Monday, July 9, 2012

The Boy Who Cried Wolf And Our Future

Authorities announced today that the “Internet Doomsday” virus that allegedly infected thousands of PCs (or millions according to some “experts”) and which would prevent them from accessing the Internet has failed to produce little of any threat or impact.

Some say that it was because of the attention brought to the situation that allowed us to solve it before it became a problem.

Unfortunately, when I asked for proof of such claims, I haven’t received any credible, verifiable explanations.

As usual, our media has overhyped the latest threat du jour beyond the fear scale commensurate with the threat.

The problem with the media doing this is that as each new problem facing the world gets overhyped, we get a little bit more desensitized to real issues that are developing all around us.

We’re Always Facing an Imminent Disaster

In the 50’s and 60’s, nuclear war threatened us at every turn and we were taught the ever so useful “duck and cover”.

Remember the energy crisis in the 70’s?  We were taught in elementary school in the 70’s that oil would be gone within 10 years and that a doomsday energy scenario loomed in front of us.  Scary stuff for 8 year old kids.

In the early 80’s, we were taught that our global food usage would exhaust all natural sources of protein within 10 years and that the only steak we would enjoy would be made from soybeans.

In the 90’s and up to the present, some promote the belief that terrorists exist at every corner and that the billions (or trillions if you factor in military action) being spent have actually protected us from an infinite number of planned attacks and thus have saved thousands or tens of thousands of lives as a result.

Experts predicted that Y2K would cause our energy production systems to shut off, bank systems to fail, planes to fall out of the sky and our nuclear weapons to launch by accident.

Some “global warming experts”, including Al Gore, have said that global warming will leave NYC under several feet of water.

Every time a new flu season rolls around, we are told that THIS is the year that we will be decimated if we don’t get a flu shot.

And now we have dodged the bullet of not being able to access the Internet.  Facebook users around the world are breathing a sigh of relief.

Some Useful Prevention is Occurring

Don’t get me wrong.

I do believe that some preventative actions have been successful.  Some systems were saved from disaster during the Y2K situation.  Some terrorists have been prevented from conducting attacks.  Deaths and the spread of contagion on a crippling scale have been partially prevented through the use of flu vaccines.

However, my vehicle still burns gasoline that is widely available, the steak I enjoy is still not made from soybeans and NYC is not in immediate danger of becoming the new Venice.

That is NOT to say that we shouldn’t be alert to the potential for challenges in these and other areas and the need for solutions to address them.  They are just not threatening to derail us “tomorrow” and therefore we have the time needed to find solutions to these and other issues if we methodically approach each challenge.

We just don’t have the will or the interest on a global scale.

There’s a big difference but that’s not what the media promotes.

When we focus on the fear surrounding these issues instead of focusing on them as just challenges that need to be overcome, then we will continue to crush our brain with unnecessary negativity or pressure, spend inordinate amounts of money that we don’t have in a manner that far exceeds the nature of the threat that is being resolved or embrace incorrect solutions that are a waste of time and resources.

And when we do that repeatedly and on an ever-increasing “fear-focused” scale, then we will not be prepared when the REAL problem arrives.

In fact, we will probably ignore the warnings (or the messengers) totally until it is too late or as if often the case lately, spend our time yelling at each other while the clock ticks down.

And so whose fault will it be when we find ourselves in real trouble?

Will it be the fault of the media that exists to sell entertainment instead of knowledge and facts?

Will it be the fault of groups who sell fear because it is useful to keep people in line or to get them to consume things?

Will it be the fault of governments who sell misinformation to redirect our attention from the many issues that they are unable to solve despite their election promises to the contrary.

Or will it be our own fault for failing to ask for specific, objective data that allows us to make informed decisions instead of allowing someone else’s intentions or actions to direct how we should feel and respond?

There are things in our future that will require our undivided attention to address on a global scale.

Unfortunately, it will be difficult to solve these things if we are emotionally, physically and financially exhausted from every cry of wolf that we get wrapped up in today.

Putting It In Perspective

We don’t get in our car fearing that we will die in a fireball on the nearest highway.

We don’t go to a restaurant assuming that this hamburger is the one that will give us a heart attack or stroke.

We don’t fear walking outside in case that killer asteroid has our number on it.

We don’t fall asleep thinking that the person sleeping next to us is going to slice our throat as we sleep.

So why should we feel fear just because someone tells us that our demise is imminent and therefore we must be very afraid.

Such fear doesn’t promote solutions.

It promotes anger, distrust, waste and paralysis.

And that is NOT what the world needs today.

In service and servanthood,



Addendum – July 9, 2012:

Here’s what I mean about sticking to facts.  I received an email from a reader citing a CNN article entitled “Officials: Past 12 Months warmest ever for U.S.” as proof that global warming is about to doom us.

If the reader had read the article, they would have seen this line inside the article (underline emphasis is mine):

The mainland United States, which was largely recovering Monday from a near-nationwide heat wave, has experienced the warmest 12-month period since record-keeping began in 1895.

“Since 1895 “is not the same as “ever” as indicated in the headline.

If the reader studied the history of the earth, they would know that during the Holocene Climatic Optimum, which occurred between 5000 and 9000 years ago, the average temperatures in some parts of the world were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer on average than they are today with MUCH LESS Arctic ice present then than there is today.  There have been other periods identified as warmer in the history of the earth as well.

So the temperatures today are not the first time they have occurred on the earth.

Am I trying to make a case that global warming is not happening or that we aren’t contributing to it?

Not at all.

I’m just suggesting that we stick with the facts and stay away from hyperbole.  In the case for global warming, it is only when we do this that we can truly understand the causes of the current changes in the earth, learn how to separate our contribution from natural causes and know the difference between preventing it (if possible without making a bigger mess of things) and living with it if current changes are unstoppable.

As the character Joe Friday once said on Dragnet:

“Just the facts”.

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