The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.
The cartoon, by Chan Lowe of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, titled “A GOP Thought Experiment,” shows an Earth floating in space, completely covered with water. The caption reads: “If global warming floods the planet but nobody is around to see it thanks to anti-vaxers, is climate change real?”
I don’t know which is worse: the author’s artificial conflation of completely unrelated arguments, his gratuitous slap at the 50% of Americans who at least occasionally vote Republican, his tone of smug moral superiority, or his wanton ignorance of reality in suggesting that the Earth is threatened with some kind of imminent catastrophic flood.
Granted, exaggeration is the currency of satire, but this is laying it on a bit thick. As a work of propaganda, Lowe’s cartoon nails it, but as a springboard for discussion it falls pretty flat. Sit down and shut up, it says, and none too patiently, to anyone not on board with the current Planet-in-Peril narrative.
Now, there’s not much to say in defense of those who voluntarily withhold vaccination from their kids. In a way, though, you can kind of understand their concerns. There was, after all, a study that purported to show a link between measles vaccination and autism. That study has since been discredited, but nobody ever hears about that, so suspicions linger. Though they mean well, in choosing not to inoculate their children these people raise the risk for everyone, because vaccinations are the principal reason that once-common and sometimes deadly diseases like measles, polio, and smallpox no longer regularly ravage the population. And if enough people jump off the vaccination bandwagon, those diseases are almost certain to stage an unwelcome resurgence.
But what of people who remain stubbornly skeptical about global warming, or who are unconcerned about it for whatever reason? And what are we to make of those who believe that practical considerations, not scary but ultimately fallible predictions, ought to inform our actions? Don’t they, too, put us all at risk?
You might wonder how anyone could fail to get that we are in serious trouble here. After all, again and again we are told, in voices increasingly strident, that we have only a few short years left to avoid catastrophe. Using every available medium, earnest and well-spoken people endlessly inform us of this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, dangling by the slenderest of threads.
Legions of telegenic, seemingly credible people have gazed into the camera and told us in voices most serious that we are in grave danger. And it must be so because, well, they’re on TV, they’re famous, they’re charming, they use really big words and seem sincere. And some of them actually have advanced degrees in science, so they have the secret knowledge the rest of us do not. They can see the future. They have computer models. Computer models don’t lie. Surely, only a fool would question them.
The data is clear, they say, and it is imperative–make that absolutely imperative–that we act, NOW, or it will be too late. We must radically restrict our carbon diet, so we are told, or face extinction. Simple as that. Four point six billion years of history shot to hell by a CO2 bubble. Who could possibly remain unmoved in the face of such a clear and present danger?
To hammer home this point we are bombarded daily with news of droughts and floods, storms and heat waves, tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis in the mainstream media. Images of devastation, disturbing and portentous, flicker endlessly across our screens as somber music plays. Poor little polar bears! The import of all this alarming imagery becomes clear: These disasters did not used to happen; things are falling apart.
The steady stream of alarming news and images seems designed to disturb and depress you, and it does. But at the same time there is something not quite right about all of this. Something simply doesn’t add up. And if you are a certain type of person, you notice this and it begins to gnaw at you.
To begin with, you notice an off-putting certainty bordering on arrogance among those who clamor loudest for climate intervention, as though it were inconceivable that they could ever be wrong. And you sense that they feel, deeply, that the rightness of the cause places them above reproach. You realize that their faith in this cause has an almost evangelical intensity.
And it rubs you a little wrongly to find that climate activists frequently exhibit a brittle, defensive quality, and do not take criticism well. Anyone who dares to question the Doomsday narrative is regarded with hostility, and sneeringly disparaged as a “denier,” a hateful little epithet that would have made Joseph McCarthy smile. With a gleeful, bellicose flair, climate activists briskly lob this and other maledictions at anyone impudent enough to voice a contrary opinion. And why not? It smears them nicely, and it sticks. It shuts them up and puts them down all at once. Besides, they deserve it; they threaten Mother Earth. As an insult “denier” is top notch because it has the flavor of “fanatic,” but also demeans its target with an implied link to holocaust deniers, that hate-mongering fringe group. It’s only when you stop to think about it, though, that you realize “denier” sounds an awful lot like “heretic.”
