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What's On Fire?

Nick Englehart

Posted on November 2, 2019 03:04

1 user

Seeing is believing, and that's a problem.

This year's California wildfires rage twenty-five miles south of me. Other than the occasional burnt smell, I haven’t noticed. It's a topic for small talk, “These wildfires are crazy right?” 

   “Yeah I just moved here from Ohio, so it’s definitely new.”

“Oh Ohio, yeah you don’t get those,” followed by some all too frequent off-colored chuckling. Actual effects of climate change rage down the street and it still doesn’t feel real. 


Human beings are incredibly bad at synthesizing data. A million people here a million there. Whatever’s going on I’m sure someone will figure it out. This phenomenon is incredibly visible in climate change. Putting its frequent use as a political tool aside (though its history is fascinating) even those who accept climate change as fact, don’t always act accordingly.

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts by the mid-century a rise in 1.3 degrees celsius. This increase in temperature will lead to catastrophic changes in weather, sea levels, and massive changes to the ecosystem. These projections are dire and made at a time when the American publics' trust in Science is higher than the Military. (86% versus 82% PEW)


The crisis may never truly impact those who live in countries with financial security. Projections for 2050 show that most people affected by climate change will be living in countries along the equator. Meanwhile, a Youtuber creates a tree donation campaign where Elon Musk can throw a million dollars around and receive free advertising (though Musk insists, "Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements...").

This isn’t to say Musk’s actions aren’t admirable. Of course they are. In lieu of federal regulation or tax increases for sustainability measures, billion-dollar companies come off as heroes for contributing the bare minimum. People can see the internet bar move, there's no need to go outside. Once 20 million trees have been donated we've saved the world!


Like most new horrifying daily realities, the climate has been "memeified". It exists in a realm just outside of reality. One where celebrities and companies receive admiration for donating minuscule amounts of money and time. The problems we face are so large individuals are unable to fathom their usefulness. What am I supposed to do go clean a lake? 


With increasing globalization, global problems will become more frequent. We'll be forced to turn to our institutions for help. Grassroots efforts are only so effective and the internet lets us off the hook. We just can’t expect our 3 dollar tree donation meme to save the world.

Overall trust in institutions is down but that doesn’t mean they're inherently bad. Institutions need to function properly to combat problems regular people can’t. Hopefully, waning trust leads to higher levels of oversight and more efficient action. Unrest will turn to action and that action to results. Until then I’ll just keep hoping some crazy scientist saves us with some of their uhh science.

Nick Englehart

Posted on November 2, 2019 03:04

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Source: WashPost

We need to figure out how to make green alternatives cheaper than the carbon-intensive versions.

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