Sunday, November 7, 2021
#311 / Facts Matter
As I was browsing through the halls of one of the academic buildings at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I am teaching a course entitled, "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom," I came across the "Facts Matter" sticker, shown in the photograph above.
The door to which this sticker is affixed, as it turns out, opens to the faculty office of one of the organizers of the UCSC Climate Coalition. This is a group that had an initial meeting yesterday at UCSC's McHenry Library.
Anyone paying attention to our global warming crisis will immediately understand the relevance of this "Facts Matter" advisory. Many people are working hard to deny the facts of our current situation, because any full acknowledgment of the facts about global warming will lead, inevitably, to the realization that we need to take dramatic action to alter our current social, political, and economic arrangements. Those with a stake in the current arrangements are casting doubt on what the scientists tell us, because change will adversely affect them - at least, that is the way they reckon it, largely erroneously, in my opinion. It is also true, as a general principle, that change is always uncomfortable, for everyone, so denying the facts about global warming helps delay and defer our encounter with an imperative that will require us to do things that are very uncomfortable, indeed.
Click on this link for an easy access book that gives you some facts, and some things you can do about the global warming crisis. Here's another website that is trying to provide some easy to digest information. While I definitely endorse the idea that "Facts Matter," I do want to say that the "Facts" aren't everything - and that the "Facts" can be an impediment to change, as well as a necessary stimulus to the changes we need to make.
The problem I would like to highlight is the falsity of what I call the "is equivalency." All too often, we think that what "is" is inevitable. We look around, and see the "Facts," and we then conclude that the "Facts" delimit and determine the scope of the realities that define our world. The "is equivalency" is a fallacy to which we are all susceptible. Whatever we observe, as the "Facts," is not an observation about an unchangeable reality that is a "given." The "Facts" are information on the current situation. We definitely need to know about that, but what is most important is not what we "observe," but what we "do."
All the realities of our human world (including the arrangements that are heating up the planet, to the detriment to all life on Earth) are realities that we can alter.
Thinking about our political, social, and economic immobility in the face of a danger that puts human civilization in peril, I tend to think that the main problem with the "Facts" is not that we are afraid to confront them (which is definitely true, and is the issue to which that sticker is addressed), but that we believe, deep down, that the "Facts," when we look them in the face, cannot be changed, and thus that we can do nothing that will be sufficient to extricate ourselves from our current situation, created by our own past actions and continuing, conduct.
My blog posting from yesterday, which included a photo showing thousands of people ready not only to face the "Facts," but to change them, tells us where inspiration can be found.
Our inspiration will be found not in the "Facts," but in our own ability to transform our lives and save our world.
Gary A. Patton personal photograph