When you apply for a job, it's a safe bet that your future boss is going to google you and see what bubbles up. Even two or three years ago, such a search probably wouldn't have turned up much personal info for most people. But with the explosion of blogging and social networks like MySpace, it seems like just about everyone has left some kind of footprint on the web, for better or worse.
But now, tilting that balance much further toward "worse," New Scientist reports that the NSA is funding research into the "mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks." The MySpace-mining project, it seems, is an extension of the NSA's illegal wiretapping program.
Hitchhiking is dangerous. We've all seen the made-for-TV movies about innocent youths who either blithely step out on the highway for some Kerouackian fun or naively pick up a stranger on the side of the road. On either side of the equation, the result is the same: death, mayhem and murder.
Clearly, the highways and byways of this land are filled with crazies. Everyone out there must be waiting to do evil at the first possible opportunity. Everyone, that is, except you. And everyone you know. And pretty much everyone they know.
Is it possible that maybe strangers aren't as scary, or hitchhiking as dangerous, as we've been told?
That's one of the driving factors behind Elijah Wald's new book, Riding with Strangers: A Hitchhiker's Journey. The book follows Wald's most recent cross-country hitchhiking trip, from Boston to Seattle, and forms a sort of travelogue of life on the road's shoulders.
But this is no travel book. Wald has been hitching for 40 years, across this country many times and on pretty much every hitchhike-able continent. In that time, he's watched hitchhiking in the United States decline from a commonplace activity among people of all stripes to today's prevalent belief that you'd have to be crazy to thumb it on the road.
During this same time frame -- and the kind of cause-and-effect involved here is certainly up for debate -- the country has become much more polarized, much more isolated and substantially more fearful.
I talked to Wald over the phone recently, as he was gearing up to start his tour for the book. (Unfortunately, I forgot to ask if he's hitchhiking from city to city on the tour.)
Matthew Wheeland: Tell me a little bit about how you came to write this book. Did you leave Boston knowing you were going to write a book about it?
Elijah Wald: Absolutely. Basically what happened was, as is clear from the book, I've done an awful lot of hitchhiking, and naturally when I started writing, everybody on Earth said, "You really ought to write about your adventures." But the problem was, by the time people started saying I should write about hitchhiking, I had done so much of it that it no longer seemed particularly unusual to me. It was like anybody being asked to write about what they do full-time.
For a while what I felt like I should do was take someone along with me and write about their impressions of it, since that would provide a fresh take on it. And then I realized that was the book I wanted to write: the book about how it's not this wild, heroic, amazing, strange thing full of astonishing adventures. It's this really quite small, intimate experience of meeting all these different people in this unique way. And I realized what I really wanted to write about was not the exciting rides, but the sort of normal experience of being inside it and into the cars of quite normal people who you never get to meet normally.
With that in mind, I decided I would just head across the country and just write about all the rides. Just one trip across the country, who stops for me and what it's like.
MW: How did this trip stack up? How many rides did you have in how many days Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
EW: I haven't added it up. Let's see, Day One is something like five rides, so that means it's gotta be another five or six just from St. Louis to Iowa City. I'd guess it's probably 15 or so rides.
And as far as how long it took, I count it by the nights. It was essentially two and a half days into Iowa City and then two days from Iowa City to Portland.
MW: So how does that compare in terms of either the time it took, or the number of rides or even the quality of the rides you got?
EW: It was not particularly unusual. If I had done a straight shot across on Route 80, it would have been a lot fewer rides. It's the nature of the beast: You get a bunch of small rides, and then you get a huge one. And I mean the first time I ever crossed the country, it was Reno to Boston in three rides, and that's not really all that unusual if you're doing trucks, because they do that! [laughs] And they don't want to do less than that really. By and large, a truck driver doesn't want to pick you up and take you a hundred miles, because it means they have to stop.
On the other hand, if you did the whole thing on small roads, which I've done sometimes, obviously it's a lot more rides and takes a lot longer. And frankly, had I done this trip in August, which I had originally thought about, I would have done it on smaller roads.
This one I stayed on the interstates because as I say in the book, when I hit Cheyenne there was a cold front coming in. And I had wanted to weave through the Rockies at a more leisurely pace, but the weather just wasn't looking great.
One thing about hitchhiking is, as I guess is pretty obvious, is that you can't make too precise plans. You have to be ready to change.
MW: From my perspective, it seems like a dying mode of travel: We've gotten so used to doing our own thing, to being in our car, alone, traveling for long stretches and being able to plan everything. Do you think that's part of the beauty or the draw of hitchhiking?
