysis of phenomena such as adjacent areas suffering from downpours and drought, and fiercer ocean storms is interesting, compelling and sensible. After the floods, hurricanes, record snows and heat waves of the past few years, it is only a matter of common sense to remove as much fossil fuel detritus from our atmosphere as possible.

Ironically, the only time Mr. Gore goes adrift is when he ventures (and this is a brief part of the film) into politics. His touted self deprecating humor doesn't sound candid or even funny - it sounds bitter and clearly displays the intellectual condescension which voters found so repellent. He wants to be a moral leader on an important issue, and just sounds self-righteous and prim. He does not seem to understand that it is better for others to refer to you as a moral leader instead of smugly claiming the title for yourself.

For instance, in the file he has a film clip bashing Reagan. Cut to film clip bashing George HW Bush. Then there is an EERIE eight year gap. Cut to a film clip bashing George Bush. Much talk about how Kyoto was not signed or ratified in - 1997! Gee, THAT was during the mysterious 8 year gap...

Does he think people won't NOTICE? If he had been gutsy enough to include a film clip of Clinton at a press conference saying Kyoto was not a balanced agreement, and that's why he wasn't signing it - Porcupine would regard him as serious Presidential material. As it is, Gore talks about how he left his lifetime quest for environmental equality - and it was quite genuine, not a policy issue - to hold the second highest office in the land and says NOTHING about the failures of the Administration in which he served. Perhaps he's just Tom Reilly writ large - another for whom politics isn't their forte. Perhaps he now realizes he can do more out of office than in it.

Gore may be destined to be the next Paul Erlich. In 1968, Erlich wrote a book called ‘The Population Bomb’ hich predicted that a Malthusian increase in human population would outstrip the ability of the planet to sustain life, and there would be worldwide famines and death. The book is sneered at somewhat now, as its dire predictions did not come true. But the reason they did not come true was that the panic the book generated caused humans and governments to change their patterns of behavior and consumption. Better alternatives were developed for maximizing agriculture. Indeed, China instituted its ‘One Child’ policy, and while that may have caused pain and heartbreak for millions of individual families, the truth is that it was an unparalleled effort to control runaway population which has made life better for future generations on the planet.

We heeded the warning when howled, and it is to be hoped that we will heed the yelps of Al Gore as well. Perhaps someday, if we are lucky and work together, people will look back on ‘ Inconvenient Truth’ and shake their heads, too.

Postscript - An unusual feature of this screening was a debate between Mark Rogers of Cape Wind and Charles Vinick of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, ineptly moderated by a Cape Cod Commission staffer. Porcupine taped the entire 1 hour and 5 minutes, uninterrupted. Both sides did an excellent job of framing their point of view. However, an assertion was made from the stage by the moderator that it was 'illegal to record voices without prior consent'. Tbis seems absurd in an auditorium of 300 people; there was little, if any, expectation of privacy at a meeting open to the general public. Porcupine has obtained permission to share the diologue from Mark Rogers and from Christy Mihos on behalf of the Alliance, but may not do so because, quite frankly, he has no idea who the moderator was. The Cape Cod Commission strikes another blow for obstruction of the free circulation of ideas!


Blogger Mr. Anthrope said...

Jesus H, that was a long post. Can you give me the gist in a few sentences? I don't read anything that long between semesters.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Dirty Butter said...

If I understand what you're saying, it's like the Y2K scare. Everybody fussed when the new year came and went without major disasters. What they didn't realize is that the smooth transition happened BECAUSE computer departments took the warning to heart and were prepared for it.

I was in charge of the old computer network at our school. I had to set the date on our server back to some time in the 70's, as I recall, to get the correct day of the week. We just ignored the year, and our ancient network kept right on working. Without the warning, the network would have quit at the stroke of midnight.

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6:43 PM  

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