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Global Warming can be used in some really cool ways. First, it makes a great pun. Second, it provides fuel for intellectuals’ favorite pastime: making points that can’t be disproven.
Let’s be clear, this essay isn’t about Global Warming. It’s about why discussions like Global Warming are so often overdone. It’s because they’re easy.
Just try it right now. It’s great.
“All surgery will be done by automated robots in 80 years.”
“Earth will run out of drinkable water by 2070.”
“Florida will be undersea by 2100.”
Disagree with any of those claims? Good luck. They can’t be disproved since they can’t even be proven yet.
How’s this for an unassailable narrative: a problem that may not fully manifest for a century and which will ultimately need fixing with technology we can barely even imagine (or haven’t imagined yet).
Look, no one should make light of what very well may be a serious issue caused by the sun making light. I take matters like Climate Change as serious as anyone else should — which means I occasionally think about it or buy recycled paper towels like everyone else who thinks they care about Global Warming.
But, I do think about it. And that’s the point. I think.
In a 2005 speech given to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., author Michael Crichton argued that the mistake of over-concentrating on Climate is that it’s akin to a 1900s-era Teddy Roosevelt attempting to predict (and solve!) problems in the 2000s. Notably, Crichton thought it was flatly immoral to spend so much research on quasi-future issues when a third of the globe is starving.
But the point here is that discussing the immediate problems in the world isn’t as easy as forecasting future ones. With relatively short-term issues, there are results to be seen. You can’t just toss predictions into the crowd. Ideas have to go into action. Stuff has to get done.
—Like traffic. America has a traffic problem. And it isn’t just about missing out on some beauty sleep. Productivity matters. It was recently estimated that patrons of the nation’s worst trafficway, the Beltway in Washington, waste almost $1,400 dollars and 70 hours per person a year sitting in traffic. (While texting probably, am I right?)
But, it is also about beauty sleep. Enter the Beltline in Raleigh — something that directly affects my life. Our lives.
When is the last time Climate Change affected your daily life? We often hear in the media that people forget about Global Warming because it doesn’t directly “affect their daily lives.” But maybe that’s an important point. Maybe we should first fix the problems that do. You know, like whether we should have a playoff in college football.
Seriously though, unless you generally have no idea what the hell you’re doing (and based on our traffic, many people don’t), you’ve noticed the Beltline around our great city is losing the battle. My work (life) schedule is almost totally dominated by the windows of time when I can actually get on I-40 between Raleigh and Chapel Hill without wasting two extra hours of my day. And it’s getting worse.
Every time I see another CNN article claiming Raleigh as the No. 1 spot to reside in ‘Merica, it’s just more mid-20 to 30-something people like myself moving in. Every time our economy spikes from the fabulous nightlife downtown, it’s just more Yankees relocating here to complain that Southerners can’t drive in the snow without acknowledging the fact that they can’t drive at all.
Of course, the overcrowding stems from how incredible it is to live in Sir Walter’s Raleigh. It's big-city culture with Southern charisma. There are almost as many Ph.D.s as there are sports fans. The barbecue is fucking fantastic. It’s great. I love it.
I’ll even put up with the traffic. In fact, that's sort of the problem. Everyone else is willing to put up with it too.
So what’s the endgame here? Where are the serious, ferociously creative, solutions to traffic problems in the North Carolinian Piedmont when this problem hits critical mass? The question is that simple.
—Except that it’s phenomenally complicated. This is what the writers and reporters much more talented than I should be seeking out — the short-term problems that we need fixed now. It isn’t as sexy as the long-term problems like Global Warming — or as Teflon to peer review — but it’s the small picture issues like these that actually end up fixing the big picture problems like Global Warming.
The reason relatively short-term societal problems never get talked about? They’re hard. The problems that need fixing now actually need fixing now. And that’s tough, and involves mistakes, and criticism, and original thinking. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for problems down the road, but it also doesn't mean that we should forego solving the problems that we already have the technology to fix — like, childhood poverty and the pollution directly related to metropolitan gridlock.
So. Should we hire think tanks of the world’s best and brightest? Should we put college students on it? Engineers? Would it be publicly or privately funded?
We need people with the intellectual capacity to get this done. More importantly, we need people with the intestinal fortitude to get this done.
And most importantly, it needs to be someone other than me getting it done. Am I right?
Jordan Rogers is a sports editor at WCHL and created theblackfalcon.net. He lives in Raleigh, drinks in Carrboro, and writes in Chapel Hill.
Image from RaleighSkyline.com