The Human Race: We're No. 1?
by Alex Carnevale
As a species, we think we're important. If something's happening to the planet, we probably caused it, even if there's not much in the way of evidence that we did. This hysteria has emerged in places where disaster strikes, and it would rear its ugly head even more prominently if the fight was brought to the places where rich folks live, like New York and Los Angeles, instead of New Orleans and Myanmar, which are, I believe, about fifteen minutes apart by automobile.
Maybe it's the simple proliferation of mass media everywhere, but the news these days is getting a little bit weird. 34 rays die in a zoo. Feces murder cheetahs. Humans walking on all fours. Drudge seems to be partial to Obama. Bugs are breathing mercury. Consider the recent events in the middle of our country, and it's easy to think: the earth is trying to tell us something important.
making the debate fair
I am what is called a hard Darwinian. You may have seen me being made fun of in Exposed. I believe fitness for survival overwhelms all concerns. If the planet wants us gone, I am prepared to accept that we are not good enough for the planet. And while the mass of human accomplishment towards civilization is impressive, any world in which a film the caliber of Iron Man is a smash hit is not one I want to live in.
We are still primitive ones. Some of haven't even accepted evolution. I'm not prepared to say that we deserve to live at the expense of anything else.
The human species will end at some point. Whether it happens in the next ten years or the next ten thousand is a minute difference to the planet we inhabit.
Have we made changes to the earth that could cause its climate to also change? Of course. Is there any good way of reversing this change or at least slowing it? The better question is, what would an attempt that might or might not be successful cost?
"In Dreams" - Filter (mp3)
But if something can be done about global warming, these people ask, shouldn't we at least try?
This line of thinking ignores the cost of doing "something" about global warming. The cost is high, even higher than you would think. The world's biggest Roy Spencer fan I am not, but this seems incontrovertible:
What worries me is the widespread misperception that we can do anything substantial about carbon emissions without seriously compromising economic growth. To be sure, forcing a reduction in CO2 emissions will help spur investment in new energy technologies. But so does a price tag of $126 for a barrel of oil. Finding a replacement for carbon-based energy will require a huge investment of wealth, and destroying wealth is not a very good first step toward that goal.
When even the Republican candidate for president has in mind a draconian limit on carbon dioxide emissions for no particular reason, you know we have problems. McCain was taken to task by his own party on this issue, and the critique is damning:
The Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) estimates that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime like the one discussed in this speech would cause about a one-percent reduction in GDP within five years. In less abstract terms, under that projection, by 2014 something like 1 million people would lose their jobs and the average American family would have about $150 less to spend every month. The costs would ramp up dramatically from there. In short, it would cost a lot.
I know what you're saying: $150? That doesn't even get me an XBox. Hold on.
One, you can get an original XBox for $65.
Two, this idea is hubris. We believe we can control what happens, and that we're in charge. And we'll damage the quality of life for billions of people on that premise.
"The Wake" - Filter (mp3)
ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina, and it is spectacular. However, the area where, according to Department of Interior estimates, some 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside is much smaller and not necessarily as awe-inspiring. It would amount to the size of Dulles airport.
Question for McCain: Has South Carolina been ruined because it has an airport?
Most of the images of the proposed drilling area that people see on the evening news are misleading precisely because they tend to show the glorious parts of ANWR, even though that's not where the drilling would take place. Even when they position their cameras in the right location, producers tend to point them in the wrong direction. They point them south, toward the Brooks mountain range, rather than north, across the coastal plain where the drilling would be.
In summer, the coastal plain is mostly mosquito-plagued tundra and bogs. (The roughnecks at Prudhoe Bay joke that "life begins at 40" - because at 40 degrees, clouds of mosquitoes and other pests take flight from the ocean of puddles). In the winter, it reaches 70 degrees below zero (not counting wind chill, which brings it to 120 below) and is in round-the-clock darkness.
If he is even five percent right we should begin drilling immediately.
"I Keep Flowers Around" - Filter (mp3)
so much oil...mmmmm
As Victor Davis Hanson put it:
There is something pathetic about Americans begging the House of Saud to produce another 300,000-500,000 barrels of oil per day, while in mindless fashion repeating the mantra, “We can’t drill our way out of this problem” — as if anyone suggested absolute oil independence was the goal rather than more supply to deflate tight conditions that encourage speculation. Americans, who invented the oil industry, are beginning to resemble H.G. Wells’ Eloi in our refined paralysis.
Exploration and oil production are an issue that is absolutely explosive for Democrats, given their perennial resistance to ANWR, coastal and deep ocean drilling, tar sands, shale, liquid coal, and nuclear. And the irony is that their opposition to drilling — dismissing each potential find or field with the reductionist “it would be only 500,000 barrels,” “a mere million barrels,” or “just a few cents off a gallon of gas” — is classically illiberal to the point of either callousness or abject madness.
Amen. The "debate" over these issues is part of a larger problem: the two major candidates don't seem to know very much about economics, at all. As Karl Rove so brilliantly put it, "Messrs. Obama and McCain both reveal a disturbing animus toward free markets and success. It is uncalled for and self-defeating for presidential candidates to demonize American companies."
In the end, we may just be stupid enough to legislate ourselves into oblivion.
Fortunately, there is a hero who can redeem us. He is basically Keanu Reeves. He is the only man for whom resting comfortably on Angelina Jolie's bosom is more pleasure than hazard. He is here to save us.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
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