Good News is No News

Two separate, unrelated items in the scientific press have recently come to my attention. Both are, it would not be a stretch to say, pleasantly surprising, at least to those of pessimistic bent. And with their emergence is raised the faint but tantalizing possibility that perhaps the end is not at hand after all.

The first item, which relates recent findings that the Antarctic ice pack has increased in size, would not be news to anyone familiar with the recent history of the Great Southern Continent. But to the uninitiated this finding probably comes unexpectedly, given the steady flow of stories in the mass media suggesting that Antarctica’s imminent demise is all but assured.

The second story is somewhat technical, but bears reading in any case because it speaks to the deep resilience of the natural world. What ought to have been a death blow to a species, or so you would think, turns out to have been no big deal after all.

One of the central themes of the Green narrative is the fragility of Nature, which, its advocates would have you believe, is like a delicate hothouse flower. Any disturbance, however minor, to her equilibrium threatens her, and if overly stressed she is likely to just curl up and die. This is belied by the reality of an enduring and resilient Earth, which has withstood countless traumas in two-plus billion years of life, yet kept on keeping on.

A corollary to the fragile-Earth theory is the conviction, deeply held by many in the Green movement, that humans hold the fate of the Earth in their hands, a viewpoint both presumptuous and blind to context, considering the very recent arrival of humans on the scene, and the actuarial likelihood that our residence here will not be a lengthy one.

You witness this viewpoint in spades among climate-change activists, who remain resolute in their unshakeable conviction that we are just a couple of parts per million worth of CO2 away from planetary immolation. By their reckoning, our only hope of salvation lies in radical, top-to-bottom restructuring of human society to eliminate its dependence on carbon-based energy, never mind the cost, never mind the severe societal disruption this would entail.

Humans, brimming as always with hubris, habitually overstate their importance in the scheme of things. But Nature is inconceivably ancient and endlessly resourceful, and has a way of not conforming to our expectations as it ignores our feeble pretensions.

Almost certainly you will have to go to the respective original sources to read these articles, as the response from the mainstream media thus far has been a great, yawning silence. This is to be expected, though, given that neither piece supports the prevailing apocalyptic narrative currently driving the 24/7 news cycle and, not coincidentally, selling a great deal of advertising. No bleed, no lead.

Which brings us to an important point, often forgotten: Bad news sells; good news does not. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Because our nervous systems have been honed by millions of generations of evolution to detect potential danger. The most basic dichotomy when dealing with emergent situations is: Threat or non-threat? If threat, pay close attention. If not, ignore. Ironically, to properly understand the world requires that we actively suppress this natural instinct on occasion, so that we may see clearly and without emotional interference.




© 2016 By Scott P. Snell

Right to reuse is freely granted with proper attribution.

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