For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws. Their behavior was brought to light when more than 1,000 emails, and some 3,500 additional files were published online, many of which boasted about how they suppressed hard questions about their data.
I have been writing about the impacts of energy on the economy, the environment, and public health since 1974. My career began as an educational and documentary filmmaker starting with this project: A Consumer Guide to the Energy Crisis (1974), a co-production of Prentice-Hall and the New York Daily News. Since the 1970s, I have written, directed, and produced numerous documentary films for Burns & Roe (engineers of utility-scale conventional and nuclear electric generating plants), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rural Electrification Administration (a division of the USDA). Although not an engineer or scientist by training, I am no stranger to the subject.
With respect to energy consumption and global climate change, it is hard to know where to begin. Shall we begin by talking about the hazards of coal starting with mining accidents … but by no means ending with slow agonizing deaths by black lung disease? Shall we talk about acid rain and the damage to North American forests, lakes, and streams? Or the Love Canal incident that drove hundreds of families from their homes after 21,000 tons of chemicals leached into their basements and groundwater? Or the oil slick that caused the Cuyahoga River to burst into flames? Or the incidence rate of cancer in the general population attributable to industrial pollutants? Or the 123 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf destroyed by Hurricane Katrina? Or the geopolitics of oil?
The history of corporate piggish and pigheadedness does not even begin to cover the global climate change debate.
I am tired … tired of corporate interests that put profits over public welfare, tired of privateers who pollute and pillage, and tired of climate change deniers and the want-it-now crowd lacking forethought as to the consequences of profligate consumption on future generations. I am tired of mendacities, false conspiracies, and every contrivance to confuse and confound the climate change debate.
These days, everyone is an expert with an opinion; but there is no prerequisite obligation to read a book or research a subject before blathering. Talk is cheap, and the Internet is cheapest where free confers a presumptive right to engage in free-for-alls. The Internet has not fulfilled its grand utopian vision as a repository of knowledge and scholarship; it has merely accelerated the spread of ignorance through viral messages and cyber-terrorism. If “the best lack all conviction” there will always be open-minded neophytes and dilatants willing to be suckered by swift boaters and hackers engaged in criminal acts parading as heroism. When cyber-crooks poke holes in the dike to trap fingers and hands, that is when they steal your wallet. Its called distraction, distraction, distraction.
My career rewarded me with a decent income, but there is no money, no glory, and all too often little sense of accomplishment in blogging. Why do we bother? Are we motivated by some overwhelming sense of mission and purpose? Or do we blog just to amuse and entertain ourselves? Why bother when you have to watch your back at every turn.
Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.