EW: Absolutely. It's that combination, and I just love meeting the people. Quite honestly, in some ways I love it more when I'm in a strange place, because I have much more of a need for it.
If I'm in a foreign country and travel for a couple of days not hitchhiking, it begins to drive me nuts, because I just feel like I'm not meeting anybody, I'm traveling without any idea of what to do, and I just feel like if just stood out on the side of the road and stuck out my thumb, I'd be meeting people, and they'd be telling me where I should be going.
MW: What is hitchhiking like in other countries? Is there any kind of baseline experience of hitchhiking, or is it dramatically different from country to country or continent to continent?
EW: The baseline experience is people do stop for you Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
MW: More so abroad than here?
EW: No, not so much. It really depends. And honestly, it really depends on what you look like. For years I said that Spain was a terrible place to hitchhike, and then learned that it was just that I looked too Spanish. I had a blond English friend who was going through Spain like lightning.
MW: So is part of it that people are approaching it from both sides with the same intention, that they want to pick up someone exotic, and get a different perspective on something that they don't already have?
EW: By and large, yes. The regular advice people used to always give is to have your country's flag on your pack so people know you're a traveler. I never did that, partly because the American flag is a pretty ambiguous symbol in some countries.
But certainly in the U.S., any time I've talked to foreigners who've hitchhiked around the U.S., their experiences is completely different from mine. They always tell me, 'Oh, it's amazing, everybody takes you home, and they put you up for days Ã¢â‚¬Â¦' and that's never happened to me in the States.
MW: Do you have a favorite country to hitchhike in? Or a country that you've had the best experiences hitchhiking in?
EW: I wouldn't say for the hitchhiking, per se, but different countries all have their advantages. I really liked hitchhiking in France, which I would mention just because France has such a lousy reputation among Americans. You keep hearing how unfriendly the French are, but it sure isn't true if you're standing on the road with your thumb out.
MW: Have you been hitchhiking abroad lately, I'm thinking since 9/11, and have you seen any change in attitudes towards an American?
EW: Oh yeah, I've been abroad since then. You once in a while get somebody, but you always do. I was hitchhiking with a friend in France right after the Gulf War began, and one of our drivers just went into a rant about the Americans. He apologized down toward the end, but I have to say that what surprised me, considering that it was the height of "freedom fries" and all that silliness, which the French did write up in their papers. They thought it was immensely amusing.
But I have to say most surprising was that almost nobody mentioned it at all. I would have thought hitchhiking in France right then, being an American, that it would be a subject that would come up much more often. But I think people were probably being polite.
MW: Going back to the U.S., how has hitchhiking changed in this country since we started doing this? Obviously you've been doing it for long enough to see some changes.
EW: Crazily enough, I think the main difference is how much easier it is. I think that's largely just because there's so few people doing it now. The big change is that the roads used to be packed with hitchhikers.
One of the weird things about having done this book is that I think all of us -- at least everybody my age, and I'm about to be 47 -- think of hitchhiking as something that young people do. But what I've noticed since starting this book is that wherever I am the people that say they love hitchhiking are all people my age. [laughs] I know from the internet that there are teenagers and 20-year-olds doing some, but I never see them. And as I say, any American in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, they all hitchhiked. There's simply no exception to that rule.
MW: Yeah, when I started reading this book, I began informally polling everyone I knew to see if they'd ever hitchhiked, and it absolutely reinforces your point: Nobody my age -- I'm 30 now -- has hitchhiked, and just about everybody older than me, in their 40s and up, has.
EW: I had never really thought that one through until this project, but that is bizarre. Obviously, I'm mixing cause and effect here, but there's part of me that just wants to say, "That's why we've got the government we've got." [laughs] It suggests to me that even liberal, lefty young people are living with a degree of isolation that, whatever their politics, simply wasn't true for older people.
When I was first doing this in the 60s, there's the myth that that was the height of the culture wars, but a lot of us were out there hitchhiking. We might have been lefties -- I didn't have long hair because I cut it before I hitchhiked -- but people were meeting truck drivers. And we may have disagreed violently, but we at least knew each other. And I have the feeling that today, that is much less true.
MW: I think you're on to something; obviously the cause-and-effect is very muddled, but our current government is in some ways the federal embodiment of this culture of fear and alienation that has been building for the last 25 or so years. And it is a cycle that feeds on itself and increases, which is why I was so delighted by your book. It shows that the path really is not already fixed; it's something that we can change and reverse, if people would just open themselves up in some way to strangers.