This weird fixation with models models models leaves you scratching your head as well. You kind of get the attachment because you know that every computer model represents many man-hours of effort; anyone who has built one has a lot invested in it. Even so, the models are still way, way off, and consistently, substantially over-predict the amount of warming. Which is no surprise because even the best of them are but crude approximations. So naturally you would expect the scientists who rely on these models to acknowledge their serious limitations and scale back the emphasis upon them accordingly. But oddly, just the opposite has happened. With a faith that would be inspiring if it weren’t actually rather unnerving, the scientists trust the models so completely that their projections are regarded as more important than actual observations. When projections and observations do not align, which is often, there must be a problem with the observations.
You are perplexed by the slavish devotion–there is no other way to describe it–activists maintain for a certain widely circulated graphic. Resembling nothing so much as a hockey stick, this graphic purports to show a thousand years of absolutely flat temperatures, bending sharply upward only in the last few decades. When first released in 1999 the hockey stick created a sensation, and it was reproduced in practically every media outlet on the planet. There it was, the smoking gun, irrefutable proof that global warming was real. Activists seized upon it as their special potent symbol, and referred to it in reverent tones, as if it were a holy thing. Its creator, a fellow named Michael Mann, the ink barely dry on his PhD, became rock-star famous practically overnight, and his career skyrocketed. All this attention seemed strange to you, because the first time you saw the hockey stick you had a very different reaction. You thought: Wait just a damned minute. As though nature, with all its complex oscillations and random perturbations was even capable of producing such a flawlessly smooth curve. The whole thing seemed seemed awfully, um, convenient. To you the hockey stick looked like something that might have been scribbled on a cocktail napkin, not the product of serious scholarship. And so you were not at all surprised when the graph and its supporting data were, after an oddly long delay, critically examined by other scientists and found to be faulty.
To you, they seem somewhat weak on science fundamentals, these activists, long on passion but short on analysis. They confuse cause and effect, draw a blank on correlation versus causation, pick and choose data rather willfully, and have little sense of the scope of natural history. They toss numbers around willy-nilly without appearing to understand their meaning. You suspect that more than a few of them couldn’t tell you the difference between a part per million and a part per billion, to pick an easy example, or tell you why this matters. Against all logic, they seem to envision an Earth that is more or less static and generally benign. No wonder they are such a jittery lot; by this standard any change whatsoever, any out-of-the-ordinary event becomes an alarming deviation, portending disaster. This line of reasoning reminds you, ironically, of Biblical literalists, who believe that the world was created whole six thousand years ago, and has existed unchanged ever since. As someone with a good working knowledge of Earth history, you know that change is the only constant, and that the Earth is often anything but benign, and you don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept for so many to grasp.
It unsettles you more than a little that the whole Earth-in-the-balance narrative seems to have become, well, rather shrill. It’s not that you don’t care about the environment; of course you do, as would any sensible person. In fact, in your heart of hearts you believe that seven billion humans is almost certainly too many for this planet to support comfortably. But at the same time it feels to you as though the impact of your species upon the Earth has been dramatically overstated, out of all proportion to reality. We just aren’t that important, you think. And although you appreciate the sentiment, it strikes you as absurdly egotistical to imagine for even a moment that the fate of the Earth could ever rest in puny human hands. We’ll be gone soon enough, you reckon, and the planet, scarcely taking notice, will go on just fine for another couple billion years.
The argument that we have reached a “tipping-point,” in particular, really gives you fits. It strikes you as egregiously simplistic and conceptually half-baked, the sort of thing that could only have been cooked up by someone who doesn’t truly grasp the scale or complexity of what they are talking about. It’s so far off the mark, in your mind, that you are amazed that any serious scientist would ever let his name be associated with it. A dense web of literally thousands of interconnected, interacting variables regulating this thing we call climate, and yet the alteration of exactly one of them, a variable of only median importance, by a mere 28 percent, and–somehow–the whole system suddenly “tips” over the edge, into a death spiral, like a light switch flipped. On. Off. Poof. Game over. It occurs to you that Earth couldn’t possibly be that fragile, because if it were, it would have died a long, long time ago of natural causes.
