This weekend’s NY Times Magazine cover story is about the oft-quoted Freeman Dyson, a scientist who has come to embody the anti-climate change argument. The problem he presents is that he has typically been regarding as a leftist politically. Thus he’s quite the quagmire for global warming theorists because he feels as though it has been blown out of perspective; a dramatic departure from what one would assume his political and emotional leanings are. At 85 and after a brilliant career in the sciences, Dyson is in danger of being painted as a single issue mad scientist because of his feelings and the attention the global warming movement has garnered. He also seems old enough and personally comfortable enough not to really give a shit. It looks rather freeing quite honestly.
(He’s the opposite of my recollection of meeting Dr. Atkins at a dinner party just a couple of years before he passed away. When introduced to him I make the immature mistake of saying something like, “oh, the man behind the diet!” I can tell you that this is not how he wanted to be remembered. But I digress…)
I happen to believe that humans are having a significant impact on climate. But I wouldn’t want to debate Dyson. I’m not equipped to have this scientific conversation but I do have eyes, senses and a memory. I can see that my immediate world looks different than I remember as a kid. Trees struggling to determine when to bud, geese hanging in for prolonged winter stretches, fucked up storm patterns and fewer snow days. Things are, well, different. It’s difficult to determine who is in the right scientifically but frankly I think the argument itself is a waste of time. For some reason the very topic of global warming sparks debate and polarizes an otherwise important discussion.
The biggest boost to green living and the climate change movement would be to stop focusing on it. To steer the debate away from scientific theories of rising oceans and dying polar bears and focus it on the tangible aspects of the problem. Asthma, increased cancer rates and the deteriorating health of our children can be linked to poor air quality from dirty manufacturing processes, a poisonous food supply, backwards farming practices, the disappearance of important ecologies, and more. These are similar, if not identical, agents of global warming. Sick children are hard to argue against. Nothing against the polar bears but my marketing instincts tell me that Rush Limbaugh, Al Gore, Kim Jong Il and Freeman Dyson would all agree that we have compromised our children’s ability to live natural and healthy lives.
Sometimes it not what you say. It’s just how you say it.