I read this op-ed in the local paper about “local” celebrity, writer, activist, climate change careerist, Bill McKibben that really pissed me off. First, let me attack the article itself. It was basically three columns of some middle aged guy gushing over McKibben and some talk he had given. It all sounded rather snooty to me (both the tone of the piece, and the talk it was describing). No one of any political/social/economic stripe wants to be talked down to. It honestly reminded me of Gerald in the prius South Park episode. But enough of that.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I know I’ll be saying it again in the future: the whole “climate change” discussion frequently sets off so many red flags in my head. I’m not talking about the science. If anything, the science is the ONLY reasonable part of it. I’m talking about the types of people who go off about it, and the ways in which they persistently argue their points. So much of the talk is alarmist. I hate alarmist. I tune it out, and I think a lot of other people do as well. If your message is clear, logical and pure in motive, I’ll listen to you, and there would be no reason for you to be alarmist. Being alarmist (as so many in the climate change discussion are) really makes me think all you want to do is push something (an ethic/agenda/moral code/philosophy/etc). I abhor pushers like that. Probably more than most people, but that’s just my personality. I believe myself and others are inherently reasonable people. We’re all reasonable people (deep down, I really do believe that). If you’ve got a message, show us facts, let us make our own conclusions. Even if you don’t think people will understand something, you have to treat them as if they will. It’s not fair to talk down to people, or ride expensive educational credentials all over their doorsteps.
But that’s the kind of thing people and organizations in the climate change realm do…all the time. It’s like doing that is part of their handbook. That and guilt-tripping people. All I ever read about these people doing are things like organizing rallies, organizing protests, giving talks, writing books, lobbying politicians, etc. You know what, all of those things are great, but they’re absolute bullshit. They’re bullshit because they’re easy to do, and they don’t actually change anything. You think climate change is a major issue? You want to do something about it to change it? Then you’re going to actually need to do some real work. Not talk. Work. One of the best things I ever watched was the documentary “Cool It” by Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg. He never denied there was a problem, and he didn’t just sit around talking about it. If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve said he was an engineer. He came at the issue with actual tangible, and more importantly, realistic solutions. Not a lot of pie-in-the-sky talk. Too bad you don’t see his name thrown around as much as “McKibben” or “Gore”.
And now for the last bit. Let’s just assume for argument’s sake that climate change is real, and it really is a problem we need to deal with. What kind of problem is it? Well, there’s a major component of energy usage/transport/creation that appears to be a big player. Ok, so we’ve got this energy problem, where we’re using too much, from a bad source, inefficiently, or whatever. How do you think it’s best to solve this problem? Sounds like something politicians and writers should tackle! Oh wait, that’s asinine! This is a technological problem at heart. Yes, there are tertiary economic and social concerns, but deep down, it’s an issue of technology. You know who solves technical problems? Engineers. They have real solutions. They solve real problems every day. They work extremely hard doing it too. I’ll put my money on them.
But you know something, you don’t have to be an engineer to solve these problems, or take real, tangible steps. Human beings are inherently good problem solvers. Think about steps you could take, things you could build, things that would make a difference. So instead of writing about climate change, and what we “need” to do, how about actually doing something? Oh right, that’s hard.
I’m running energy experiments every single day. At my kitchen table nonetheless. Are they grand in scale? No. Do they help me to evolve my grasp and understanding of the difficulties and problems with energy? Absolutely. I can’t right now, but maybe I’ll be able to use that understanding at some point to make a meaningful contribution. A meaningful change. But even if I never did, and all I ever end up gleaning is a very detailed understanding of energy creation/usage/development (and possibly powering some of my own gizmos), you know what, that’s going further to solve the problem than all the writers, activists and politicians out there.
To close, I’ll say that I’ve got nothing against McKibben. I’m just tired of all the attention being paid to thinkers, instead of the doers.