It annoys you when you hear someone say, for what seems like the millionth time, that “ninety seven percent of all climate scientists” believe that global warming is real, caused by humans activities, and likely to be seriously harmful. This argument has been making the rounds for years now, growing in stature with every retelling. It is supposed to be the ultimate riposte to the skeptics, the argument-ending Big Bertha of citations, and no climate discussion would be complete without it. The line has such a weighty, unassailable quality about it, and is usually delivered with such authority, that there seems to be almost nothing you can say in response. Hearing it, you imagine ranks of white-coated nerds stretching to the horizon, arms akimbo, frowning impatiently, all glaring at you over their spectacles in silent rebuke.
You have a few problems with this argument, though. For one thing, this percentage has always seemed suspiciously large. After all, scientists are sort of like lawyers in that they tend to be a rather quibbly bunch. It seems doubtful that you could get ninety seven percent of them even to agree that the Earth was round. No, it’s an oblate spheroid! Second, the percentage has been so remarkably static over the years that its sheer invariance would seem to be a red flag. Wouldn’t years of supposedly accumulating evidence have caused some progress to be made with the remaining holdouts? But your biggest problem with the argument is, admittedly, completely subjective: It just doesn’t feel right. It’s like one of those “well-known facts” that everyone knows but no one can tell you the source of. And which no one ever questions.
So it came as no surprise whatsoever to you to find that the ninety-seven percent argument was, in fact, a complete fabrication. In reality, if you asked a hundred scientists what they thought about global warming you would get a hundred different answers. And the actual percentage of scientists who unambiguously blame humans for climate change is a lot closer to zero percent than one hundred. Ruefully, you note that this has affected the argument’s popularity not at all, and it continues to be deployed by advocates and media alike, regularly and with great enthusiasm.
You are deeply disappointed that the media so unabashedly trumpets the Doomsday narrative. While you understand the reality that a competitive media marketplace favors drama over substance–if it bleeds it leads–you are genuinely shocked at the dearth of critical thinking in the mainstream press on this issue. You recall, for example, that for twenty or more years the press has run an endless stream of stories about the imminent “collapse” of this or that Antarctic Ice Sheet, with its consequent “profound” implications for rising sea levels. Better build that ark soon!
In their defense, the press is merely repeating a term used by scientists themselves. But to a geologist, “collapse” has a very different meaning than to a lay person. Glaciers “collapse” all the time, geologically speaking, whenever they begin an accelerated downhill movement. It’s an entirely natural process that can happen for any of a number of reasons. It’s also a very lengthy one from the human perspective, typically requiring thousands of years to play out. There’s a reason “glacial” is a synonym for really, really slow.
And if the press took even a moment to ask a question or two they would realize this. But they don’t, and they won’t because thinking and asking questions and stuff is, you know, really hard. And boring old facts don’t generate buzz. So instead of thoughtful, informed coverage of interesting natural phenomena, we are treated to yet another end-of-the-world headline. And upon reading it, millions of readers will get that sick feeling in their stomach once again, that sense of inchoate dread that comes of knowing something really bad is about to happen, and that there’s not a damned thing they can do about it.
You shake your head at the way climate activists nakedly manipulate public opinion by using emotionally charged imagery. In a way, you can’t blame them, though, because it’s a highly effective strategy, favored by propagandists everywhere. These powerful images bypass the cerebellum–the thinking part of the brain–which tends to ask a lot of pesky questions, and speak instead directly the limbic system, the unreasoning center of emotions lying deep in the pre-mammalian core of the brain. You are reminded, for example, of that iconic photo of those starving polar bears stranded on shrinking ice floe far out to sea in the Canadian Arctic, a heart-touching image reproduced tens of millions of times in media outlets all over the planet. You could hardly find a better poster child for the innocent victims of global warming. A mere glimpse of this photo and you are ready to write a big fat check on the spot.
Well, almost ready. Because you happen to know, as most people do not, that there are some problems with the story line. First of all, the polar bears in question weren’t stranded at all. In fact they were only a few miles from land, a trivially short distance for these powerful swimmers. The bears had simply climbed onto the floe to check it out, as polar bears, being inquisitive creatures, are wont to do. And the picture was not taken in the high Canadian Arctic. It was actually taken along the Alaskan coast, in August, when the the ice always melts. And the bears weren’t starving at all; they were actually quite healthy, as is the polar bear population in general, which has doubled in size in the last fifty years. And the photographer who took the famous photo, a student from Australia on a cruise, is righteously annoyed that it was misrepresented and used without her permission. Curiously, this important background information is invariably omitted by the activists and their media partners who promiscuously use and re-use this image, with predictably profitable results.