EW: That's right, and although I tried not to bang on the political points too heavily, I have to say I get very irritated by people on the left who have this sort of blithe America-bashing. To me it smacks very much of intellectual elitism. It seems to me like it's a lot of people who have never in fact talked with the average sort of person driving a truck out of Omaha, so they find it very easy to say that person is an idiot who believes everything the preacher and the politician say, and that's just not true. Those people are no stupider than the people at Harvard.
MW: To some extent, we live in a nation built on caricatures, where everybody perceives somebody as fitting perfectly into this bloc of 'typical red stater' or 'typical blue stater' or whatever, but obviously there are shades of gray, or shades of purple, as it were, and that's why it's important to get out there and meet strangers like you did.
EW: It's not so much our country, it's any place in the world where people are isolated from other people. It's the nature of stereotypes. They substitute for personal experience, and I don't think that there's a place where lacking personal experience there aren't stereotypes. It's probably no more typical of us than anybody else.
MW: You have a quote in the introductory section of the book that serves as such a great motto or justification for hitchhiking: "If you trust everyone you meet, you will occasionally get robbed, but if you distrust everyone, you spend your whole life surrounded by thieves." Tell me a bit about that quote.
EW: Well, in a way it's my response to people who are saying, "Isn't it dangerous?" But you know, I am hoping that somebody is going to read this book and tell me where that quote comes from! [laughs] I know that I read it in the American Library in Lubumbashi, Zaire, within the same month I read Howard's End, and somehow I attached it to Howard's End, but it's not in there. Hopefully someone can tell me where that's from.
But I'm not saying that's the only right attitude to have, but it's certainly the only attitude that's gonna make anybody into a hitchhiker.
MW: The whole book is tempered with this pragmatic approach: Here's how hitchhiking was for me, on this trip, but it's going to be different if you're a woman, or it's going to be different if inexperienced Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
EW: Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ it's going to be different if you're black Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
MW: Exactly. But for all of that, it's still almost proselytizing, saying, "Let's get out, just try it. It's not going to hurt you."
EW: Absolutely, and I resisted saying that. I know that as soon as I get out on tour, all sorts of people are going to ask me if I'd recommend it to a young woman, or whatever, and my short answer is: It doesn't really matter. A young woman who's going to read this book and feels like she wants to go out hitchhiking doesn't much care what I think. [laughs] But the slightly longer answer is that there are women out there hitchhiking, although obviously it's a different situation in a number of ways. Like everything in life, it's all trade-offs.
MW: I've been trying to think of ways people could be convinced to hitchhike in some form or other, and it hit me just the other day on my way in to work. Here in the Bay Area, we have a system called "casual carpool." And it's not even a system, really, it's a self-organizing, totally unregulated phenomenon.
Essentially I get up in the morning, leave my house and walk two blocks and stand by the curb. A line of cars are waiting, and a line of people are waiting to get in. You hop in, the cars get to go through the toll booth on the Bay Bridge for free, so they get over much faster and save three bucks, and we riders get in to work in 20 minutes instead of 45 minutes. But I hadn't even thought of it as a form of hitchhiking until I read this book, which it clearly is.
So are you interested in getting more people to hitchhike, and is there anything you can think of that would encourage people to get out there, like taking a short trip first or hitchhiking around their town first?
EW: Oh, I'm absolutely interested in getting more people to hitchhike. But really, I suppose if people want to hitchhike with training wheels, I'd say go to any rural area. Any small road in a rural area is where people do still hitchhike.
People still hitch places like Martha's Vineyard, or you go up to the islands offshore from Seattle, people are still hitchhiking all over the place up there. And forgive me for being completely cynical, but I think it's because these are areas that are all-white, middle-class, and drivers figure anybody out on the road is somebody else who lives there and they feel safe.
MW: So it's sort of hitchhiking with training wheels for everyone -- both the drivers and the passengers.
EW: Sure. But the other thing is that foreign countries are fun. Europe has always, always been where Americans who are nervous about hitchhiking in America went to hitchhike, and that still holds true. I would not just without thinking suggest that two young women head across the U.S. hitchhiking. Plenty will and will get by without any trouble, but I would without hesistation suggest that same thing in Ireland.
Just as one final thought, my worry for this book is that it might end up being treated as a travel book, so I was certainly very clear that I am trying to fit into the "culture of fear" dialogue. I do think that the lack of hitchhikers is a disturbing symptom, and I do think that the left in America -- and a lot of young people in particular -- have allowed themselves to get cut off from people who aren't like them.
