The ostrich, a beautiful large bird that can’t fly, has been characterized as an animal that sticks its head in the sand when facing danger. In other words, the ostrich simply ignores or denies the risk, as compared to doing something about it. Akin to “closing your eyes so the problem will go away”.
Some people do that. They ignore or discount established facts or evidence that does not align with their view of the world. These people can assert that sources are unreliable or science is flawed because it does not conform to what they believe. They can even go so far as to censor material from others that does not conform to their views, stating, for example, the information is untrustworthy or fake “because it disagrees with me”, and therefore, it should not be available to others. Individuals who exhibit these characteristics are “willfully ignorant”. According to rationalwiki, “Willful ignorance differs from ordinary “ignorance“ — when someone is simply unaware of something — in that willfully ignorant people are fully aware of facts, resources and sources, but refuse to acknowledge them.”
Many people, knowledgeable about climate change, just haven’t moved that issue high enough on their priority list to be concerned or to take action.
Last week CNN reported on another study entitled “Climate change could pose ‘existential threat’ by 2050”. (It seems the term “existential” is being used more and more these days.) Skimming the key points of this story is scary. “Twenty days of lethal heat per year; collapsed eco-systems; and more than one billion people displaced.” Unfortunately, this is just one of many studies or reports that describe the anticipated horrific effects of global warming. For example:
“In March, a landmark United Nations (UN) paper found that humankind’s window for action was closing fast. The UN said that — under a business-as-usual scenario — millions of premature deaths could be expected due to air pollution, mass species extinction affecting the ability to meet human food and resource needs, and freshwater pollutants making antimicrobial-resistant infections a major cause of death by 2050.
In May, IPBES, a UN-affiliated climate research group, released a damning report on global biodiversity, which found that 75% of the planet’s land surface has been “significantly altered” and 1 million species already face extinction.”
But most of these reports end with a cautiously hopeful outlook that it is not too late IF ONLY world leaders will take aggressive and immediate steps to reduce global warming.
In our country, President Trump has not only reversed previous efforts to address global warming, he had taken steps to frustrate the efforts of others that are concerned with the future of our planet. In addition to relaxation or elimination of numerous rules designed to protect the environment, the Trump administration recently directed the EPA to limit their studies to no longer forecast climate impacts beyond 2040. Currently most scientists use the year 2050 as that pivotal point when much of the climate damage – significant global warming – will be beyond repair and the predicted catastrophic events (weather, famine, population displacements and deaths) will be upon us and accelerating. As in “too late”. So why would we want to ignore our planet’s future climate beyond 2040? If we ignore it, will it go away?
Last week the Washington Post reported that a State Department official, Ron Schoonover, who had planned to submit climate testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, was blocked from submitting written testimony by the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. His testimony stood in stark contrast to the generally dismissive tone Trump has taken as well as recent remarks from Secretary Pompeo (which include the benefits future global warming will bring, including opening new trade routes as glaciers melt). Will blocking the testimony of experts to Congress make global warming go away? (I don’t think so.)
Censoring and ignoring facts and actions would be like “sticking your head in the sand” and believing the risks or danger will simply go away!
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
Turns out ostriches really don’t bury their head in the sand. It’s a myth. According to National Geographic, “Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand—they wouldn’t be able to breathe! But they do dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs. Several times a day, a bird puts her head in the hole and turns the eggs. So it really does look like the birds are burying their heads in the sand!”
If only more of our leaders would take their heads out of the sand.