by Alton C. Thompson
Some research has the purpose to uncover, and then understand that which has been uncovered—archeological research being a prototype of that type of research. What prompted the research in the first place was the assumption that something would be uncovered where the uncovering process was occurring, but without any clear ideas as to what would be uncovered.
With some research the “uncovering” took place previously, and the task at hand is to gain an understanding of what has been uncovered—e.g., the Nag Hammadi “library”—and then make, and test, hypotheses regarding the implications of the knowledge gained . Once one was gained the sought-after understanding, and has results from one’s hypothesis testing, one may very well convey (or try to) one’s understanding to others (via one’s web site, for example), thereby adding to our body of knowledge.
Some research, however, has a purpose that extends beyond the above, in that it seeks results that will be useful—results, that is, that can be acted upon. One would like to think that because climate is a topic of great relevance for our lives, with climate change having particular relevance for our lives, that those engaged in climate (change) research would perceive their research from a “usefulness” perspective. After all, insofar as climate change—or, as some prefer, “global warming”—has implication for the lives of us humans, the fact that climate change researchers are humans (!) would be expected to influence their perception of their work and its implications. That in perceiving the results of their research as potentially useful, they would feel an obligation to not only undertake their research, but to offer suggestions as to how their research findings might be used—including by themselves!
It is understandable why a given climate scientist might counter such a suggestion by declaring that doing so would be beyond his or her realm of expertise—and s/he would certainly have a valid point. However, given that climate change is known to have implications for our lives as humans, the fact that a climate scientist’s research findings will have implications for the life of the scientist in question (!), should motivate the scientist in question to:
- At least make speculative judgments as to the relevance of his or her findings for the lives of his//her fellow human beings—including herself or himself!
- In recognizing the possible implications of those research findings for oneself, make a determination as to whether those findings are such that one should oneself act on those findings; and in having determined that one should act, make a decision as to what, specifically, one should do.
A decade ago, as I was editing a book on climate change, I realized we had triggered events likely to cause human extinction by 2030.
His response to that conclusion was twofold. First,
I abandoned the luxury-filled, high-pay, low-work position I loved as a tenured full professor to go back to the land. I led by example. Vanishingly few followed. I’m reminded of the prescient words attributed to American existential psychologist Rollo May: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” (He also wrote a book about his “departure.”)
Second, Dr. McPherson (a) initiated the “Nature Bats Last” (how true!—what a brilliant name for a web site!) web site, (b) has created a file that reports research regarding climate change, (c) has produced educational videos, (d) has written a book that expresses his views (and another one with Carolyn Baker), and (e) gives speeches here and there (including Europe) to inform the public, both as to the results of current climate change research, and his view as to what one should do in response to those research results—his short answer to that matter being “Only Love Remains.” That is, Prof. McPherson is one of those rare scientists to have the “guts” to go beyond the realm of science per se, and make a recommendation as to how one should respond to those research findings.
In short, McPherson reached a point in his life when he decided that he needed to do something with his life that was useful. He therefore (with his wife) (a) changed his way of life, (b) began to read extensively in the climate science literature, (c) undertook an effort to educate others as to what he had learned, and (d) also made known his opinion as to how one should respond to what is occurring with Earth’s atmosphere: “We [he and his wife] are committed to working with other members of our human community as we muddle through a future characterized by collapse on all fronts, economic, environmental, and climatic included.”
What could be a more sensible way to respond to the likelihood of our imminent demise as a species?! Yet how many climate scientists (of which McPherson is not, as he would admit) have responded in a way comparable to the way that Guy McPherson has?! Frankly, I know of not a single one! (Which may merely reveal my ignorance, of course!)
Of the many examples that could be given who have not (apparently, at least), let me here “pick on” Gifford H. Miller, a professor in Colorado University-Boulder’s department of geological sciences and associate director of its Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. I “pick on” specifically a recent article by him—but only because it is one that I encountered just a short time ago.
In his article Miller makes the interesting comment that:
We often think of glaciers as efficient erosive agents, carving great fiords and leaving sheer valley walls as evidence of their passing. But ice is a passive-aggressive character. While ice flowing in confined valleys does indeed erode efficiently, glaciers occupying relatively flat landscapes in cold terrain are exceptional preservation agents, capable of preserving even the most delicate features of the landscape for millennia. The potential for this passive behavior to aid in understanding the nature of current warming has been recognized only recently.
He then proceeds to discuss how: He and his students collected “clumps of moss coming out from under the ice margins” on which they were walking on Baffin Island, and then subjected the samples collected to radiocarbon dating.
Earlier in his article Miller had stated: “We need tools that allow us to evaluate the state of climate well before we had thermometers in place.” My response to this claim: WHY do we need them?! As a climate scientist, how can you, for example, not be aware of the NASA graph?
How can you not know (as the above graph shows) that the 400 ppm level of CO2 has been passed, and that:
The last time [about 800,000 years ago!] “there was this much [i.e., a 400 ppm level] carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere, modern humans didn’t exist. Megatoothed sharks prowled the oceans, the world’s seas were up to 100 feet higher than they are today, and the global average surface temperature was up to 11°F [i.e., about 6° C] warmer than it is now.”
The fact that the 400 ppm point has been passed means, of course, that the atmosphere “should” be several degrees C warmer now than it now is—and is likely to become much warmer at some point in the future. So warm, in fact, that our species is rendered extinct!
Given that strong possibility, Dr. Miller, where is your “survival extinct”?! Why do you find it so difficult to realize that doing further research regarding global warming is POINTLESS?! And that rather than doing so, you should follow the lead of Guy McPherson.
Here I had been led to believe that ours is the most intelligent of all species! How, then, does one explain (a) how we humans have gotten ourselves into our current predicament? And how, also, (b) does one explain why individuals who do know the answer to that question (such as you, Dr. Miller), demonstrate so little intelligence in responding to that answer?!
Puck, in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer-Night’s Dream,” evidently had it right:
Lord, what fools these mortals be!