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Climate change and COVID: time to face realities

The evidence indicating climate change continues to pile up; with heat waves, wildfires, storms in the Gulf of Mexico, and floods in Germany and China.

Meanwhile a COVID variant is spreading rapidly among people who’ve refused to get vaccinated. The vaccine means that the chances of even catching COVID are very remote.

Both situations seem obvious. It seems clear that serious steps are needed to care for our planet. It makes sense to get a vaccine that could save lives.

It surprises me that we’re running into so much skepticism with each of the two issues. I think there’s a definite correlation between the two. People who are skeptics about one are likely to also be skeptics about the other.

They’re ignoring the best scientific evidence available. Instead they buy into superstition. They believe misinformation that’s been put out by people with agendas, ones that are often based on questioning the government or casting doubt on established experts.

To a large extent it’s a defiance of authority. Who is anyone to tell them that they should consider an electric car?

Who is anyone to pressure them to get the vaccine?

In my lifetime I’ve seen a trend toward that kind of mentality. I’ll go so far as to say that a generation ago in the 1990s the skepticism we have today probably would never have happened.

People didn’t question the energy crisis or the pollution issues of the 1970s. The twentieth century public never doubted the dangers of polio, tuberculosis or measles.

There were always a small handful of people with hoax claims and conspiracy theories. They were oddballs. It never caused anything like this summer’s plateau in the vaccination process.

There’s a difference now, since the proliferation of the Internet, in the way many people get information. We have millions who don’t read a daily newspaper, either the print or online versions. We have millions who don’t follow news from major networks.

Some other outlets at times have good information, but there’s also a lot of nonsense that gets circulated. With climate change and COVID, it’s vital to be skeptical about the skeptics.

Their ideas should be approached with critical thinking. We should question whether they have facts or whether it’s mainly their own biased assumptions. People shouldn’t think it’s all total truth just because all their relatives and friends happen to like a certain source of news.

If you’ve gotten this far with this column, you’ve given some thought to what I’ve said about the alternative theorists. You’ve used critical thinking to decide if maybe all the unusual weather really is the result of man made activities, and if maybe the vaccine really is the best protection everyone can have from a potentially deadly virus.

The main thing is to listen to a wide range of sources. It’s important to follow major developments in the most important current issues. A democracy is based on having a well-informed public, a society made up of many who individually evaluate what we hear. That leads to good collective decisions.

It’s equally important to remember our duty as Americans. Refusing to help in protecting the planet or in stopping a pandemic is self-centeredness in its most extreme form.

It’s easier to just go with the most convenient theory, and to accept a basic claim without question. There’s a desire on the part of many to look for the simplest answer.

The world in the 21st century is definitely not simple. Climate change and the COVID response are two of the clearest examples of complicated issues that take time and effort to sort out. Hopefully the best information will, in the end, get full public acceptance.

— Jim Muchlinski is a long-time reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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