Stop and Think

This sounds all too familiar. (“Enough, population doom merchants,” Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times of London).

Didn’t I write not too long ago about the reactions of the press in response to biological realities?  I said in the mainstream media their usual response, especially to big problems like AIDS and global warming, seems to be denial for a period of about ten years, during which time crises that could have been contained (if the press had fulfilled its responsibility to educate and inform) reach fairly unmanageable proportions. I’m not the first to notice this. For example, Dot Earth.

That’s what happens when we pretend that all of reality is nothing but fun and entertainment — that we should not discuss any other kind of reality.  Then they look around and wonder why the scientists never told them this was coming.

Oh, well, when I went into university teaching (thankfully now behind me) my mentor said:  “Nobody will understand you when you tell them; then when they figure it out for themselves they will come and ask why you didn’t tell them.”  That is indeed what happened, and it’s probably a good thing in an educational setting that the students should learn to think.  But it’s not an intelligent way to deal with real crises.  A much better approach is to listen to a variety of experts in different fields and pool our expertise.

Mr. Lawson’s article in the Times purports to address a report to be issued by the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, but he never really discusses the reportand.  He gets off on Optimum Population Trust (OPT), a British organization concerned with issues of population, that held its annual conference last week.  Invitation only.  His article is basically a “bait and switch” attempt to change the subject from discussion of real population issues to the personalities of individuals at OPT for whom he apparently has little or no respect.

080420funeral_dsc6582fs-copyI happen to have it first hand — from a respected scientist who attended — that the OPT meeting was both sane and sensible.  It makes me wonder what are the credentials of this reporter that he is able to so confidently second-guess the real data.  So I looked him up on Google.  Apparently he has quite a lot of money, a cousin who is a biologist, and an iffy reputation with regard to serious journalism.   Unless he has qualifications not mentioned, I certainly would not trust his opinion with regard to scientific or economic decision making.

Think about it.  What is our best response here?  Should we just wait and see what happens?  Or might it be better to pool our expertise, discuss the issue, and make some plans just in case the scientists are not as crazy as Mr. Lawson thinks they are.