A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Bull with a Broken Leg: Global Warming for Farmers

I grew up on a farm and in a farming community.  I was steeped in pragmatism and frugality from birth.  Farmers tend to be good at getting by.  Who needs some new fangled piece of equipment when we could just fix up the old one with a little duct tape, bailing wire and elbow grease?  New ideas need to be proven before they are accepted and need to be proven in the real world.  Any farmer likely knows from experience some plans which sound good on paper are disaster in the real world because it is exceptionally difficult to take into account every possible variable. 

So, it is not surprising some farmers and pragmatists of other walks of life find Global Warming (also known as Climate Change) difficult to accept.  I understand the thinking.  It goes something like: “Weather is always wacky.  A few storms and droughts are no proof.  I’ll believe it when I see it and seeing it is going to take more than temperamental Mother Nature.” 

But, I learned some things lately which I thought might be helpful in this discussion.  I hesitate to say where I learned these things.  Words like MOOC are not likely to score any points with the older generation of farmers and pragmatists.  So, I’ll just say here is a link for those interested. 

I learned a bit about the science behind Climate Change theories.  Listening to some media sources one would think the science amounts to temperatures are going up, C02 is going up, our burning of fossil fuels emits CO2 therefore we are causing the temperatures to go up.  There is a lot more to it than that, much of which I don’t understand, I am sure.  But just as an example,  CO2 emitted in the burning of fossil fuels has different composition than than other sources of CO2. So scientists can differentiate and measure how much CO2 originates from fossil fuels and how much comes from other sources.  Scientists can also use ice cores to determine a history of temperature over thousands of years.  Some of the science being used has come from the military as they researched how to build heat seeking missiles.  Many scientists, many disciplines, and many sources go into the understanding of Global Warming.  We are not talking about just an educated guess. 

Any scientists worth listening to will admit there is always a chance they are wrong.  As will any theologians, or farmers, or doctors, or …people in general.   Certainty is rarely a sign of wisdom.  But, it seems unwise to reject science just because there is a chance it might be wrong.  Science brings automobiles, refrigerators, medecine, and countless other realities of our lives.  Besides, what if the scientists are right?  The stakes are high here.  If scientists are right and we do nothing to change how we use fossil fuels the results will be catastrophic.  If you are in the pen with a bull who has never before acted aggressive, you still keep an eye on that bull because he is really big and he could seriously mess you up if he decided to take you on.  You especially keep an eye on that bull if someone tells you they did something which might have ticked the bull off.  In fact, at that point you might carry a big stick or decided to wait a while before going into the pen.   Scientists are telling us there is a chance Mother Nature is ticked off (metaphorically speaking, of course).  Farmers know better than most what Mother Nature is capable of.  It just makes sense to take precautions.

Especially, it makes sense to take precautions when those precautions would be good for us even if the scientists are wrong.  There is a limited supply of fossil fuels.  Eventually we will have to make changes anyway.  Working to reduce wastefulness in our society ought to appeal to pragmatists. Reducing air pollution is a good thing.  Reducing dependence on foreign oil is probably wise as well.

If these things are all so practical why all the fuss and fighting over Global Warming?  Well, you know how a bull with a limp has a broken leg if you are buying and a stubbed toe if you are selling?  The fossil fuel industry and all those who benefit from this industry are selling.  It is to their benefit to make sure we keep arguing over the reality of Global Warming rather than making practical changes, which make sense for the world at large, but might hurt their pocket book. 

The chance the scientists are wrong is not worth gambling on anymore than it would be worth the gamble to buy a bull with a broken leg.  If there is a chance our actions now are going to have disastrous consequences for our grandchildren it seems like some precautions are in order.   It's the sensible thing to do.

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