They define people who "aren't like them" as people of other races who live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school, and live in essentially the same world, and because of this they feel that they're hanging out lots with people who "aren't like them." But in fact, the people who really aren't like you are the people with whom you profoundly disagree, and crucial thing to be aware of is that they're very very often just as smart and just as decent as the people with whom you agree with. You can still think that you're right and they're wrong, but it's worth noticing that you're not a tiny island of intelligent people in a world of idiots.
At a press conference today in the White House, short-lived CIA director and former Republican congressman Porter Goss announced his resignation.
Goss was appointed to lead the CIA by Bush in August 2004, bumped up from the House of Representatives, where he served from 1989 until joining the CIA. His name has come up frequently lately in reports of an incredibly juicy ongoing corruption scandal on Capitol Hill, which, as the Progress Report detailed yesterday, involves poker parties, prostitution and corrupt limo companies, as well as high-powered politicians and defense companies.
This is yet another major blow for the Administration. As georgia10 writes on DailyKos:
This isn't part of some White House shake-up. This is a scandal-plagued Bush appointee resigning just as an investigation into another Republican corruption scandal hits too close to home.
Former Republican lawmaker and current CIA Director Porter Goss's name has surfaced time and time again in the Republican bribe scheme, which began with a focus on disgraced Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham and his Republican lobbyists.
Here's a quick roundup of what happened across the country today during the National Day of Action for immigrant rights. Most sites haven't updated since this morning, but the news that is trickling out this early is that the protests were huge.
On DailyKos, georgia10 attended the Chicago rally, and this was the scene where 300,000 or more protesters gathered:
For over three hours or so, the protesters chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" Non-stop. Their chants were broken only by a thunderous roar of cheers as the trains on the Loop passed by.As the expected epicenter of the nationwide protest, Los Angeles this morning was eerily quiet. The picture above, taken by Will Campbell on the indispensible blogging.la, tells the story as well as the massive protest pictures from Reuters, AP and countless Flickr users can.
I saw streaming in front of me a sea of people, carrying for the most part huge American flags. (I saw a couple of Greek flags too, which brought a smile to my face). A small boy, about 10 years old I would guess, marched with a handwritten sign that said "I am not a terrorist." A mother with a child had taped a sign reading "Deportation= Broken Families" to her baby's stroller. "We work hard for this country," read another bright orange sign. Many signs read "No Human Being Is Illegal." I'm sure there were counter-protesters, but I didn't see any from my viewpoint.
It's difficult to describe the energy that radiated from the mass of humanity before me. Their chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" caused this section of the city to pulsate. Whether you believe protests are effective or not, whether you agree with those protesting or not, it's hard to deny that these people, with their mere presence, have proved that the art of protest is still alive in the streets of America.
The Los Angeles Times has been live-blogging the marches all day, and over at the Nation's blog, Jon Weiner posted his observations of this afternoon's march:
Tomorrow is Earth Day, once again. Time to get out your best pair of Birkenstocks and hempen hacky sack and go to the park. But a celebration that has for many years felt like little more than lefty back-patting has finally gained a bit more traction in the media, due in large part to our looming energy crisis, the obvious and increasing seriousness of global warming, and the ongoing desecration of our natural resources by the industrialists in the White House.
I was particularly struck this week by the wildly different tone that people take when discussing Earth Day, and more to the point, the future of our planet. A perfect example comes today, with a side-by-side comparison of the Christian Science Monitor and The Center for American Progress's Talking Points.
For those of you who don't already receive them, CAP's daily Talking Points newsletter offers a quick, concise and fact-filled rundown of the day's biggest issue, and is often an invaluable resource. Here's a paraphrase of today's talking points:
- Climate change is happening and we have only ourselves to blame.
- The air we breathe is still too dirty, and our wilderness lands are under constant threat.
- The environmental cause is bringing together an unlikely group of activists.
For comparison's sake, here's a snippet from an article by Brad Knickerbocker in the Monitor. He writes:
- Air pollution has decreased 50 percent overall, with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides dropping steadily.
- Lakes in the Northeast are recovering from their earlier dousing with acid rain.
- Endangered species, including bald eagles, wolves, and grizzly bears, have rebounded.
- Cars no longer burn leaded gasoline.
- Ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been generally phased out.
It's in sharp contrast to the first Earth Day in 1970 when there were signs of serious trouble.
