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August 05, 1988 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1988-08-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

One recent morning in the sweltering glass box of a North Campus
bus stop, two men were discussing the greenhouse effect. The morning
shadows were still long, but it was already oppressively hot.
One man explained to the other what happens when trees are cut and
burned, how the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and traps
the sun's heat. He spoke about the deforestation of Madagascar and
Malaysia. The other man nodded. Under the glass, his face assumed a
pained expression of deep concern.
As an ecologist, I am always interested in these kinds of conversations
since they reveal much about how people perceive the natural
environment and their connection with it. This summer's drought has
everyone discussing the greenhouse effect. In the popular imagination, it
seems to have superseded nuclear winter as the ecological metaphor of
I ask everyone about the greenhouse effect: the taxi driver, the waitress
who brings coffee, the guy who cuts my hair, my friends in the English
department. Do you believe it's happening? Do you think itsis scary?
rWhat should we do about it?
On one level, there seems to be a kind of consensus: well, we've really
fucked things up now. Such statements are usually punctuated by resigned
shakings of the head. When pressed, most people interviewed in this
informal way express fear that the greenhouse effect could be the most
serious crisis faced by humankind. No one seems to have too many
doubts about its impending reality.
In this last respect, popular perception is not much different than that
of the atmospheric researchers who have been monitoring the situation.
The greenhouse effect is not controversial. It is real. In fact, nearly a
century ago, some scientists were predicting dramatic changes in the
hworld's climate due to massive amounts of carbon dioxide produced as a
consequence of the Industrial Revolution.
By the 1950s, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were
starting to be detected, and by 1985, an international group of scientists
became so alarmed, they held a special conference and issued a global
warning which was worded in no uncertain terms: rising levels of
greenhouse gases will without a doubt have profound effects on world
temperatures, rainfall patterns, winds, ocean currents, sea levels and
All of these findings, wamings and predictions were dutifully reported
to other members of the scientific community - through magazines such
Ngs BioScience - long before this summer's drought brought the issue to
the attention of the public through the current wave of greenhouse stories
and editorial cartoons in the mass media
The media misrepresent the greenhouse effect in at least two ways.
First, they mislocate the focus of controversy by implying that scientists
hold many different opinions on the reality of the phenomenon. What the
scientific community in fact perceives as uncertain is not the reality of
imminent climatic change but how the specific consequences of this
change will play themselves out and on what time scale.
For example, it is clear that - if current trends continue - carbon
ioxide levels will double by the second half of the 21st century. And it is
clear that this doubling will cause global mean temperatures to rise
between two and five degrees. What is not so clear is what effect this
global warming will have on the frequency of forest fires, or the life
cycles of plant pests like the gypsy moth, or the pollution levels in
coastal wetlands where fish breed. And so forth.
Second, the media wrongly imply that technological change will be
able to compensate for climatic change. Last week's front page article in
the New York Times was typical. Researchers at U.S. agricultural
universities were lavishly described as working at a feverish pace to
develop drought-resistant crops - with seemingly hopeful results. Such
reassuring reportage implies that agricultural policymakers are responding
prudently to the predictions of the greenhouse scientists.
Such stories overlook the recommendations of the climatologists
themselves who stress not fatalistic adaptation to a very real phenomenon
but the need to restructure socio-economic policies and political priorities
in a way that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, slow climatic
change and buy time to better understand the specific effects. It is
understandable why the U.S. government would favor the promotion of
techno-fix adaptations over deep structural change - such as a ban on
coal-burning power plants - but it is disquieting to see how the media
follow this lead.
r The man in the glass box waiting for the bus was doing a pretty good
job explaining the greenhouse effect to his comrade. They, and everyone
else who quietly despairs about the atmosphere we all inhabit, deserve
better information.

