Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Ecology of Public Opinion

Regarding Micheal Crichton's now book "State of Fear" (which I think I'm going to have to add to by ever-growing reading list-anybody need a last minute gift idea?) George Will comments that public opinion can be a fair-weather friend. In the case of global warming, mass hot-headness has contributed to "eco-friendly" restrictions on business and helps keep the environmentalists case current in everyone's mind. Seems this eco-friendship blows hot and cold though, so before you make heavy weather out of nothing, check out Crichton's new book.

One of the good guys in "State of Fear" cites Montaigne's axiom: "Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known." Which is why 30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling. The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) saw "many signs" that "Earth may be heading for another ice age." Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned about "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." "Continued rapid cooling of the Earth" (Global Ecology, 1971) could herald "a full-blown 10,000 year ice age" (Science, March 1, 1975). The Christian Science Monitor reported (Aug. 27, 1974) that Nebraska's armadillos were retreating south from the cooling. Last week The Washington Post reported that global warming has caused a decline in Alaska's porcupine caribou herd and has lured the golden orange prothonotary warbler back from southern wintering grounds to Richmond, Va., a day earlier for nearly two decades. Or since global cooling stopped. Maybe.

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