Earth Day 2011: It Is Spelled T-H-E-O-R-Y

When I was a little girl, there was such a thing as a brontosaurus and it was a totally cool dinosaur (there was a movie about it and everything). Then one day a scientist said, “Oops, we screwed that one up.  It is actually a grown up Apatosaurus. Our bad.” And now when I take my kids to a natural history museum, they think I am a dinosaur moron because I can never remember what the “real” name is for a brontosaurus.

Oh, oh, oh. And when I was growing up, there were 9 planets (and for a short while there were 10) but now there are only 8 and children the world over will now forever wonder exactly what My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine of.

Then, there is that little story we learned in school about this guy named Newton (who did not make cookies, for the record) and an apple and gravity. Yeah, that’s not quite right either. The thing that confuses me is that that theory was replaced by one from Einstein decades ago but that cute little story still gets told to children ad nauseum.

Have you guessed where I am going with this?  Did you look at the calendar today?  It is THAT day. Earth Day. You know, apparently one day of the year we are suppose to consider our carbonite footprint and run around like headless chickens squawking that the world is going to end – but not before we calmly but fashionably drive to a Starbucks to buy a (Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Organic Double-Shot Extra Hot With Foam Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet) coffee in a disposable but recycled cup. One cannot face the end times without being properly caffeinated.  

This is my annual Earth Day rant.

This year, my theme is to remind people that climate change is a THEORY. That is not to say that the theory is wrong, but to take into consideration that the theory may not be right, or that only parts of it may be right (and yes, maybe even all of it may be right). But just remember that it is a theory — a scientific best guess based on the facts at hand. Scientific theories are disproven often and are tweaked almost continually.

It bothers me that those who even question (that is not even to say they disagree, just saying “hey guys, have you considered…”)  the theory of climate change in the scientific community are often called unprofessional and can even be blacklisted. In today’s political and scientific environment, even if a scientist did come up with data that would possibly go against the theory of climate change, that scientist would have to be a brave, brave person to even consider putting her career on the line over this matter. That is not good science.

This kind of militant adhering to one view is dangerous. What if we are wrong? What if it is not climate change as we thought or what if climate change is caused by something else, something else we could have changed or stopped? Science is based on continually examining what we hold to be true and redefining — and then discussing that in a calm and professional manner.

This is also not to say that we shouldn’t be aware of and reduce our consumption.  I have outlined many times before in my rants why, with or without climate change, we should be curbing our consumption.

This Sweetest Day equivalent of an environmental holiday is not helpful. Buying green is still buying and buying is still consumption.

All I ask is that today you consider that there may be more or less to this theory than we thought. What I ask of you tomorrow (and the day after that and the day after that and so on) is that you remember that we don’t live on this planet alone. You shouldn’t need a day to remember that.

22 thoughts on “Earth Day 2011: It Is Spelled T-H-E-O-R-Y
  1. Climate change is a theory, but the limited nature of our resources is not. We, as Americans, DO need to change the way we do things, based on this NON-theory.

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    Hanna Reply:

    You are absolutly right on that. The amount of resources we use and the plastic we throw away here is alarming and it needs to stop. But I would like to see the media focus more on that then climate change or global warming. But advertisers are not so keen on stories that tell people to buy less.

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  2. Your post is very compelling and well documented. Pointing out that no issue is black & white, but shades of gray is very refreshing – especially on Earth Day. I would like to include a link to your post on my garden blog – I appreciate your perspective on this topic.

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    Hanna Reply:

    Sure, that’s fine. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  3. agreed – it is a THEORY – but also agreed – if that we cannot assume (ass-u-me) that it is not true – consume less, re-use more, buy local! peace. k

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  4. I am oblivious to Earth Day. It’s another gimmick holiday, celebrate today, forget about it tomorrow. The green trend really is about consumption. I try to limit ours. We bought an old house instead of buying or building new, we buy used or accept hand me downs whenever possible, we are setting up our farm in a sustainable fashion, avoid using the car etc. It’s a lifestyle not a one day event.

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  5. I loved how you worded this post. I agree wholeheartedly. BTW, my mom rented me the movie “Baby” so often I wore out the tape (this was way back when, on VHS of course). Love that movie. It’d probably look pretty corney if I were to see it again today, though 😉

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  6. Gale H. on

    I am one of those people who believes that global warming does exist, through my experience of landscaping in VT for almost 30 years,experiencing the heat increases and weather alterations. Jury is still out as to why, but the CHANGES aren’t theory. I wasn’t aware there was any universal recognition of g.w. as real among scientists at all, mayb one reason our culture has found it easy to continue biz as usual. I make efforts to live without impacting the planet every day, but always thought that Earth Day,like Thanksgiving, was a day to contemplate certain topics:living clean/consuming small or being thankful, depending. Doesn’t mean the rest of the year I take a holiday from my commitments. Your post was thought-provoking, but a few too many generalizations for my reality. Thanks.