You are offended a little, frankly, by the preachy and condescending tone so many climate activists employ, as though addressing a wayward, rather slow-witted child. The time for skepticism is over. Really? Though not a working scientist you seem to recall from your schooling that the basis of science is skeptical inquiry, so you’re pretty sure that when that goes away, so does the science. And it bugs you when so-called experts claim that the science is “settled.” This strikes you as a very un-scientific position to take on what is, in fact, a hugely complicated subject with loads of uncertainties and massive, far-reaching repercussions. It sounds an awfully lot like “don’t go there,” which is the sort of thing people say when they can’t be bothered or have something to hide.
It puzzles you, this powerful need so many clearly have, to blame humans–and by extension themselves–for climate change. It strikes you as a form of self-hatred, and you suspect that if it were ever proved conclusively that global warming was entirely natural, these people would be bitterly disappointed, not relieved. You are reminded of the way primitive peoples instinctively assume that the gods are angry with them whenever they are visited by misfortune.
The thought nags at you that money, somehow, is behind all the fuss. You are well aware that science these days is mostly funded by grant dollars, which flow most readily to proposals that identify some kind of Serious Problem, the scarier the better. And you realize that science, being a human endeavor, is inevitably both political and trendy; those who are not part of the in-crowd don’t get funded, a surefire career-killer. You suspect that ambitious young scientists get the message early on and learn to pick the “right” research topics.
You realize further that it is in every government’s self-interest to get behind the global warming movement as well because doing so provides the unprecedented opportunity to play a hugely expanded role. You understand that in many ways a government is like an organic entity; its purpose, its whole reason for being, is to self-perpetuate, which it does through taxing and regulating. To be able to exert control over carbon, the source of nearly all energy, the basis of nearly every economy, would multiply almost beyond imagining the opportunities to do both, an irresistible proposition.
It also occurs to you that very clever, well-connected, highly motivated operators are quietly but energetically working the levers of this machine as well. They know that if–when–carbon becomes a regulated item, they will be in a position to profit hugely if they’ve played their cards right. The world’s first trillionaire will be a carbon trader, you figure.
To you the current warming trend seems like a positive thing, not a threat. Were it going in the other direction then you might have something to worry about. Enjoy it while it lasts, you think, because if recent geologic history is any guide, it won’t.
Because you are a certain type of person, these and other eminently reasonable points cross your mind as you contemplate the subject of climate change. Yet you rarely voice your opinion unless prodded to do so, because saying what you really think, no matter how well-reasoned, would probably make you unpopular. It might cost you a close relationship, a promotion, or even your job. You really don’t want to be That Guy, the right-wing crank that people sort of loathe and pity at the same time. You would prefer to preserve your friendships and professional relationships, and so you bite your tongue until it hurts and keep your thoughts to yourself.
A Long-Term Trend
Perhaps to increase the sense of immediacy, most discussions of climate change tend to focus on on the last five or six decades of data, again and again citing them as evidence that we are in a period of alarmingly rapid, unprecedented warming. Hardly anyone ever seems to notice, though, that the warm trend we currently enjoy–emphasis on enjoy–is easily traced back to about 1680, the year, more or less, that the world began rebounding from the 400-year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age.
Climate activists are fond of reminding us that our current climate is a departure from some theoretical norm, a norm presumably to be found in the recent past. Yet the Little Ice Age was the recent past, and it wasn’t exactly a picnic. During this time, winters were long and harsh by today’s standards, while summers were short and cool. Crop failures were common, and famine a frequent occurrence. Conflict was a constant as humans desperately competed for scarce resources. At the peak of the Little Ice Age, the Thames River, ice-free since 1814, froze almost every winter, and for two months or more its frozen surface was covered with squatters’ camps.