The Michigan Daily - Friday, August 5, 1988 - Page 3
Pollack wins 2nd
district Dems race
BY ANNA SENKEVITCH ber election largely from her ability high cost in light of Pollack's spend-
After an eight-month campaign, to raise campaign dollars. ing during her primary campaign.
state senator Lana Pollack (D-Ann , "(Tuesday's) results were no surprise
Arbor) captured the 2nd congressional "The bottom line is it doesnt given the amount of money Pollack
district Democratic candidacy. matter what your argument is," Mc- spent in the primary," Cates said.
She will face 6- Pollack, who
term icumbent in several public
Carl Pursell (R- appearances in
Plymouth) in the past few
the November months called
general election. for a unified
U.S. ENATE Michi an Washenaw Counyf orauif
The primary, Democratic
which had only party, hopes
a 16 percent Republicans Jim Dunn 244,909 4,849 Baker and his
estimated Robert Huber 159,616 2,802 campaign vol-
Washtenaw unteers will
County voter U.S.H contribute to the
turnout, also .S. OUSE 2d District Washlenaw County party's Novem-
determined party ber campaigns,
candidates for Democrats Lana Pollack 12,051 6,966 Evans said.
the U.S. Senate Dean Baker 5,049 2,602 But Baker,
spot, currently who throughout
held by Demo- DRAIN CSW shenaw Couny his grassroots
crat Donald D E primary cam-
Riegle, paign insisted
Washtenaw Democrats Janis Bobrin 6,808 positive change
County drain occurs from
commissioner, Bob Hubbard 4,842 stirrin u o-
and circuit court Republicans Phil Bondle 3,885 litical parties,
judge. C. Delores Sigal 3,012 said he doubts
RepublicanCOhe will help
Jim Dunn seized 2 D IRCUITCOURT Washtenaw County with any more
an entry into the 1988 political
Senate race with Nancy C. Francis 6,364 u1 think (the
61 percent of Melinda Morris 5,928 call for party
the votes; Bruce Laidlaw 3,204 unity) is some-
Democrat Janisthn hath
Bobrin will John M. Barr 5,071 thing that the
square off with party moderates
Reulcno-Wner peri od have used to
Republican op- ~ i ~ Wk ~ ' ' blackmail
ponent Philip~ ,~ p - b- progressives,"
Bondle for the
drain commissioner's seat; and Nancy Cauley said, "if you can't commun- he said. "I never thought it was a
Francis and Melinda Morris will run icate it to the people." worthwhile goal. I just want to sit
for the nonpartisan 22nd circuit court
office. Gary Cates, Pursell's press sec- back and see what sort of positions
Pollack, who faced recent Uni- retary, said Pursell is preparing for a Lana is talking."
versity graduate Dean Baker, pulled
71 percent of the 2nd district Demo-
cratic vote, and 73 percent of that in UM News in Subscribe to
Washtenaw County. The landslide -he Da y The
results did not surprise Mike Mc-
Cauley, Chair of the 2nd congress- 764-0552 Michigan
ional district Democratic party. Daily!
"I didn't think it was going to be
close," he said. "People I interviewed Planning to travet or The Michigan Daily
felt that she had a better chance of will be publishing
,, study abroad? September through April
Pollack had said during her LOWEST A12 ./T014 S (Fall & Winter terms)
primary campaigning that she was TO3{/NA 80OR1tNT
confident of an August 2 win. In a TOKYO fr. 5775 r.t Subscriptions Rates:
meeting with University student ONG KtN, TA $855 r.t Fall & Winter terms
groups July 16, she stressed that her NGKK, SINGfPtt E $1155 r.t. In-town .................... $25.00
greater challenge would be to unseat 7ays angkk Fr. $1175 Out-of-town ............ $35.00
Pursell. super Days
"If (Pursell) can defeat me, he can Hong Kong Fr. $1099 Fall term only
defeat anybody," she said at the talk 9 Days Bangkk/ In-town .....................$15.00
with students. 22 Dog Tour r.1 Out-of-town ..............$20.00
Second district representatives Cruise or hina r. $2935
from both parties expect the con- 21 Days thina o JapanF r. $2835 Send prepayment to:
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lieves Pollack could win the Novem- 1-800-462-1520 Ann Arbor, Ml 48109

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