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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Brad Pfeiffer: A conversation with my neighbor

  • I hope we all agree that we shouldn't drive around needlessly in our gasoline powered vehicles
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  • Hearing about "the worst tornado on record" and the wildfire devastation out West, I wrote a song called "Keep It Cool." The music has a footstompin' hillbilly feel. The words go like this:
     
    Lookin' at this nasty weather, I think it's time to pull together
    And listen, to what science has to say
    This world could overheat and burn, storms and droughts at every turn
    Maybe we can find a better way
     
    Let's all try to think this through
    There is so much more, that we all can do
     
    We're meltin off the polar caps, just cruisin' round and havin' laughs
    Burning up another tank of gas
    Don't be wasteful if you dare, it's a way to show you care,
    If we try, we can make it last
     
    We've all got to change our ways, crops are failin', hotter days
    And overpopulation makes it worse
    If we wanna keep it cool, we gotta use less fossil fuel
    Make it a blessing not a curse
     
    OK, so I'm not a Wordsworth. At least it rhymes.
     
    A neighbor stopped by and my wife and I played the song for him. He commented that Cathy is doing alright on the tenor sax, but that there is no solid evidence that man's contribution to global warming is anything significant. He said that geological studies indicate the earth has gone through warming and cooling cycles in the past and that we are now most likely in a "natural" warming cycle. Expect the Rocky Mountains to be islands some time in the far future.
     
    He went on to say that those who shared his view were "tired of being shouted down" by those who dominate contemporary discussions on climate change. And that those spouting on and on about man-made climate change don't really understand the geologic record. Furthermore, he explained, the large body of "evidence" embraced by well over 90 percent of the world's climate scientists has been doctored, selectively gathered, unshared, etc. He questions the recently released study showing record high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, wondering exactly how the data was gathered.
     
    I was a little shocked to hear all this. I suppose I hadn't heard such views since about 2008 when Sarah Palin of oil-rich Alaska was considered prime-time. By the way, I should mention that this neighbor used to work as a geologist for the fossil fuel industry.
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    I ask: Why would 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity is negatively affecting world climate? Well, according to my neighbor, they are on the take for government grant money to continue climate change studies. I guess he is saying that some sort of climate-disaster bogeyman keeps the money flowing.
     
    In spite of all this, my neighbor firmly believes in conserving fossil fuel because it is uniquely valuable and finite. True. With a rising world population, finite fossil fuel supplies are becoming more and more precious. Nothing is quite like gasoline, for example, for providing compact, storable, transportable energy. Electric cars are fine for around town, but try driving one from here to Seattle and see what problems you run into We agreed -- and I hope all of us agree -- that fossil fuels pollute the air and can seriously pollute land and water.
     
    So I hope we all agree that we shouldn't drive around needlessly in our gasoline powered vehicles or let them idle needlessly -- especially if they are guzzlers.
     
    What else can we do to help the planet? It's good to plant more trees to help absorb more carbon dioxide, produce more oxygen, reduce soil erosion, and cool surrounding air I've got enough shade around my house that I don't need air conditioning.
     
    Have fewer children. Teach your children to be conservative with energy.
     
    On NPR (89.1 FM) the other day, journalist Judith Schwartz was talking about her new book, "Cows Save The Planet," which discusses "intensive ranching" studies. Evidently, if a large number of cows graze a small area for a short period of time, then are moved to another area, the soil gets improved: Organisms which absorb methane tend to thrive and plant growth is stimulated -- which means higher absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. A rancher phoned in to say that this method was working well. It required more work -- moving the cows, installing more fencing -- but the pastures did show significant improvement.
     
    With all due respect to my neighbor, let's be clear: Climate scientists are saying that human activity is warming the earth at a faster rate than what geologic studies have shown about past cycles, and the consequences appear dire. It may be difficult to gauge just how much our individual actions affect climate and the well being of others, but we can agree that many people are extremely wasteful with energy. In the aggregate, that selfish wastefulness negatively affects us all.
     
    (Brad Pfeiffer of Heber Springs is one of two local contributors to Progressive Voice, a “progressive viewpoint” column)

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