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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Cover me, I'm going over the top!
November 23, 2009 - 3:14pm

I was listening to NPR today, and heard an interview with Drew Westen (professor of psychology at Emory and author of The Political Brain). The chat, predictably, centered on how arguments made by the opponents of health care reform are simpler and more emotional -- and, as a direct result, more effective -- than the more complex and well-reasoned discussion emanating from reform advocates. One point Westen made was that the more directly active portions of the brain (maybe not the parts we share with snakes and vultures, but those shared with hounds and horses) like simple stories with heroes and villains. As a result, words like "bureaucrats", "rationing", "illegal aliens", "death panels", "baby-killers" and the like punch far above their logical weight in the politics of health care. Now I'm even hearing rumbling that the NRA is getting into the act -- probably demanding the right to carry a concealed weapon into the operating theater in case the surgeon getting ready to excise your tumor is really an Islamic fundamentalist suicide bomber in disguise.

And I'm reading about hacked emails from researchers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, passages from which (taken out of context, of course -- context can be so inconvenient) are being used to declare the discovery of "the global warming scandal of the century" by folks desperate to declare just such. The timing, to my mind, is just a little too perfect. (Kind of like the timing of last week's recommendation for decreased use of mammograms. But what can you do?)

So I've got an angle which I think can work. There's an element of truth in it (the hacked emails were dumped onto a Russian FTP server, now reportedly offline), but a far larger serving of truthiness. (And, if you think "truthiness" is so last year, just hold your breath.)

From now on, whenever a climate change denier spouts nonsense in my direction, I'm going to respond with "Yeah, that's what the Russian government wants you to think!" After all, whose hackers was it that came up with those emails, anyway? And what large economy is more tied to fossil fuel than Russia's? And -- think about this, now -- what nation stands to benefit the most from continued global warming -- a big country, with lots of potentially useful agricultural land, way up North where it's always cold, that's lusted after a year-round port for centuries, right? I mean, do the math -- if global warming weren't already happening, the Russian government would want to invent it, nyet?

OK, I admit, it's just a fantasy. I'd never really say that where anyone whose intelligence I respected might overhear and take me seriously. But in an isolated situation? One on one? Just to screw with his (her) mind? I mean -- why should Glen Beck have all the fun?


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