Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Face of Impending Doom

Got your attention with that title, didn't I?

Actually, it comes from a young lady who dances with us on Friday evenings. The "Face of Impending Doom" is the deer-in-the-headlights look of sheer terror she wears when she suddenly realizes she'll be asked for a dance by some partner she knows will zip her around the floor, dragging her through patterns she doesn't know. The "Happy Face," on the other hand, is the thin-lipped, clenched-teeth smile that says, "Oh, well, it's only a three-minute dance, so I may as well make the best of it!"

But there's another set of meanings we can apply to the Two Faces of Katy, and they relate to the ongoing debate over global climate change. Yesterday's release of the long-awaited scientific report which concludes that human activity is "very likely" the cause of global warming highlights the two faces of the climate change argument: The Face of Impending Doom is worn by those who see climatic catastrophe in our future if we don't mend our ways now; the Happy Face is worn by those who maintain that current global warming is only a phase of normal global climate variations which are measured in thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. The Face of Impending Doom points to the cautionary movie The Day After Tomorrow; the Happy Face says things are really okay, and warns of the economic collapse of life as we know it if actions necessary to fight global warming are taken now.

Who's right? Were I a betting man, I'd put my money on the hard science behind yesterday's report. Even without scientific analysis, I think it beggars the imagination to think that the activities of billions of humans don't affect the environment. It's true: living is bad for your long-term health.

I'm reminded of a joke by the great Jewish comedian Myron Cohen, who told of a frail, skinny fellow who showed up at a lumber camp looking for a job. The head lumberjack just laughed at him and told him to go away, that he was obviously too weak for such a manly job. The man asked for a chance to prove himself, so the boss told him to take an axe and cut down a one-inch sapling. Slice, the man cut it with hardly an effort. The boss then told him to cut down a three-inch tree. Slice, and the tree was down. A six-inch tree. In seconds, the little man had it on the ground in pieces. Now the lumberjack took the man to a mighty, towering oak and told him to cut it down. The axe flew, and in minutes the huge tree was nothing more than stacked firewood. The lumberjack was amazed, and asked the little man where he had learned such skill with an axe. "In the Sahara Forest," the man replied. "You mean, the Sahara Desert," corrected the lumberjack. "Sure, now," said the man.

Yes, humans can drive climate change. It's happening. And the way to resolve it isn't by putting on either the Face of Impending Doom or the Happy's by putting on the Face of Resolve and doing what needs to be done.

Have a good weekend. Resolve to educate yourself about global climate change. And Katy, thanks for the use of your faces.


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