The Climate of Critical Thinking

June 30, 2008

How do antiquated concepts such as “left” and “right” continue to play decisive and divisive roles in public debates?

If we follow-the-money in public debates does it really end up feeding our own beliefs and values on how we want to handle (or not) our personal finances?

If the majority of people choose not to vote in a nation-state can that nation-state still be considered to be a democracy?

Is choosing not to know the same as willful damage and destruction?

Can the concept of the “banality of evil” be useful at the dawn of the 21st century in enhancing understanding of hyphenated-ethics?

We can have environmental-ethics, professional-ethics, business-ethics, medical ethics and a myriad of self-regulating ethical standards but when we package them into one individual are there not ethical conflicts?

Why do we continue to honour those who succeed in one field by ignoring, neglecting, denying that which is considered to be ethical in another? Are we just confusing legal risk-management with a new form of 21st century ethics?

Bottom line analysis for many of us, ends when it touches our monthly bank statements. Let’s be pragmatic about this. Let’s be real. At the end of the day do you really want . . . ?

Who would question the decision of a young hardworking father from Newfoundland employed in Fort McMurray who takes no interest in local, regional, provincial politics because he self-defines as an outsider who will soon be part of the great exodus? He chooses not to vote since his goal is simply to earn money as fast as he can so he can leave sooner. He knows that there is something unhealthy about the fast-paced lifestyle, the physical and spiritual environment where his family now lives. Their choice is one of expediency not one of lifestyle. He would no doubt rather live by the ocean in a slower-paced space.

He, like the hedge fund investor bears no responsibility for the chaos in the energy industry.

Nor do we, those of us who have some investments however, small, our pension plan, for example, that is somehow linked in ways we could not imagine.

So when I read my morning paper, a ritual I cannot seem to shake, I find it easy to situate the writers into these polar opposites. It’s just less complicated that way.

If you deny that there is global warming you are on the “right” and if you argue that climate change is destroying our environment, you on the “left.”

If you are pro-American, you are on the “right.”

If you feel Conrad Black’s Order of Canada is no longer deserved, you’re a “lefty.”

What an easy world that would be.

The slow world way of reading and listening to diverging viewpoints, summarizing these arguments, seeking out the most compelling, cross-referencing, checking the author’s qualifications in terms of truth claims in that specific area of knowledge, then examining in a self-reflexive way how the beliefs and values underlying these arguments resonate with your own, in other words, critically thinking, takes too much time.

Gary Walker wrote in his letter the Editor (2008-06-26) “Cooling Calgary?”,

“Interpretation of troposphere satellite data shows no warming over the past 20 years, this according to data analysis performed by the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which is world renowned for its work with satellite weather data. Since 1997, the lower troposphere temperature has been in a cooling trend.”

T. M. Ashby”Study open for interpretation” in his letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald provided an url for the University of Alabama story entitled “Climate’s 27-year warming pattern not consistent with ‘global warming’” published in 2006 using data gathered prior to 2005.

“Temperatures in 2005 followed a general pattern seen over the past 27 years, with the most significant warming seen in the northernmost third of the planet — especially in the Arctic. Large regions of slightly warmer than normal temperatures covered much of the globe. With a global average temperature that was three-tenths of a degree Celsius (0.54º Fahrenheit) warmer than seasonal norms, 2005 tied with 2002 as the second warmest year in the past 27, according to data gathered by NOAA satellites and processed at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Temperatures in 2005 followed a general pattern seen over the past 27 years, with the most significant warming seen in the northernmost third of the planet — especially in the Arctic. Large regions of slightly warmer than normal temperatures covered much of the globe. Since November 1978, the Arctic atmosphere has warmed at a rate that is more than seven times faster than the average warming trend over the southern two-thirds of the globe. It just doesn’t look like global warming is very global,” said Dr. John Christy, director of UAH’s Earth System Science Center. Obviously some part of the warming we’ve observed in the atmosphere over the past 27 years is due to enhanced greenhouse gases. Simple physics tells you that. “

I believe this is why the international organization of knowledge workers devoting their skills to research this phenomenon is uses the term “climate change” rather than “global warming.”

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