About a week ago, three apparently disparate events occurred: a workshop at Neill Public Library discussed fake news; a His View column in the Daily News advocated Medicare for all; and a letter to the editor urged action on climate change.
I find them interconnected.
Our fake news workshop at the library examined how to scrutinize and evaluate information on the internet. The first example was a delightful spoof urging us to “Help save the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus from Extinction.”
With trappings of a legitimate science-based website, it used photographs, range maps and pages of pseudoscientific jargon to describe the species Octopus paxarbolis, found in the temperate rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula. The deeper we dove, the funnier it got.
A second exercise explored an internet article describing Europe’s recent heatwave. Quotations from climate scientists linked the extreme heat to climate change. That’s where things got interesting.
One participant agreed the earth might be warming slightly, but insisted that those who believe it’s human-caused are pushing some “agenda.” He never actually described that agenda but said scientists and other alarmists were furthering that “agenda” by advocating climate policies.
That connects nicely with Mary Dupree’s letter to the editor, “Climate action is needed now.” Dupree, a co-leader in the Palouse Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has given many talks on pricing carbon as one way to mitigate climate change. Her letter observes, “climate change is not a partisan issue.”
More importantly the letter recognizes that climate change won’t wait “for us to resolve our political differences.” The fact is, Earth is warming while we lollygag and nitpick details, be they of politics or science.
Pricing carbon dioxide pollution only partially solves this unprecedented problem. Market-based, the principle of carbon pricing resonates with our economy, but such a capitalistic approach is only a piece of the solution. It must interconnect with personal and community-based efforts.
A third connection, Chuck Pezeshki’s, “It’s time for single payer/Medicare for All,” uses an engineering example to illustrate how scale can distort a simple, formulaic approach. Students blindly following algorithms “far too often make mistakes” that “yield hilarious results.” Pezeshki’s metaphor for scaling suggests that we need to implement solutions that account for the big picture of health care in this country.
The interrelationships among three seemingly unrelated narratives become clear when scale enters the picture. Some nations have better health-care systems, some have worse. Palouse climate depends on Northwest climate, and so on across nation, continent, hemisphere and globe. Health care, necessary as it is, is a small part of a bigger picture.
As Earth warms, health problems will increase. Melting tundra releases microbes immobilized since permafrost was formed. “Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms,” according to BBC.
What happens when unknown microbes, absent for thousands of years, are released? Nobody knows, yet that’s only one potential health problem associated with changing climate.
Interconnections are often not obvious, but they’re there. Recognizing them is a first step in healing our planet from micro to macro scales.
If we eliminate artificial barriers created by differences in cultures, races, religions and nations, we can more effectively work together to address problems that affect us all. International agencies and foundations already do this, but more is needed.
In the 19th century, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, warned, “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
That advice has never been more relevant.
Pete Haug’s eclectic interests and several careers drew him across the U.S. and into China with his wife, and sometimes draconian editor, Jolie. They retired south of Colfax. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.