Field of Science

Get a shopping bag, Rachel

Some one decided a few years back that the conservative movement needed to have some attractive women as spokes persons. Back a bit ago, Noelle Nikpour performed intellectually for everyone to see. Today in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, Rachel Marsden displays a similar dim-witted view of science by making several snide suggestions for topics at the upcoming Durban environmental summit. It's actually hard to tell if this column is meant to be serious or sarcastic.
Rachel's gives some advice, "Don't waste time fiddling with the planet's thermostat." Ah, Rachel, if only it were that easy, but even you realize that if a gym can't control the temperature, the Earth is harder, but part of the idea of a gym is to sweat. She seems confused about how heat works, but the problem is not the ceiling height because heat rises, so it's coolest near the floor of the gym, but the Earth works rather differently. It's warmest at the surface because of the atmosphere's insulation. Rachel thinks "nuclear energy is the future." But the reason many of us oppose its expansion is not because we're "worried about a nuclear energy facility going all Chernobyl on [us]", but because no one wants to talk about the camel in the tent which is what do you do with all terribly toxic nuclear waste for the next 25 million years? Rachel say "imposing green alternatives almost always results in dirtier ones", and as an example she says that if she wasn't given plastic bags at the grocery store she'd have her purchases delivered, thus wasting even more energy. Oh, and Rachel sending non-decomposing plastic bags to the dump as garbage bags is not a form of recycling, and little needs to be said about your little snippy remark about "faith-based" pollution except that a George Carlin you ain't.
Rachel thinks "excessive tree-hugging is suffocating the foliage". "Plants need carbon dioxide to live and produce oxygen. Humans need oxygen and need to eat plants." First blame environmentalists for saving forests. Second, sounds like Rachel avoided all that hard sciency stuff because her simplistic views lead her to a huge misunderstanding. OK Rachel, you see the rates of both respiration and photosynthesis increase as temperature increases, but respiration increases fastest and then photosynthesis actually begins to slow down, so plants respire, sort of like "eat" but more sciency, more of their own energy resources leaving less for consumers. At higher temperatures more tropical trees die and all that carbon dioxide stored in their wood gets released by decomposition increasing the amount in the atmosphere and you have a positive feedback system where temperature increased the CO2 and CO2 increases the warming, leading to run away global warming. Data exist that demonstrate this could happen (see link), so it's not just an "abstraction". Lastly, Rachel thinks there is an "ongoing epidemic of ensconcing kids in liberal arts programs to educate them far beyond their intelligence." Wow! It's a terrible thing to be educated beyond you intelligence, but it looks like a career as a conservative columnist and political strategist is possible. But then Rachel says science and technology along with critical thinking should be encouraged and innovation will arise without using any gummit money. Hmm, the Phactor always thought that the key aim of liberal arts programs was to teach kids to think critically, and maybe that's the problem because then they are able to see easily through these comments to their dumb, silly cores. And then one wonders how we are to interest kids in science and technology when the entirety of the conservative movement is waging war on science and higher education. Are we to encourage innovation to solve problems that you deny exist? Hard to know exactly what this woman wants except to criticize and belittle any and all efforts to deal with environmental problems. But as we all know, such changes begin small and locally, so get a shopping bag Rachel to carry your cabbage head home from the grocery.


Carol Steel said...

Thanks for this! Not all women are cabbage heads, but those who are...certainly make the rest of us look bad.

Colin Wilson said...

Completely unrelated to this post (though I suppose you could fill shopping bags with it) - I just heard about a new "Bruichladdich Botanist Gin" and immediately thought about my favorite cocktail-loving botanist blogger. You'll have to try it out in the name of science!