And before the Little Ice Age was the Medieval Warm Period, a span of three centuries or so that peaked about a thousand year ago. This Period was actually warmer than our current time, temperate enough, in fact, that the Vikings were able colonize parts of historically frigid, ice-locked Greenland. Which was named, by the way, for the thick forests the Vikings found growing along its coastline at that time. These forest died, along with the Viking colonists, when the climate turned cold again, and have only begun to grow back.
A thousand years before the Medieval Warm Period was the Roman Optimum, a time of hospitable warmth during which civilizations blossomed across Europe and Asia. And a couple of thousand years before that was the Holocene Optimum, the granddaddy of all recent warm spells, a time so benignly toasty that forests extended to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and melting polar ice caps raised sea levels eight or ten feet higher than now. It is surely not coincidence that human civilizations emerged in earnest all across the planet around this time. Note the deliberate use of the word “optimum,” meaning “most conducive to a favorable outcome,” as though Earth historians regarded warmth as a thing to be welcomed, not feared.
The defining feature of the Holocene (“wholly recent”) geologic epoch is warmth. Every bit of recorded human history has occurred in the Holocene, which began about 12,000 years ago when the great continental glaciers that had covered two-thirds of North America rapidly receded. Before that was a million years or more of intensely cold glacial periods interrupted by occasional–very occasional–interglacial periods of relative warmth. We have the good fortune to be living in such an interglacial period. But the Holocene Interglacial Period is nothing special, as these things go, being of only middling duration and magnitude. And the Ice Age, as it is commonly known, is far from over. It is all but certain that there will be many more glacial episodes in the near geologic future. And if humans are still around when the ice returns, they will look back on this balmy epoch with envy.
But in the grand scheme of things, the Ice Age is very recent history. Further back lies the yawning expanse of Geologic Time, in which you find an Earth that was much, much warmer than now for many millions of years at a stretch. The glacial age we live in is, in fact, an anomaly. For the vast majority of its history the Earth has been ice-free from pole to pole.
For climate-change activists this timeline is severely problematic because it erodes the connection, so painstakingly constructed, between human activity and global warming. And being inconvenient, it is simply ignored. What Little Ice Age? What Medieval Warm Period? Run along now. That the climate, long term, is highly variable is absolutely beyond dispute. Yet mention this in certain circles and you will be met with stony silence or denials as vehement as they are pointless.
But what rankles, perhaps, more than anything is the endless, reckless oversimplification. Details only confuse the apocalyptic narrative, and so are ignored or glossed over. Hardly anyone seems concerned that we have taken this indescribably complex and dynamic thing we call climate, which consists of thousands of variables interacting over time across hundreds of millions of cubic miles of ocean and atmosphere, and tens of millions of square miles of highly variable land surface, and reduced it to one number: the concentration of CO2 in parts per million. This, we are told, is the only number that matters. Hardly anyone bothers to look at the Big Picture in all its messy yet revealing complexity. There is no overarching perspective. Every trace of nuance is suppressed in favor of The Narrative, which has all the subtlety of a closed fist repeatedly pounding a lectern. No one, it seems, is following the advice of Albert Einstein, who wisely said: “Things should be as simple as possible but not simpler.”
The Devil in the Details
If you seem to detect a rather misanthropic quality among global warming activists you are entirely correct. On the whole they don’t really like humans all that much, and would just as soon they go away. For good. This includes you. But even the hardest of the hard-core realizes that this message doesn’t exactly play in Peoria. So they have had to grudgingly accept the lesser goal of merely taking the bothersome species down a few pegs. They may well achieve it.
To avoid supposedly catastrophic warming, the most recent Kyoto Accords mandate a 75 percent, across-the-board, reduction in the world’s use of fossil fuels by the year 2050. This would compel the world’s developed economies to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels to levels last seen in the middle of the 19th century. There is no way to do this gently. To comply with these Accords, entire societies would have to be restructured, radically. In the wake of this restructuring, standards of living could very likely fall to pre-industrial levels. Meaning that your children and grandchildren will have the standard of living–defined as “level of material comfort”–of their great- great- great- great- great- great- great-grandparents. And we’ll have to come up with a new name for “developing nations,” as their economic progress will come to a screeching halt. Billions hungering for a safer, more comfortable life would have that opportunity canceled by fiat.
Bear in mind that the sole justification for this epic, unprecedented experiment in socioeconomic engineering is a projection, made by a computer model. And if it seems unreasonable to you to build the future of your society on such a wobbly foundation you are not alone.