Way back when, in 2003, the journal Science reported that fish raised in captivity - farmed fish - were dramatically higher in toxic pollutants like dioxin, PCBs and pesticides than wild fish. Contaminated enough that the EPA said eating more than one serving a month of farmed fish posed a serious health risk.
Obviously, that's bad news for everyone involved. Fish farmers and the fish industry get hosed because they regularly tout their product as healthier than other animal-based foods. Health-conscious eaters, who think they're doing a body good by eating fish, are actually stockpiling PCBs and dioxins at a much higher rate than they would be if they stuck to hot dogs and chorizo. And obviously, the fish suffer because they're crammed into floating pens to maximize profits.
An interesting wrinkle in the aquaculture phenomenon developed this week as Canadian scientists announced that vegetarian salmon can be much healthier than traditionally carnivorous salmon.
It's a complex problem: Carnivorous fish are hit doubly hard by our human pollution. Since they exist downstream from our waste flows, they are literally swimming in our pollution. And by feeding on other fish that live in similar situations, salmon further increase their pollution intake.
For farmed fish, living in such tight quarters, being fed processed fish meal and fish oil, means the health problems are all the more increased. As the David Suzuki Foundation shows, antibiotics and pesticides are regular additions to farmed fishtanks and fish feed to keep the fish alive and free from sea lice infestations.
The Suzuki foundation has a solid examination of the many problems caused by aquaculture, including:
- Sewage from farms pollutes surrounding waters.
- Drugs, including antibiotics, are required to keep farmed fish healthy.
- Escapes of farmed fish (alien species) threaten native wild fish.
- Net loss: Farmed fish are fed pellets made from other fish - depleting other fish species on a global scale.
So the obvious solution to this is perhaps to stop farming fish, right? Try to rein in water pollution (which in the case of the Gulf of Mexico is due in large part to just a few farm counties) and let the fish thrive naturally? Nope. The obvious solution, from the aquaculture industry's perspective, would be to change salmon biology so the fish could tolerate plant-based foods instead of meat. Not only would fundamentally altering fish biology theoretically decrease the amount of toxins in fish-meat, but plant food is substantially cheaper than fishmeal.
It's hard to beat the profit motive, I suppose. Of course, perhaps some influential aquaculturalists read instead this news report from the University of Chicago that found vegan diets are best for people and the planet, and just took the idea to its extreme.
In the last year or so, it seems like the biotechnology debate has fizzled out. There hasen't been much to capture the public attention lately: no controversial GMO bans on local ballots lately, no major contamination of food crops or uncontrollable spreading of biotech crops.
But don't be fooled: the biotech industry is alive and well, and are pushing their agenda to businesses, scientists and policymakers starting tomorrow at the BIO conference.
Here are a few of the topics that BIO will focus on this weekend, and which corporations are sponsoring them:
- Biodefense (Sponsored by Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)
- Bioethics (Sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Incorporated)
- Drug Discovery and Development (Sponsored by Wyeth)
- Food and Agriculture (Sponsored by BASF Plant Science and Bayer CropScience and Ceres, Inc and Dow AgroSciences and DuPont and Monsanto Company and Syngenta)
- Manufacturing (Sponsored by City of Chicago and Dowpharma)
- Nanotechnology (Sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science & Technology (COSAT) and Woodcock Washburn LLP)
- Policy (Sponsored by Pfizer Inc.)
- Regenerative Medicine (Sponsored by Government of Victoria -- Melbourne, Australia and Invitrogen Corporation
Of particular note is the angle that biotech companies are using to scoot the technology in under the public's radar: by suggesting that biotech can end our addiction to oil with plant-based fuels. I'll refrain from ranting here, but simply put: planting massive fields of chemical-intensive GMO corn is not a sustainable way to end our oil addiction.
For last year's BIO conference, AlterNet's writer was denied access because, in the organization's words, we "don't cover cover biotech." Which I of course took to mean that we just don't cover it the way they'd like us to.
Fortunately, there is an antidote to corporate-controlled biotechnology. Timed to coincide with the BIO industry conference is the BioETHICS 2006 conference, aimed at providing a voice of reason in the ongoing debate about how we're manipulating our food supply.
Included in the many speakers and events -- all of which are free and open to the public -- are Percy Schmeiser, Jeffrey Smith, Anna Lappe, Michael Hansen, Jane Akre, Rick North and Dr. Sam Epstein.
If you're in Chicago this weekend, be sure not to miss one or both of these events.
