Thursday, September 4, 2008

qualifications to lead ...

From my unfortunate vantage point as an unenfranchised voter, it is incredible to me that people in the US can consider as qualified for high office someone who has no respect for science. Especially after 8 years of such leadership. There is an element of the "right" that considers science to be "opinion". This element threatens the future of the US as a scientific, technological, and, in fact, intellectual leader in the world. If they have their way, the US will be a nuclear armed country populated by ignoramuses. This is extraordinarily dangerous and threatening to our future.

Denial of such well-established scientific theories (in the scientific sense) as evolution would leave our children ignorant of the processes by which biological systems form. It threatens our ability to cultivate the eager minds of our youth to become the discoverers of cures for terrible diseases.

Denial of the profound evidence for global climate change is not simply stupid, it is colossally dangerous. The implications of climate change are terrible to contemplate, and such denial asks to leave our children with a world that spirals into the worst of all possible scenarios. These are not just environmental, but geopolitical and economic as well.

As scientists always deal with uncertainties, let us consider the highly unlikely possibility that human-induced climate change is not taking place. Do we continue with business as usual? Eventually fossil fuels will run out. The US cannot produce more than a few percent of the fuels it uses, and this would also be the case should we open all potential development of fossil-based fuels on US territory, including coal, natural gas, oil, etc. So we will remain dependent on sources from wonderfully democratic and stable countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. In the meantime, in Europe and Asia, huge investments are being made in alternative energies, including solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc. When oil peaks, and we need to urgently pursue other sources, we will be forced to purchase energy from China and Europe. This at at time when we are long past being an exporting nation and when our economy will need a shot that can be gotten through competing in the creation of new energy technologies.

Now suppose we go on with business as usual, accepting the arguments of people like Sen. Inhofe that global warming is a "hoax". What happens when Sen. Inhofe is shown to be wrong. In the US we will have to deal with migration from flooded coastal areas, the loss of a great portion of low-lying states like Florida, at the same time as our economy has tanked because new technology development has gone to China. Will we use our ace in the hole, nukes, to fight off such competition. We're going down, so let's take the rest of the world with us? Globally, mass migrations are taking place, as countries like Bangladesh disappear under rising seas. Expanding deserts push more from once fertile fields, with all that it implies.

The right-wing in the US is playing a very dangerous hand, and the selection of a VP candidate like Palin further demonstrates that the GOP is not qualified to lead us. It is too bad. Eight years ago it seemed the GOP actually had a realist leader who was appropriate for the times. Even John McCain has sacrificed wisdom for folly in the pursuit of power.

The Democrats may be bungling fools when it comes to implementing policy, but at least their principles are correct. What is frightening is their ability to lose, especially now, as the stakes get higher and higher, and true, realistic, and effective leadership is necessary.

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