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N is for naysayers and never say never

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 11, 2002


"A fool sees not the same tree a wise man sees." — William Blake

Humans are a distinctly curious species. Not only do we possess a rich fantasy life that allows us to create something out of nothing, we have also perfected the art of making nothing out of a big scary something. As if denial is genetically programmed into our very being, when other creatures flee, we content ourselves with explaining away the very thing aiming to do us harm.

Naysayers, which isn't exactly a word, are the type of people who deny something not understood or to their particular liking. Culturally conditioned, this state of mind has been an important part of human history. The Flat Earthers, the most obvious of this group, followed by the anti-evolution crowd, the pro-nukers, and most recently the "What Global Warming?" chorus, are but a few notable stand outs in the pantheon of aggressive ignorance.

The Flat Earth folks, unable to imagine the enormity of a complex biosphere, didn't possess the critical thinking skills needed to believe in a bigger world beyond the narrow existence of their daily lives. To them flat made sense, and that was good enough. The anti-evolution crowd, for reasons unknown to me, refuses to accept profound biological evidence for an ebb and flow of time and inhabitation on planet earth.The only harm done by such disbelief, is when faith is offered as evidence and tangent proof ignored.

The Pro-nukers and the "What Global Warming?" crowd are naysayers cut from the same cloth. Deeply woven into the fabric of consumptive capitalism, those most invested in the fouling of the environment offer the loudest voices presenting the "Nothing is wrong" song to an eager media. Content with business as usual, these folks profit from foot dragging in the face mounting evidence that shows human activity over the last 300 years is threatening our long term survival.

Now I know there will be more than a few out there who are rolling their eyes, and saying "There goes Nanninga again." To which I can only reply, remember the Flat Earthers? At this point in time, is it really stretch of the imagination to foresee a world in chaos due to a shift in global warming patterns? In the last month alone catastrophic floods have hit Eastern Europe, Northern China, and India. The South Pacific is slowly being inundated by rising sea levels; glaciers are melting, and ice selves breaking free.

If I were the type, I would evoke the myth of another famous "N" that had his own interaction with the naysayers of his time. Suffice it to say the proverbial ark needed someone to build it, and because of Noah listened to the voices in side his head we know how the story ends, and once again humans have the opportunity to drive untold numbers of species to the brink of extinction. In the 21st century big boats will not get us out of this mess, what we need now are technologies aimed at reducing green house gases and other human induced pressures on the planetary systems that support us.

Prompting this column was a chance meeting that occurred a couple of weeks ago while stopping by the Coast News office. Entering the front door I was greeted with the usual "speak of the devil" sort of comment. Stopping by to leave a message for me was a Cardiff residence and his nephew from Western Australia. The nephew, an environmental engineer with Moorilup Energy Research, was hoping we could meet for coffee and talk shop. The three of us met the next morning at St. Germain's on Highway 101.

The reason I bring this up is because the two hours we spent discussing renewable energy, photovoltaics, super capacitors, thermoelectric generators, and composting toilets, left me we enough hope to change the world. Instead of saying nay to those who would continue polluting the planet, this soft spoken visionary from Down Under, explained to me how he was building a home that took full advantage of the solar energy, so readily abundant in his corner of the world, while reducing pollution and saving major bucks in the process.

Usually this column is all about complaining, but after meeting with Sean O'Connor and hearing his treatise on incrementalism, gradualism, and transitional grid interactive power systems, I find it harder and harder to remain distraught about the state of the world.

Better yet, I now know hope can find you when you least expect it, often speaking in a funny accent untouched by American pessimism.

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