In light of the story I posted here yesterday concerning the melting of the glaciers around Mt. Everest--including stark photographic evidence--I was surprised to find that a new poll released by the Pew Research Center reveals that fewer and fewer Americans see solid evidence of global warming. In April 2008, 44% of Americans saw climate change as an important issue; that number dropped to 35% by October 1, 2009. This is an alarming development for three reasons.
- First of all, we've become such a media-driven society that if the story isn't on our corporate-controlled news sources, we lose focus, and the topic fades from view. Media-generated ADD. Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was released in January, 2006, at the Sundance Film Festival, and later picked up 2 Oscars. In October, 2007, Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Peace Prize, partly due to the success of the film. That's called buzz, and because we're buzz-addicted, Americans were still concerned in 2008 about those belching smokestacks that kept showing up in their nightmares--and they had a film that dramatized their concern, and the Pew figures reflected the fact that global warming was on our radar. But that's yesterday's news. And the Pew figures now reflect that as well.
- Second, it means the bad guys are currently winning, or manipulating the media more effectively than the good guys. Accepting the facts of global warming involves accepting a methodology--empiricism--that if applied to other hot-button topics like, say, the age of the earth or the beginning of the universe, would embarrass a large segment of the conservative power base in this country. As long as conservatives can divert attention from the results of honest scientific research, they gain ground.
- That climate change is causing the glaciers in Tibet to dry up will directly impact human rights both in Tibet and in India. When water supplies are endangered, particularly in population centers like India, administrative policies regarding the distribution of water become politically charged and water becomes a bargaining tool. The UN currently does not recognize in its definition of refugees an "environmental refugee," but it will eventually have to address this issue, particularly in the light of this latest poll finding. (China is already deeply aware of hydro-politics, as I pointed out in an earlier post. One of my Tibetan friends whose family lives in eastern Tibet has been told that within several years the village where he grew up and where his family still lives will be under water due to the dams that are currently being built by the Chinese. No provisions are being made to relocate these Tibetans; they will be, in effect, environmental refugees.)
Awareness is the first step toward speaking truth to power . . . it's a cliche, I know, but one that has truth behind it.