Thursday, February 22, 2007

Crichton v. Gore


A few nights ago, the Charlie Rose Show had the interview I have been waiting for...an hour with my favorite living writer, Michael Crichton. A couple years ago, Crichton wrote a controversial novel (well, okay, so when HASN'T he written a controversial novel?) about global warming being more alarmist than reality. That novel? "State of Fear", which I actually enjoyed, though I didn't agree with his conclusions. So, Charlie Rose just had to ask him about his views on that. In particular, I loved that Charlie asked him what he thought of Al Gore. Crichton kept insisting that he liked Gore, and hinted that he would have preferred a President Gore than the one we have now (who wouldn't?), but he insists that Gore is wrong on the global warming data, going so far as to claim that Gore hasn't done his homework.

Crichton is obviously a very smart guy, for he has the uncanny ability to "foresee" controversial issues ahead of time to the point where his novels are published in the midst of whatever controversy is going on (in 1992, it was anti-Japanese sentiments; in 1994, it was sexual harassment; in 1996, it was airline safety; and when "State of Fear" came out in 2004, the novel included a frightening tsunami event). However, he also likes to twist conventional thinking a bit, for instance, making the man a victim of a female's sexual harassment. Going against conventional thinking shows how independent he is, yet is it responsible? Though I devour his novels when they come out, I don't buy into his premises. He offers an addictive read and I haven't been disappointed yet, but as much as I enjoyed reading "State of Fear", I didn't buy his argument that global warming is a manufactured crisis to put us into a "state of fear" from which people in power can continue to manipulate us in going along with whatever scheme they got going on. Part of his argument rests on the fact that scientists had claimed in the 1970s that global cooling was going on, so he asks, how can they do a 180 degree reversal? After painting a horrible future of a new ice age, now they are talking about rising temperatures that will wreck havoc on our ecosystem and cause hundreds of millions (if not a billion) environmental refugees from the low lying areas of our shrinking landmasses.

Unfortunately, if Charlie Rose wants that debate, he should have invited Gore to debate global warming with Crichton. That would be a great debate, as it pits my favorite writer against my favorite politician. But, based on my limited knowledge (and I am far, far from being any expert in science, considering how my flunking Biology 101 was the one stumbling block that kept me from earning my Bachelor's Degree until late last year when I finally made up that credit to graduate), I'm convinced that global warming is no science fiction tale meant to scare us. I see the trends around the world as an indication that the Book of Revelations has some relevance to ongoing debate about our world. That book wasn't meant to scare people into becoming Christians, but I believe that prophets of old saw a general trend and wrote that book as a warning about where humanity was heading if it continued down the selfish path of conquest and consumption. This is not wrath of God vengeance we're talking about, but the residue of negative karma being accumulated past the planet's ability to sustain itself. In other words, what I learned when I retook my Biology this past summer, is that when a species overpopulates an eco-system, there seems to be a natural boomerang effect in which disease or a rise in the species' predators or starvation brings down the number of the species in a community. Balance gets restored. That's mother nature's way.

So, to deny global warming and continue with business as usual, where will that lead? Rather than stoning the scientists and politicians and spiritual leaders who are sounding the warning call with greater frequency, perhaps Crichton should reconsider his position. He did admit that he was in favor of alternative energy and fuel efficiency standards in vehicles. This is our chance to change the way business is conducted. We can't afford to wait any longer. The only thing Crichton's views contribute to is giving the current administration a well-known skeptic in which to ignore the warnings of the pantheon of scientists who say otherwise, and being an apologist for the Bush administration's environmental policy is not something Crichton would want to be known for.

Ah, Charlie Rose! I'm glad he finally got to grill Crichton on his global warming position, and his talk show is the reason why I never got into Letterman or Leno. They offer fluff, while Rose conducts the most in depth conversations on television. Perhaps, he will invite Gore to debate Crichton on the most important issue facing our planet today. Until then, Crichton's "Next" is next on my novel reading list.

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