Anti-science: a global threat

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

This year’s California wildfire season has been one of the most destructive ever, with nearly 1.7 million acres of land burned. To make matters worse, torrential rains are now causing flash floods that are trapping people in its homes and cars. With no natural barriers in the way, the only salvation for those stranded are the deployed water rescue teams.

We like to think that as humans, we are at the mercy of the elements, that whatever mother nature throws at us we must take in stride, because we have no say in the matter. This idea stems from the earliest days of human civilization, when we really did have to defend ourselves against storms and floods that were no fault of our own.

Today’s reality is very different, so we need to discard the notion that the weather is some intangible event. Storms, wildfires, and other phenomena are all products of our environment, one that we have continuously destroyed through wasteful consumerism and destructive business practices. From dumping industrial waste into the rivers to leveling the Amazon Rainforest, there really is no limit to the damage we can do. As a consequence, we are hit with harsher natural disasters, ones that take human lives.

Scientists have warned us ceaselessly that we are fast approaching the climate collapse, and it seems that we have already passed the point of no return. The question now is not how we can fix the planet; it’s how we can lessen the impact. We’ve all heard about how we can make a difference through our personal habits, and while it’s hard to stay consistent — I know I struggle with it — we should still try. Small sacrifices, aggregated across large populations, can lead to some legitimate good.

But it’s hard to mobilize masses, because there’s a systemic failure in our nation, and it is the prevalence of anti-science.

Greed and corruption are motivating forces for turning a blind eye to abhorrent acts, and the current government is very open about their blatant disregard for global warming and other threats to our planet. We see this at the highest level of government, with Trump having not only withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords, but also saying on multiple occasions that he doesn’t believe in global warming.

We see this with other politicians, and it’s always straight denial, or at least some serious doubt. Many of them even try to actively disprove climate change, such as when Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) brought a snowball into the Senate chamber, using the fact that it was cold outside to "disprove" global warming. Now obviously, these politicians are not simply stupid or irrational — at least, I hope not. They’re bankrolled by big corporations to protect companies from environmental regulations; the cheaper and dirtier the methods, the greater the profits. We see the same reasoning with gun control, where the solution is never to bolster restrictions.

Willfully ignorant politicians are only part of the problem. What’s even more troubling is that there are people who wholeheartedly believe that climate change is false and that there’s nothing wrong with the planet after all. Unlike other ridiculous theorists (such as the flat-earthers), these everyday climate change deniers pose a serious threat because they will do everything within their power to upend established and empirically proven scientific thought.

There’s the old saying about never debating stupid people because they will just drag you down to their level and beat you there. Therefore, avoiding these people at all costs seems like a sensible thing to do. They do their thing and we stick to our enlightened realm of scientific fact rather than their domain of illogical, ideologically driven fiction.

Yet much like those who spread hate speech online, the only way to combat these people is to continue engaging with them. We cannot push all the climate change deniers off our platforms because thanks to the wonders of modern technology, they will just find each other and create an echo chamber. Rather, we have to continue to combat their anti-science perspectives with sound arguments, no matter how painful it may be.

People are entitled to their own opinions, even when it comes to objective facts. It’s fine to disagree on something, as long as you do so for a legitimate reason. Depending on your ethics, getting rich, seizing power, or satisfying your own ideology may be sound motives. If that’s the case, then please do so in more environmentally friendly ways, ones that recognize the legitimacy of global warming. If, on the other hand, you find such motivations despicable, then speak out against it. Climate change deniers, like other dangerous minorities, are only prevalent because we do not do enough to rebuke them, as they thrive off of our apathy.

Just because the people in charge are myopic and gridlocked does not mean we have to be as well. It’s not good enough to simply fight against climate change in a physical sense; we also have to fight along an ideological front, discrediting all those ideologies that undermine the gravity of the situation. So next time you see someone openly denying climate change, say something — the future might depend on it.