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting take this morning on the immigration debate. It's not the story of how Spanish-language radio hosts are helping coordinate the massive protests that happened nationwide last month and are repeating this coming Monday (though that's a great story as well), but rather about how t-shirts have become the weapon of choice for political activists of all stripes. Reporter Chris Gaylor writes that at last month's pro-immigration rally in Washington, thousands of marchers strolled onto the National Mall in identical "Legalize the Irish" t-shirts:
The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform says it handed out 3,000 shirts that day, but that is just an ink drop compared with the ocean of political T-shirts printed each year. From campaign boons to political lampoons, more and more Americans are wearing their political hearts on their short sleeves.The Monitor article singles out CafePress.com as a "one-stop shop for buyers of virtually every political view. With a staggering 22 million products -- including scores on the immigration debate."
"[Political T-shirts] are absolutely catching on," says Pia Catton, fashion editor for the New York Sun. "It's really an interesting movement to watch.... It's totally democratic and really kind of fun."
The article quotes silk screener Andrew Laidlaw, who runs the conservative clothing line Authentic GOP, as saying business has been slow lately: "I don't know what to say. Conservatives dominate talk radio," he says. "I guess liberals have T-shirts."
Checking out CafePress's politics section backs this argument up:
- "Pro-Bush gear" has 1,630 designs on 21,925 products.
- "Anti-Bush gear" has 29,087 designs on 345,017 products.
- "Conservative gear" has 15,474 designs on 197,396 products.
- "Liberal gear" has 31,869 designs on 374,528 products.
- "Republican gear" has 20,928 designs on 258,424 products.
- "Democrat gear has 23,737 designs on 283,505 products.
Clearly, the much-vaunted t-shirt demographic dislikes Bush (intensely), leans heavily to the left, but isn't exactly pro-Democrat. From my perspective, that paints a pretty accurate picture of the political scene in this country. After all, Hillary Clinton is the most-reproduced face of all political candidates, with 40 percent of t-shirts dedicated to supporting or bashing her, with Governator Schwarzenegger in a distant second place in the 'teens.
"If the 2008 [presidential] election were based off T-shirt sales," [CafePress spokesman Marc] Cowlin says, "Hillary [Clinton] would win by a landslide."
Last week I blogged about the Time cover story and a new poll that showed the vast majority of Americans are deeply concerned about global warming, and that getting the government to make serious efforts to fight it is a high priority.
It seems like perhaps the Bush administration and its pro-industry, anti-Earth backers are stepping up the fight. In his syndicated column yesterday, George Will wrote:
Eighty-five percent of Americans say warming is probably happening, and 62 percent say it threatens them personally. The National Academy of Sciences says the rise in the Earth's surface temperature has been about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century. Did 85 percent of Americans notice? Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism calculated to produce it. Never mind that one degree might be the margin of error when measuring the planet's temperature. To take a person's temperature, you put a thermometer in an orifice or under an arm. Taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.To which the authors of the always-excellent Progress Report respond:
There is not a shred of scientific evidence to support Will's position that the earth is not warming. Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus that the earth's temperature is rising due to human activity. The National Academy of Sciences (which the Bush administration recently called "the gold standard of independent scientific review") concluded in 2001, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded global warming is "real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years due mostly to human activities. The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have also "issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling."With so much hard science behind global warming, and so many signs that its effects are accelerating, the only response that global warming deniers have is to pull a rhetorical sleight of hand and blame not the industries that value profits over responsible behavior, but (and you can probably see this coming) the media.
Yes, Will closes out his column with this inane and deceptive thought:
Why have Americans been slow to get in lock step concerning global warming? -- perhaps the "problem" is not big oil or big coal, both of which have discovered there is big money to be made from tax breaks and other subsidies justified in the name of combating carbon.If only we could flip that mirror around and have George Will see the truth in his own words.
Perhaps the problem is big crusading journalism.
As I wrote earlier this week, it seems like at long last we're seeing some momentum in this country for fighting global warming. So it's an ideal time for a new campaign from the Energy Action Network, a coalition of 25 enviromental organizations working to end our oil addiction.
Here's the scoop on "Fossil Fools Day":
This Saturday, April 1st marks the 3rd annual Fossil Fools Day, highlighting the devastating effects of our addiction to oil and celebrating clean energy and transportation alternatives. A powerful youth movement, environmental, human rights and peace activists will host events at college campuses, car dealerships and government buildings throughout the United States, Canada and England. Creative actions will confront educators, lawmakers and business leaders who are ignoring the growing popular movement to end the downward spiral of oil wars, air pollution and global warming caused by our oil addiction.There are currently more than 80 actions planned across the country. To find one near you, visit EAN's handy map page.