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    Hanna Reply:

    Then I ask you to consider why it is getting warmer. To tell the truth, that is where many scientists disagree about climate change (and some have thrown out the term global warming and use only climate change because while it may be getting warmer in some areas, others are seeing more cold – Just ask Chicago) is not whether it exists or not, but why it happens. The lock step is now that humans are doing it. But some scientists think it is a natural cycle on the planet and still others say we simply do not have the data to tell either way. Still others say that if it is man made, it is too late to fix it while others insist there is still time if we start now while others say we have centuries.

    But much of these discussions get crushed under an accepted stone dogma that the media perpetuates. This is not helpful to the conversation. We need to have the conversation and not just take what is presented as truth. This will lead to greater understanding and I think more acceptance as a whole to living more within appropriate consumption levels.

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    robert Reply:

    “..But some scientists think it is a natural cycle on the planet and still others say we simply do not have the data to tell either way…”

    Compare the “some scientists” and the quality of their information with the 98% who support the ACC hypothesis and data.

    What you are attempting is a false equivalency or the ‘teach the controversy’.

    I’m not sure why you think the media is helping this “stone dogma”, most of the analysis shows that even ‘liberal’ resources like NPR cite and provide as much time to your “some scientists” as to the actual published data.

    If you want to discuss what is not “stone dogma”, you’d be really looking at the various timelines, extent of effects, rate of change. Not whether or not ACC is happening. Doing so is doing your readers a disservice at best.

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  7. Katherine on

    I live a pretty green lifestyle and my family refers to me as the “family hippie”. I am the “hippie friend”. I appreciate Earth Day as a day that allows for the discussion of many topics and it opens the door for others who are curious to learn more without looking “weird” or “strange”. I guess I see it as a gateway drug so to speak to interest others in leading a more conscious lifestyle. I do think consumption has a lot to do with it, but I see it more as being aware that every action has an effect not just on the planet, but on others occupying this amazing place with you.

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  8. I can empathize about not knowing which dinasour is which yet my young nephew can spout off the names at the drop of a hat.

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  9. I can empathize about not knowing which dinasour is which yet my young nephew can spout off the names at the drop of a hat.

    He can also state the year they were from and their habits.

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  10. As a geologist, I belive that climate change is not a theory. We have over 4 billion years of records in the earth’s rocks and fossils that indicates otherwise. That apatosaurus/brontosaurus did not live in our current climate where there was polar ice (as an aside I also studied as a paleontologist for one year in grad school). Even wikipedia has it somewhat right on the climate of the Jurassic:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurassic

    Whether we as humans are accelerating or affecting the natural course of our planet is another matter. It’s possible we are affecting things, or it’s equally possible that this just another strech along the course of the earth’s “normal” cycle. We’ve had an especially cold planet and a hot warm jungle planet before, I don’t doubt we’ll have both again before our world is cleansed in the fiery death of the Sun. 😛

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  11. Enid on

    I’m late reading your post. Real late. But I applaud you, and lets not forget; the biological records shows that once upon a millenia or 2, the rain forests extended all the way to Canada. So, don’t panic, people; we are just going back to how it used to be before that chunk of space rock hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. It’s not our doing, never was, the system is finding it’s balance.

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  12. Annie on

    Gravity is also a theory. theories are not guesse’s that is a hypothesis. Climate change is happening at a fast pace..faster than any climate change previously. The earth is currently headed towards a climate like none we have kind in previously. Sure the earth had experienced it, but your plants and animals haven’t for the past few millenia. I love your posts but of think this one reeks of bias and opinion, not facts.I think I’ll skip the political rants from now on.

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    Hanna Reply:

    Gravity is not a hypothesis, but the theories on the reason for gravity existing have changed (Einstien’s theory being the most recent iteration).

    If you read the post, I never say climate change is NOT happening. Just ask people to be open minded about WHY or IF it is happening.

    I often find it odd that people get very touchy when asked to think.

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  13. The cause of climate change is theory, but the fact of it is real. The issue of blacklisting is very real too and has been around for decades; In the nineties, I worked for an MIT professor in atmospheric research who lost his funding for about five years because he published a study that threw some of the theory into question. It may not be political science, but this science is political.

    That said, I do find the evidence for human-influenced climate change to be extremely compelling.

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  14. I respectfully suggest you and your fellow doubters take a little time to look up in the dictionary the definitions of theory and hypothesis. Also look up the difference between climate (the earth) and weather (Chicago).Then read a short book called “The Revenge of Gaia”. Take your time absorbing the contents. Then get ready to consider the next Earth Day in a new light.

    It would help for you to consider that what is political is the response from propagandists working for those who have a large financial interest in the activities that create global warming. Most real scientists, more than 100,000 of them, recognize global warming as a fact, while a small number don’t “believe” it is happening.

    Science is not a question of belief, but of proofs and facts. That science offers changing explanations for certain factors shows that it is doing its job of integrating new knowledge into its studies.

    Just reading pages 83-87 of the December 2012 issue of Smithsonian magazine would give you valuable insight into how this new knowledge changes conclusions of the scientists. It’s worth a look. What has been recently discovered will help the climate change doubters to understand what’s happening. I, for one, am glad I will not be around to see what is coming down the tracks at warp speed. My guess is that it’s too late to save humanity from the changes coming faster than we can acclimate to them.

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