Sunday, July 29, 2018

Nat Rich blames it all on "human nature." Is he right?

In late July 2018, the New York Times Sunday Magazine announced that its August 5th issue would contain just one long article, a book-length investigation by reporter Nat Rich, titled "Our Coming Climate Issue: Losing Earth." The glossy elitist magazine has devoted an entire issue (plus advertisements for expensive cars and watches and luxury homes for the wealthy) to an important issue of concern to every nation on the planet, not just America.

The single-themed edition called "Losing Earth," looks at scientific discoveries and decisions made from 1979 to 1989 through the story of a former NASA scientist, James Hansen, who has a new book coming out in October titled "Sophie's Planet," a series of letters to his 20-something grand-daughter Sophie.
Nat centers his story on two white American Christian men, Rafe Pomerance, an environmental activist and former NASA scientist James Hansen, one of the first to warn Americans about the dangers of a climate change and global warming and a Greenhouse Earth.

But Nat places most of the blame on the failure of political leaders to stop greenhouse gases on "human nature." So it is true that we can lay all the blame on human nature, and not on anything else? Many readers around the world who will be eating up every word of Nat's book-in-progress "Losing Earth" will be wondering where the blame lies and many will be coming up with their own conclusion. Maybe it's not human nature. Maybe it's capitalism, maybe it's a corrupt political system, maybe it's a corrupt United Nations, maybe it's scientists in denial or scientists too much alarmed by things that cannot pin down to a science. We shall see what the fallout from Nat's risky venture into controversial issues like greenhouse gases ensues.
Nat told a TV reporter a few days before the story broke: "By 1979, there was a strong consensus within the scientific community about the nature of the problem. The fundamental science hasn’t really evolved since then. It’s only been refined really. There was no politicization of the issue throughout the decade. A number of prominent Republicans were leading the charge to insist on a major policy, and industry, which we now blame for much of our paralysis, had not turned against science or truth and if anything, especially in the early part of the decade, was engaged in trying to understand the problem and determine solutions. Over the course of the decade, the issue rose to major national attention and a process for a global treaty was in hand. We failed at the end of that to sign a binding agreement."
Why did things fall apart?
"Well, there’s sort of a simple political answer, a very narrow answer I suppose you could make which is that in the first George Bush administration, his chief of staff -- former governor of New Hampshire John Sununu who is an engineer, a Ph.D. -- was very skeptical about the science and he suspected that it was being used by a cabal of folks who wanted to suppress growth and economic advancement and all of that, and he managed to win an internal fight within that White House against action," Nat said. "That’s that’s kind of the most limited possible answer. That piece tells the story of that political conversation."
The story that the Times is running is titled ''Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change.'' Notice the use of the "we" in the subtitle. Does "we" mean white American policy makers making policy for the entire world, where billions of ''people of color'' in Africa and India and Asia and following non-Christian religions live and raise families? Or does that "we" mean the entire planet of humankind, mankind, womankind. The editors of the Times need to address this issue and hopefully they will after this tempest in a global teapot dies down. If it ever dies down.
''I think the larger answer has to do with how we as a species try to reckon with vast technological problems that will only affect folks decades or generations from now," Nat added, when speaking with a PBS-TV reporter. ''Of course, that’s not the case anymore. But in the early 1980s, that was how the conversation was being constructed. And so I think there’s a kind of larger conversation to be had about why we were so unable to tackle this when we had a great opportunity to do so, and then there’s the more narrow conversation about the inside politics of the matter."
Jake Silverstein, editor of the Sunday magazine which set this issue up in conjunction ace reporter Nat Rich, put is this way in an online advertisement letting readers know that something was brewing at the Times: "Next week's issue of The New York Times Magazine is an unusual one. It's dedicated to a single long story, by writer-at-large Nat Rich, about the ten-year period from 1979 to 1989, the decisive decade when humanity settled the science of gteenhouse gases and came surprisingly close to finding a solution. The world was ready to act. But 'we' failed to do what was necessary to avoid a catastrophe. Nat's story is a gripping narrative that reads like a historical whodunit.''
Again with the "we." Who is this "we"? Is America and the Times trying to say that only Americans can save the planet and that only the U.S. government can solve the problems we face. Not the scientists or politicians of Australia or Britain or Germany or Norway or South Africa or Japan or China? Just leave it to white American policy makers to serve as "saviors" of the entire planet, just as Jesus is said to be the ''savior/messiah'' of all mankind? Is the New York Times asleep the wheel again?
Accompanied by a series of stunning photos from around the world by George Steinmetz, “Losing Earth” will forever alter the way you see the world, the Times wants readers to believe. But it's not true. The Times story will merely serve to provoke more arguments and more scientific forums and more government meetings and Congressional hearings? Under the administration of Donald Trump, "we" are in for one wild ride. Hold on!

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