Jan 21st 2016

How the GOP Is Killing Us With Ignorance

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

In his State of the Union speech on January 12, 2016, President Obama said this about climate change: 

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You'll be pretty lonely, because you'll be debating our military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve it.

Senator Bernie Sanders, reflecting the view held by the other Democratic presidential candidates, observed on the Bill Maher show that, "One of the embarrassments that goes on in this country today is that we have a major political party called the Republican Party that is rejecting what the overwhelming majority of scientists are saying."

A New Disease Coming Your Way

Outside of the strange and insular world of extreme right-wing politics, most folks generally recognize the hazards of climate change: deadly heat waves, droughts, more frequent and more severe cyclones, floods, wildfires, catastrophic loss of marine life, and shifts in agricultural productivity. But because many of these impacts are not immediately evident in everyday life, those who wish to deny the obvious can continue to embrace the enticing comfort of ignorance.

Unfortunately, mosquitos are indifferent to the vagaries of American conservatism: with a warming planet they march north like an unstoppable Roman army. They are not alone, enjoying the companionship of a full menagerie of disease-vectoring insects never before seen in North America. Right-wing nutcases can deny that our climate is changing, but they will be unable to ignore that burning itch and spreading rash following the July 4 BBQ in a sweltering backyard. Bone-crushing joint pain, oppressive headaches, vomiting and blindness are hard to pawn off as a liberal conspiracy. I'm sure Obama is to blame, somehow.

Water-borne diseases will increase in frequency because warmer water expands the season and range of diseases like schistosomiasis and Cholera. Rodents also proliferate in the growing temperate regions with milder wet winters; they themselves are disease carriers, and also are reservoirs for disease-carrying ticks. Typhus and Hantavirus anyone?

Here are just a few of the ugly infections coming our way because of the changing climate that the GOP refuses to acknowledge:

• dengue fever
• malaria
• yellow fever
• hantavirus
• leptospirosis
• Japanese B Encephalitis
• elephantiasis
• Lyme's disease
• West Nile
• leishmaniosis
• Chagas disease
• Zika
• chikungunya
• typhus

The arrival of these diseases is not theoretical, or a future development, but is happening right now here in the good old U.S. of A as we record higher and higher temperatures.

Severe drought in the southwest has reduced predator populations, leading to an explosion of white-footed mice. We cannot therefore be shocked to learn that in May 1993 the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States saw an outbreak of a deadly pulmonary disease caused by the mouse-borne hantavirus, virtually unknown in the States prior to this event. Subsequent outbreaks have been recorded in Yosemite National Park in 2012, and cases have now been reported in 34 states. In Austin, Texas, flea-borne Typhus was reported for the first time in 2008 and is now endemic to the Austin area. New Yorkers first suffered an outbreak of West Nile virus in 1999, a new scourge for the city, which is now an annual threat.

In 2014, for the first time in Central America, authorities reported the transmission of mosquito-borne chikungunya. Symptoms include dangerously high fever and such severe joint pain that patients become immobile; shaking hands is too painful. If that were not enough, Zika, another disease transmitted by mosquitos, has invaded our neighbors just to the south. U.S. officials warn us that this "once obscure virus" is spreading rapidly across Latin America and the Caribbean. So much so that the Center for Disease Control has issued a travel warning, urging pregnant women to avoid more than a dozen countries in which Zika can now be found. The disease has been linked to severe brain damage in newborns. There are currently no specific treatments against these diseases, nor any vaccines.

There is more bad news as the GOP plugs its collective ears saying "niener, niener, niener, I can't hear you." While conservatives rearrange deck chairs, and cling desperately to their stubborn ignorance, climate change is wreaking havoc with bird populations. The Audubon Society classifies 314 species, about half of all birds in North America, as severely threatened by climate change. Many of those birds were eating insects...

With fewer birds to eat the bugs, not only will the pests be moving into the United States, where they've never been before, but there will be more of them than ever before across the expanded range. In Sweden, we are already seeing disease-bearing ticks moving north as winters become warmer. Not a good sign for the U.S. and those who would rather not contract Lyme's disease. We will also get new strains of old diseases. A new strain of West Nile first detected in 2002, is moving quickly. The virus infected about 175,000 people in 2007, killing 117, and has continued its deadly march ever since.

Ignorance Kills

The GOP has become the party that embraces ignorance, celebrates anti-intellectualism and dismisses scientific truths as mere inconveniences. The leading presidential candidates are climate change deniers. Ted Cruz says that "the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of flat-Earthers." Donald Trump claims the issue is a hoax. One tweet reads: "This very expensive global warming bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice."

Watching candidates embarrassing themselves like this may have been amusing at one point, but the consequences are now deadly and no laughing matter. Ignorance kills; and here is a perfect story to tell that tale. During the height of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, eight health care workers combating the disease were killed by an angry mob who believed the doctors and nurses were infecting people with the virus. The population most in need of help murdered the only people who could provide assistance. In that tragedy, we can learn much about the mentality of the GOP, even if the problem initially seems distant and remote.

Sitting in the comfort of our homes we can easily see these horrible killings as ridiculous, obviously counterproductive to the killers, and dangerous to people globally with an increased risk of a broader epidemic. The terrible episode is based entirely in the transparently false idea that doctors were spreading the disease, a notion borne of ignorance of basic biology. While the killings in Africa are easy to condemn, and rightfully so, we actually witness the very equivalent embrace of deadly ignorance with every Republican utterance denying the reality of climate change. The GOP is guilty of a deep scientific illiteracy of a magnitude similar to what we see in Africa, with equally lethal results. Those who deny the obvious truth of climate change are no different from fearful African villagers who reach conclusions based on ignorance of established fact.

These people are running for the highest office of our country -- and they have supporters among us. I can imagine few things more frightening. Republicans want to pull us back to the Dark Ages in a world increasingly dependent on the advances of science and technology. Get out the bug spray. The GOP is the wrong party at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons. We can only hope that sanity prevails in November.



Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com.

To follow Jeff Schweizer on Twitter, please click here.

For Jeff Schweitzer web site, please click here.

Below link to Amazon for Jeff Schweitzer's latest book.


TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!





 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Sep 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised..... And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth..... Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be."
Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Bryant, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers from a Louisiana carport storage room in 1997. He has already served twenty-three years for this petty crime, and on 31 July the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request to review his life sentence. The denial followed a lower appeals court’s 2019 decision that concluded “his life sentence is final.” The only judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court to dissent (or even issue an opinion) was Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote a stinging rebuke, observing that Bryant’s “life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.” "
Aug 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that as high as 40 percent of prisoners should not be in prison—”behind bars with no compelling public safety reason.” There are literally thousands of young prisoners, Black and white, who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for non-violent offences. It is unfathomable that we as a society are spending billions of dollars every year to sustain such pointless cruelty, to inflict needless pain on individuals, fathers and mothers, who pose no threat at all to the public."
Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."