For many years I’ve found it cathartic to draft letters to you, but never sent them. I wanted to avoid being labeled a white, cisgender, racist, misogynistic male, or whatever the word of the day is to connote evil. Such labeling is relentlessly used, nowadays, to avoid reasoned debate.
Nearly every Callie Auryn column caused me to draft such a letter. When I read her column “California would do well to capture excess water while it’s here” I knew that she was, once again, mostly wrong. With a little research I found out just how wrong. So I decided to send three letters that hopefully will shed some light on a few of her columns. I would rather be labeled than to risk everyone believing her.
Her very first letter caused me to believe that she was just another victim of: 1) what passes as higher education today, 2) that cesspool of information known as social media, 3) the lack of wisdom from aging, and 4) the new religions known as PC, woke and cancel culture. Callie has a tendency to use hyperbole, misinformation, overgeneralizations, dishonesty by omission, etc ... So I was shocked that you proceeded to give her a regular column.
In her first column Callie listed her qualifications to tell us about climate change. She informed us that she is: young, well educated and female. My grandmother is 108 years old, one-room school educated, but at least she is female. I do not think she and Callie would agree with very much. My grandmother says she has witnessed being told to worry about global cooling, then global warming, then global cooling, and now back to global warming. She once asked, “How egotistical is it, to claim the ability to predict temperatures, 100 years from now, far more accurately and with more certainty, than they can predict next week’s temperatures?”
Despite Callie’s credentials and use of polysyllabic words I tend to listen more to my grandmother’s wisdom. Don’t get me wrong. I believe the climate is changing, has always changed and will forever change. I just question how much evil white men affect the change. I really question so called fixes that will likely hurt humans more than doing nothing would.
In her column about storing water, she wrote “all topographically and technologically feasible dam sites have been built.” Callie would have been much more honest if she had written “there are no remaining dam sites that she and like minded people would approve of.” To “support” her claim she referred us to a website. That site merely lists all existing dams. It has nothing with potential dam sites.
When I read her declaration I remembered reading about an early ‘50s USBR report about how to meet California’s water needs, if the population grew to 30 million and a drought like the one near the turn of that century occurred again. I recalled that construction of about 15 new dam sites were recommended and only one was ever built. I also recall that the reasons why no others were built: 1) omnipresent environmental concerns, 2) doubt that the population would reach 30 million, and 3) a drought like that had not occurred again (until recently).
After considerable effort to find that USBR report I gave up. But I did find a 1957 Water Plan produced by California’s DWR. It is not online or I would provide a link. The DWR will send a PDF if you ask. It lists more potential dam sites than I care to count. But I did count the ones in roughly Shasta, Tehama and Trinity counties. There are 119 potential reservoirs listed in just that small portion of California! So contrary to Callie’s pronouncement, we are a long way from there being no more potential dam sites.
I am not suggesting that we should build a lot more dams. Nor do I think the alternative is for us to drink our own urine. I just wish there was more honest debating and widespread acceptance that there is no free lunch. Everything a human can do to make life easier for humans has consequences to the environment. Humans are not capable of returning the planet’s environment to some point in its history and keeping it there. Even the elimination of humans will not hold the environment in stasis.
Dear Mr. Coleman,
Thank you for your contribution to an honest debate. Well-reasoned and well-presented viewpoints are always welcome.
I’d like to respond to just a couple of your points:
[I just question how much evil white men affect the change. I really question so called fixes that will likely hurt humans more than doing nothing would.]
I believe the observation Ms. Auryn is making is that nearly all heads of the corporations that do the most environmental damage are indeed men, but it’s not their gender that is the issue. The “evil” motivating them stems from the love of money—profits above all else, environmental consequences be damned.
For discussion’s sake, let us imagine the two sides in the climate-change debate: Climate change IS human caused vs. climate change IS NOT human caused. There are plenty of persuasive arguments for each case, but one of those opposing ideas is wrong. What are the consequences of either viewpoint being wrong?
If climate change IS human caused, then moving toward cleaner energy sources and smarter consumption will give humans more time to enjoy this beautiful earth. Cleaner energy and the smarter use of it will lead to new inventions, stoking the economy as consumers replace their inefficient cars and appliances with more efficient ones. We Americans could lead this effort, or we can let other manufacturing countries, like China, lead—and reap the economic rewards. I would argue that it is better for us to lead. And if we humans do not meet this challenge and succeed, our progeny will live shorter, more miserable lives.
If climate change IS NOT human caused, but we move toward a cleaner, more sustainable environment anyway, the only real harm might be somewhat higher prices and somewhat lower profits for certain corporations. However, successful corporations follow their customers’ wants, needs, and demands. And many customers (perhaps a groundswell) ARE demanding cleaner energy and protections for the environment.
Holding fast to old ways may help some feel more comfortable, but from history we know that people adapt to change—some quickly, some slowly—but everyone eventually adapts, e.g., cars, phones, internet.
I believe that the consequences of NOT acting far outweigh the consequences of doing our best to clean up our act, whether or not climate change is caused by humans.
[I just wish there was more honest debating and widespread acceptance that there is no free lunch. Everything a human can do to make life easier for humans has consequences to the environment.]
I agree wholeheartedly. Every decision we make has trade-offs as well as costs. But what are the costs if we humans destroy our environment and do nothing to protect it? Only our very existence.
And what are the costs if we move toward sustainability without really needing to? Somewhat higher prices and somewhat lower corporate profits, but we end up with a cleaner world.
Hmm. I know which path I would choose.
The most important point is in your answer ..."I know which path I would choose." The issue is choice. The argument isn't about the climate, it's that it's being used as a weapon to take away choice. Nothing wrong with moving people towards environmentally friendly attitudes it's forcing them that's the problem. Is mining lithium good for the earth? No. The Amish are arguably the most earth friendly group on the planet, yet they are under attack. It's just about control not actually saving the planet. I choose freedom. The "science" said we will have an arctic freeze 30 years ago then it was global warming 20 years ago, all have been wrong so now it's called climate change, so they are never wrong. A monster solar flare will solve all these issues, but it won't stop the effort by others to control everybody else. And "climate change" is the newest tool to do that.
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