Sunday, March 18, 2007

Getting Educated about Global Warming

As the debate widens over global warming (I absolutely refuse to use capital letters for this issue), I find myself in the uneasy position of having one foot in both camps. On the one hand, it's perfectly logical to me to assume that man as a creature has been less than responsible in caring for this planet. On the other, I see absolutely no reason to presume that man is entirely to blame for the current warming trends, and even less reason to teach that presumption in our schools.

Consider the fact that Woody has grown up in and around Los Angeles pretty much all his life. You can't grow up near a city of this size and not understand the impact that we have on our environment. Since I happen to be a life-long asthmatic I can tell you that whenever the atmosphere immediately surrounding the city is anything less than healthy (which is most of the time), I find myself at greater risk of not being able to draw a full breath. I've battled bronchitis and pneumonia from childhood. What's interesting, however, is that recent years have given me a healthier set of lungs overall. Strict emission controls that were implemented back in the 70's and 80's are paying off now. We haven't had health alerts due to air pollution anywhere near approaching the scale we saw as late as, say, 1985. Thus my asthma has been under control for several years now, and seems to flare up more from allergies than any other cause today.

Do I agree with those emission controls that were implemented? You bet I do. In this case it was easy to see the corollary between our manufacturing arrogance and the immediate effect it was having on our air quality. We even banned backyard incinerators in order to make our air a little more healthful.

But, of course, we're not there yet. Not by a long shot. As a society of commuters we are surgically joined to our vehicles. We really can't get along without them, at least not yet. The very fact that most of us need those vehicles in order to provide livings for our families will keep us firmly attached to those vehicles for years to come. It really has little to do with whether (as Al Gore insists) our continual driving of these carbon-spewing anti-climate machines of doom is obliterating the polar ice caps. That's disturbing and all, but pales in comparison with our immediate need to feed, clothe, and house our families.

On the other hand, and perhaps ironically, I still get upset whenever I drive behind someone who tosses his cigarette butt out of the window right in front of me. I'd take his license plate number and phone it in, but I suspect the local cops are a tad busy keeping tabs on all the sex offenders who refuse to tell people where they're living. The last thing they want to do right now is go after some smoker who never cleans out his car's ash tray (if, indeed, the car even has one).

I teach my Woodyettes to pick up after themselves in public. They've gotten so environmentally conscious that way that I have to occasionally remind them not to pick up after anyone else. One never knows just what kind of germs they might encounter, you see, and I'd rather they either learn to "tsk, tsk" at the problem, or carry a pair of rubber gloves around with them if they really want to clean up someone else's mess.

Then I pack them up in our gas-burner and drive them to church, play groups, field trips, family visits, and goodness knows what else.

(Speaking of field trips, if "An Inconvenient Truth" were to come to our local IMAX, do you think the screen would be big enough to contain Al Gore? Me, neither.)

So I'm conflicted about global warming. I don't really want it to be taught in our schools because public educators have a way of making these issues become a religion unto themselves, just as they have with evolution. Rather than teach it as a theory, they make it an absolute fact that entertains no other possibilities. This they will do (and have already done in many cases) with global warming. Thus they will instill in our children a sense of dread and guilt that no amount of reasoned discussion will ever overcome.

Wonderwood Academy will not be teaching Al Gore's version of global warming. And "global warming" will never be capitalized, unless rules of grammar (not Al Gore) insist.

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