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Feb. 14, 2010

Snowpocalypse Now

by Jesse Medalia Strauss

Click to enlarge images

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you live anywhere within continental United States, you are no doubt informed of the rippling snowstorm spreading across the country. Some citizens even experiencing snow for the first time, like many Texas residents who had the pleasure of receiving a whole foot of the stuff dumped on to their unsuspecting roads and houses. In Washington, DC, where I live the majority of the year, we experienced the worst snowstorm in 200 years. A storm powerful enough to shut down the roads, metro, schools and even the United States government for a whole week. A storm so intense, the district could not start plowing until four days in, making navigation and travel excruciatingly difficult. At American University, where I attend, not only were classes canceled for a week, but part of our dining hall collapsed. Luckily no one was hurt.

So from a crop freeze in Florida, to record high snowfalls across the country, to the crippling of our government, people, and by people I mean several conservative talk pundits and the sheep that blindly follow them, are starting to doubt climate change. Well not so much doubt, they’ve been doubting climate change ever since the airing of the first trailer of Inconvenient Truth. It is more accurate to say that they are delivering the rest of world, the demographic that is more in touch with reality, a very snowy and unwarranted “I told you so.”

At first glance, this is puzzling. Certainly an abrupt spike in weather phenomenon that is unprecedented in recent history bares some evidence that our climate is in fact changing. Scientists have stated over and over again that the shift in the Earth’s atmosphere will result in a higher frequency of storms that will become increasingly more severe. But unfortunately we made a colossal mistake. Just as our movement started to gain momentum beyond a few local farmers and recycling freaks, and evidence of our planets transformation began to take real form and reach broad consensus, Al Gore coined the term Global Warming.

Environmentalists have a lot to thank Al Gore for. An Inconvenient Truth rallied and educated millions of people and forced scientists and politicians to come out and address problems facing the environment. The film lifted the cause of a few commune living hippies and dismally funded lobby groups up onto its shoulders and into the national stage of conversation. In those respects, the film did its job flawlessly. Al Gore got people talking about the environment, and when people talk, they get interested and want to know more. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is operating on a budget larger than ever before, companies all over the world are spending millions of dollars investing in fuel-efficient cars and green technology. Mayor Bloomberg’s Plan NYC is going to plant a million new trees, sort through New York’s trash to find recyclables, require all schools to launch recycling programs and greenify building codes. Environmental Science is slowly becoming part of the core curriculum across the country. Environmental Filmmaking is now a major in universities everywhere. Even the set of 24 has gone green with digital scripts and carbon offsets.

A lot is being done, and the efforts of millions upon millions of people who are working as hard as they can to leave the Earth better than they found it are quite often overlooked. However, as much as we are indebted to Al Gore for legitimizing our movement, he also made a crucial mistake. You see Al Gore is a democrat and unfortunately being a democrat he is cursed with the inability to name things well. Lets look at some of the names Republicans have come up with, The Patriot Act, a law that limited civil liberties. The Internet Freedom Act, a bill that would allow companies to control the speed and content of the Internet based on how much you pay them. The Pro Life movement has a great name, hell, even the Tea Party is kind of cleverly dubbed in its own way.

Democrats have Cap and Trade, Gas Tax, and Single Payer Healthcare System to name a few. Doesn’t have quite the same ring. Al Gore decided to call the shift in Earth’s climate global warming. And although there is legitimacy in that name. Sunlight is being trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by fossil fuels, which are heating it up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the weather we experience on the ground is warmer. In fact a melting ice cap will result in colder ocean temperatures. And even though the last two winters were some of the warmest on record, the fact that global warming and not climate change is the common terminology, every time Sean Hannity has to ware a coat to get to work he can later go on TV and call Al Gore’s theory “hysterical.” The frightening thing about that is people believe him, a lot of people, and now every time the weather is colder than usual or snow falls in areas where it shouldn’t be falling, the entire green movement is undermined.

The environmental movement is asking for our civilization to sacrifice a lot. The way we get around, the way we eat, our entertainment, one could say a whole culture is being called into question. We sometimes forget the scope of what we demand from our fellow citizens to save this Earth. That is why there really is no room for error. We cannot afford to have our statements taken out of context, we cannot afford to be dishonest, and we have to always remember the more disorganized we look, the more we falter, the less legitimized we appear to be and the less people are willing to take us seriously and perform the sacrifices the world desperately needs them to do.

Be Skeptical, Be Critical, Take Nothing On Faith.

All the best,
Jesse M. S.

About Jesse Medalia Strauss

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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