At the risk of being ostracized, a few killjoys here and there occasionally work up the nerve to suggest that maybe we ought to, you know, think this thing through before we commit to a radical, basically irreversible course of action. They are shouted down, of course. And rightly so. Crackpots and idiots, the lot of them. Or owned by the oil companies. Greedy, evil, stupid oil companies. Don’t they know that the Earth is in mortal danger?
In case you somehow missed it, the message, driven by relentless, saturation media coverage, is this: Carbon is the enemy. There is no gray area. There is no time to waste. To save our precious planet we must switch, RIGHT NOW, from those dirty, antiquated fossil fuels to clean, healthy renewable sources of energy, like solar and wind and geothermal and hydropower. Don’t question it; just do it. Fortunately, it’s easy, we are told, and simple.
Except that it’s not.
First of all, consider for a moment how supremely strange it is to think of carbon as a villain. We are, after all, made of the stuff, along with every other living thing. Life is carbon-based. We consume carbon every time we eat. And with every breath we release carbon dioxide, the byproduct of our normal metabolic activity. Without carbon dioxide, life as we know it could not exist because plants require it to build tissue. They flourish with its elevated concentration. Indeed, from a plant’s point of view there is a severe carbon dioxide shortage.
Second, contrary to what certain activist types would have you believe, transitioning from carbon-based energy to renewables would most certainly not be easy. Because, inconveniently, the entire world economy just so happens to be based on cheap, readily available energy in the form of fossil fuels. For example, right now fossil fuels–defined as petroleum in its various forms, natural gas, and coal–supply close to 85 percent of the energy used in the United States, the world’s second-largest consumer of energy. China, the world’s largest, relies on fossil fuels to meet more than 90 percent of it’s energy needs. Pick any economy of significant size anywhere on the planet and you will see similar numbers. If fossil fuels went away tomorrow, the world would plunge into turmoil with frightening speed. Chaos would rapidly ensue as trains, planes, and automobiles ground to a halt, grocery stores almost instantly depleted their inventories, and homes, offices, and factories went cold and dark.
And contrary to the myth aggressively peddled by advocate groups, fossil fuels prevail not because the evil energy companies have rigged the game their favor. Fossil fuels dominate the energy mix for the most practical of reasons: No other source of energy gives you as much bang for the buck. Nothing else even comes close. And unlike other sources of energy, fossil fuels are highly portable, making possible such conveniences as automobiles, airplanes, locomotives, and container ships. Which have become, you might note, rather important to our society. You can’t move ten thousand tons of cargo across a continent, or push a hundred-ton airplane through the stratosphere at 550 miles per hour, with solar power.
Furthermore there is an enormous, planet-girdling infrastructure devoted to the extraction, refinement, and distribution of fossil fuels. Trillions of dollars in capital investment. And the technology supporting fossil fuels is mature, highly advanced, and extraordinarily efficient. You don’t just walk away from such a thing.
An advanced society requires vast amounts of cost-effective energy to function. That energy is currently provided, overwhelmingly, by fossil fuels. And under no realistic scenario, on no realistic timetable, will renewable energy sources be able to meet more than a fraction of this gargantuan demand. Barring the discovery of new sources of energy, a most unlikely event, our choices are rather limited.
Many people dream longingly of a world without fossil fuels. But consider this: Our technologically advanced, mobile, affluent, safe, comfortable way of life exists courtesy of the cheap and reliable energy provided by fossil fuels. Certainly, a world devoid of them would be a very different place. And if you wish to conceive of it, imagine living as people in the 1700s did: No electricity, no running water, no vehicular transportation, no washers and dryers, no electronics, no central heat, no air conditioning, no refrigeration, no air travel, no smart phones, no Ipads or -pods, no laptops, no televisions, no Internet. This is the world we would be living in were it not for coal, oil, and natural gas.
So as you lounge about in your air-conditioned condo, drinking your iced cafe latte, streaming Netflix while chatting on your laptop with far-away strangers about the evils of fossil fuels, consider that none of this would have been possible without them.
So what, then, is the point of all the hooplah? Let Maurice Strong, godfather of the global warming movement, tell you in his own words:
Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?
Now that, my friends, is a vision.