Camille paglia's take on Global Warming
Just wondering what your thoughts are on the global warming issue. Have you seen the Al Gore movie? Any thoughts on the current debate on climate science?
Oh, great, here comes the hornet's nest!
As a native of upstate New York, whose dramatic landscape was carved by the receding North American glacier 10,000 years ago, I have been contemplating the principle of climate change since I was a child. Niagara Falls, as well as the even bigger dry escarpment of Clark Reservation near Syracuse, is a memento left by the glacier. So is nearby Green Lakes State Park, with its mysteriously deep glacial pools. When I was 10, I lived with my family at the foot of a drumlin -- a long, undulating hill of murrain formed by eddies of the ancient glacier melt.
Geology and meteorology are fields that have always interested me and that I might well have entered, had I not been more attracted to art and culture. (My geology professor in college, in fact, asked me to consider geology as a career.) To conflate vast time frames with volatile daily change is a sublime exercise, bordering on the metaphysical.
However, I am a skeptic about what is currently called global warming. I have been highly suspicious for years about the political agenda that has slowly accrued around this issue. As a lapsed Catholic, I detest dogma in any area. Too many of my fellow Democrats seem peculiarly credulous at the moment, as if, having ground down organized religion into nonjudgmental, feel-good therapy, they are hungry for visions of apocalypse. From my perspective, virtually all of the major claims about global warming and its causes still remain to be proved.
Climate change, keyed to solar cycles, is built into Earth's system. Cooling and warming will go on forever. Slowly rising sea levels will at some point doubtless flood lower Manhattan and seaside houses everywhere from Cape Cod to Florida -- as happened to Native American encampments on those very shores. Human habitation is always fragile and provisional. People will migrate for the hills, as they have always done.
Who is impious enough to believe that Earth's contours are permanent? Our eyes are simply too slow to see the shift of tectonic plates that has raised the Himalayas and is dangling Los Angeles over an unstable fault. I began "Sexual Personae" (parodying the New Testament): "In the beginning was nature." And nature will survive us all. Man is too weak to permanently affect nature, which includes infinitely more than this tiny globe.
I voted for Ralph Nader for president in the 2000 election because I feel that the United States needs a strong Green Party. However, when I tried to watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" on cable TV recently, I wasn't able to get past the first 10 minutes. I was snorting with disgust at its manipulations and distortions and laughing at Gore's lugubrious sentimentality, which was painfully revelatory of his indecisive, self-thwarting character. When Gore told a congressional hearing last month that there is a universal consensus among scientists about global warming -- which is blatantly untrue -- he forfeited his own credibility.
Environmentalism is a noble cause. It is damaged by propaganda and half-truths. Every industrialized society needs heightened consciousness about its past, present and future effects on the biosphere. Though I am a libertarian, I am a strong supporter of vigilant scrutiny and regulation of industry by local, state and federal agencies. But there must be a balance with the equally vital need for economic development, especially in the Third World.
Here's a terrible episode from my region that made the news just last year. A bankrupt thermometer factory in Franklin Township, N.J., vacated its building in 1994 but ignored a directive to clean the premises of residual mercury toxins. There was a total failure of oversight and follow-through at the state and local levels. The result: In 2004, a daycare center opened in the renovated building and for two years subjected children and pregnant women to a dangerously high level of mercury vapors from the contaminated site.
The degree of permanent health effects on those children is still unknown. This kind of outrageous negligence should not be tolerated in a civilized nation.