Thursday, June 15, 2006

you must atone some

My last quarter of graduate school was not exactly the best time of my life. Sensing that I was on my way out, I had slowly started to drift away from all of my classmates and labmates, and they, in turn, had done the same. This is not unusual, even under the best of circumstances. It is some sort of subconscious weening in expectation of separation.

But these were not the best of circumstances. And yet that last quarter turned out better than I expected. Even though so much of that time reminds me of turmoil and despair, it also makes me think of the concept of salvation. I am not sure what compelled me, the first time, to walk to the library. Unlike a lot of students, I was never a big fan of camping out in the library for hours on end. For one thing, this was before the days of the iPod, and a tape in a Walkman was not going to keep my ears happy for much longer than an hour. I was always someone who could concentrate in my room if I was in the zone. So, heading to the university library really was inexplicable to me.

A part of me went there because I did not know what else to do. The music was not helping. It felt like every song I played on my stereo was some confirmation that my world was dwindling down the drain. Reading novels or poetry was equally dangerous; I am far too susceptible to fits of melancholy. Turning to friends just was not my style at the time. I am not sure it is my style now either, but it definitely was not my style then.

So I found myself a cubby in the library, and grabbed a stack of the latest journals. I made certain not to pick up any journals related to my actual area of study. At the time, I was taking one class that was not related to my actual area of study, and this was a graduate course on climatology. The first few classes gave me a terrible sense of inadequacy, as I could hardly understand what the professor was discussing. But somewhere into it, we started talking about carbon dating of ice cores, and plots of carbon dioxide and temperature over time, and suddenly, I was intrigued. And so, the stack of journal in my cubby were not always comprehensible. But I always gave it a shot if the subject matter even vaguely interested me. And I felt a great sense of triumph when I managed to suss out what the journal article was meant to convey.

All of this came back to me because MG, some friends and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth tonight. It is all too raw in my head right now to really write about, but I urge everyone to see this movie. Saheli invited me to go see it on Saturday, but since I am an idiot and had left my cell phone in my car all weekend, I had to wait until tonight. Then again, given my extreme laziness, I likely would have driven to Berkeley to see it with Saheli, and then felt like a completely jerk as I drove back, emitting unnecessary greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Saheli had the positive reaction of wanting to take some personal responsibility to help curb the coming crisis. I had a much more negative reaction. While a few reviews of the movie have mentioned that global warming is undisputed in the scientific community, what I have not seen asserted is exactly what infuriated me. While global warming and the unprecedented and unnatural rise of greenhouse gases is undisputed in the scientific community, in the popular media, it's about 50/50 undisputed vs. hmmm, might just be a speculative theory. That is about the time that I nearly threw my empty box of Junior Mints at the big screen.

It is perhaps a bit ironic that Al Gore, who has spent the majority of his life in public service, managed to cause me to completely loathe all politicians. Oh yes, b*tches- the Democrats can kiss my a$$ as well. Just this week, an NPR piece on windpower uncovered that f*cking Ted Kennedy opposes the installation of windmills in the Cape Cod area, because he owns property in the area and I suppose does not want windmills sullying his view. Ted Kennedy, supposedly a total leftie in the Democratic party. That is pathetic.

And go ahead and call me a pinko, but I really do agree with a recent assertion that perhaps many of the ills of our current political system can be tied to how funding is provided to politicians. It is really high time to get rid of all the lobbies. In a nifty coincidence, I had just caught David Sirota on The Colbert Report last night. When I walked out of the theater, the two pieces seemed to fit together just the way Africa and South America clearly did at one point. Al Gore has been bellowing about the environment for a long time. I can attest to this because I grew up in a state where presidential hopefuls used to show up a lot to run in the primaries. The running joke with Gore was that he may have actually had no interest in getting elected. He was that dedicated to delivering his global warming and environmental lectures to anyone who would listen.

Yet the government has done very little, and has wasted a lot of years trying to turn global warming into a theory instead of a fact. One of the main drivers of this inertia has to be the power of the oil and gas lobbies, the car lobbies, and all the other bullsh*t lobbies out there, keeping politicians from representing their constituents and actually doing the right thing. Why are we allowing this to continue? If we started using public funds for campaigns, and got rid of lobbies, we could focus on the science. I remember reading about those ice cores and it is amazing how much quality data have been collected from a tiny little sliver of a glacier. And if I can figure that out from taking one class, it seems like politicians should have grasped this years ago, from the first day Gore was belly-aching about it. And maybe then the media would also be released for the clutches of lobbies and the political system, and start communicating correctly about the gravity of global warming to the public.

If I was being less cynical, I suppose I might attribute the problem to prioritization. I would not be able to crucify them for that much, as that would make me a hypocrite. When I say it is about prioritization, it is in the how of priotization. Do you prioritize based on what is easiest? Or do you prioritize based on what is most urgent? I can say with great certainty that most of the time, I prioritize what is easiest. And I can say with almost equal certainty that politicians seem to do the same thing. Hmm- so I guess that is cynical too.

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