Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wishful Thinking

Over a decade ago, I spent a most of a year in Antarctica, at McMurdo Station.  Spending a year in Antarctica is a great way to spend some serious time in self discovery, With that much time and isolation it was hard not to spend time thinking about my life and who I am, and what I thought I was doing right and what I thought I was doing wrong.  I won't lie and say that I completely re-invented myself and finished that year as a much changed and improved person, but I did learn some things.  One of the things that I learned there was that wishful thinking is very poor insulation.  It may be a bright sunny day, but that doesn't mean the temperature is above zero or that the wind chill isn't down around minus twenty.  On those days, anyone who wasn't dressed in their issued extreme cold weather gear was not going to stay outside for long, or was going to have a bad day. 

A hundred years or so ago, wishful thinking sent Robert Falcon Scott to the south pole with five men and enough food for four.  All five of them died.  Wishful thinking doesn't make problems go away, doesn't make obstacles disappear, doesn't put food on the table and won't insulate enough to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. 

So when I see people put their faith and trust in wishful thinking, and act as if wanting a thing to be true were the same as that thing being true, that puts me on my guard.  Because someone so in love with their ideas that they can't see the reality around them, is dangerous to themselves and anyone around them.

For example the climate change denialists desperately want the climate to not be changing, they want to ignore rising levels of atmospheric CO2, they deny there's a correlation with human activity and global climate change, they deny rising sea levels and melting glaciers and they pretend everything is peachy when there is open water at the north pole.  Because acknowledging the fact of climate change and the human cause of it means it's time to make some changes in the way we live, the way we work and the way we play.  It means serious investment in renewable energy, in conservation, in recycling and agriculture.  It means stopping or greatly reducing coal mining and oil drilling and fracking.  Because the worst effects of global climate change are always a decade or two away, the wishful thinker always has time for one more excuse why they shouldn't have to change today, or why someone else should change first.  But really that's just an argument by people in a leaking life boat about whose turn it is to bail.

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