On Ranting

On Ranting

Recently I heard that someone in my writer’s group thinks I have improved a lot in my writing because I am no longer so inclined to rant.

I guess that is good. I’m sure it was meant as a compliment. After all, who is inclined to give more than passing attention to a rant. Yet I want to rant.

Everywhere I look those who most need to be raising the alarm against the dangers of climate change are quietly, and calmly, warning that it is real, human caused, inevitable, and more, even much more, expensive to deal with than we are currently prepared to pay for. But very few of those who investigate it are ready to yell, “the sky is falling down.” These are people we all rely upon for an assessment of the dangers. If they are okay with it, why shouldn’t we be?

That just makes me want to rant.

Ranting has the appeal that someone has emotion tied to his position. Emotion says any risk attached to the issue is real to the author. To me–and I’m not sure why–the risk seems very real. In case it’s not obvious to you, let me try to be a little more explicit. In particular, what is the ultimate end point in this “climate change” thing?

First, though, maybe I should clarify why I don’t know why the risk is real to me. I will certainly not be alive when, and if, that end point comes. I am rather old, already. I have three grandchildren, but I am rarely in contact with them (It’s a long story, and rather personal.) The bottom line is that I don’t have as much investment in their future as most grandparents generally do. But my only interest is not myself or my grandchildren. I have a very unusual relation with life other than humans. Unlike virtually ever other human I know, I don’t think humans are special. I am one, true, but therein ends their speciality.

I have more sympathy with the suffering of another human, I guess, but I don’t think other species suffering rates lower than our own. The salmon trying to struggle upstream deserves the water as much as the farmers downstream. I don’t think we have a right to it if it takes the water from them. Survival and flourishing of the human species does not, in my mind, automatically trump the priorities for another species.

How that unusual perspective on all life plays out in practice is probably a question to which I don’t know the answer, and won’t know, short of some theoretical encounter with a baby and the last of a species, both under threat. At any rate, the future I want to rant about, doesn’t involve the baby or the species, but both. For both are under threat.

The end result of climate change may well involve uninhabitability of this planet. That’s uninhabitability as in no life form can live on it. The risk of climate change is clearly a threat on this order. Is that rant-able or not?

Here’s why I say it’s so obvious. First of all, let’s dispose of a common misunderstanding many people hold regarding “climate change.” Scale is the biggest thing the general public doesn’t get. Climate change is caused by global warming. It is not like human created pollution. In particular, no city’s pollution problem even comes close. Not Beijing nor Los Angeles. They are like weather events. Climate change is global, not local.

The other biggest point of misunderstanding is simple chemistry, and it is here the failure of scientists to rant, every one of them, is particularly upsetting to me. It just makes me want to rant louder. At them. The role of greenhouse gases in climate change has been documented since the 1950’s. The role of humans in the build up of those greenhouse gases has been obvious for almost as long, if not longer. No scientist should be unaware of this.

No wonder I am inclined to rant.

A problem with the rant, which I don’t seem very good at addressing, is the issue of the target of the rant. Although politicians have inordinate power in responding to the threat of climate change, most of them have little education in scientific subjects. As such, they are not the target of my rant. They know no better. There is no reason to feel they are not living up to their responsibilities. The same can be said of most people in the general public. But when you rant, it sounds like the reader, no matter who it is, is the target.

But if you are being ranted at unjustly, or think you are, you stop listening. So the rant is wasted.

The rant is probably not very effective even when the recipient is the one deserving of the defensive position. But when the publications which the deserving ones read will not run your rant, because it is obviously a rant, how do you even get the right audience?

It just makes me want to rant more.

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One Response to On Ranting

  1. Hank Raymond says:

    Maybe you should first write your rant, then have it edited by Spock to take out all the emotional stuff.

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