Friday, May 14, 2010

get it right: it's not the planet that needs saving

such big hands, such a wee planet - this kind of message is everywhere

I know that 'save the planet' is a simple-to-understand slogan, but it really gives me the irrits, as I've written before, because it massively distorts the issue, and over-emphasises, as usual, the influence of our own humble species. As if we could be capable of destroying the whole planet. Then again, give us time...
I've quoted before, somewhere, a New Scientist article which sums up my position, but I'm too disorganised to find it and quote it again, or to find the blog post I wrote about it. The point, briefly, is that our planet is not in danger from AGW. We are, of course, and many other species are, but certainly not the whole planet. Climate change is after all, the norm when we look at the long history of Earth, and climate change has been the main factor, most likely, in the extinction of most of the 99.9%  or so of species that are extinct, just as it has been a major factor in the mass speciations that have occurred following mass extinctions. Most species don't last too long, having sprung up and died out under particular, peculiar climatic conditions. This shouldn't be too difficult a concept to get our heads around, so why the 'save the planet' blather?
My current irritation is triggered by a couple of observations. Yesterday, a news item highlighted the fact that a certain brand of disposable bags advertised as biodegradable haven't been breaking down as they should. The bags have 'save the planet' written on them, as if to underline the absurdity of it all. It's common enough, as you can see. Also yesterday I bought a copy of The Monthly for the first time in - well, months - and Robert Manne had a little piece excoriating Tony Abbott. It's generally a worthwhile piece, but on Abbott's AGW denialism, Manne scratches his head and writes this:
... Abbott must know that if the climate scientists are right, there is a chance that the very future of the Earth is in peril.
Yes, I know, we must make allowances for hyperbole, and we should be kind and take 'the Earth' to mean 'the biosphere', but this sort of stuff has a kind of alarmist populism about it that really grates with me. Particularly because so many kids are parroting it. Sure it gets them in, but it also scares them needlessly. Let's get the message in proportion. The truth is alarming enough as it is, and of course a much more useful guide to action.

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