Dear John (Stossel)

Using one man’s contrarianism as impetus for ecological action

“Relax. … The fuss over Kyoto is absurd. … Do you think all the signers are going to honor what they signed? … If sea levels rise, we can build dikes and move back from the coasts. It worked for Holland.”
—John Stossel
ABC newscaster and author of Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity

First, John Stossel—mustachioed consumer reporter turned libertarian Ron Jeremy of contrarian news—let me address you personally and say that it’s kind of hard to “relax” when everywhere I turn there’s an actor or a college student telling me to stay away from my car, change my light bulbs, or generally “green-it-up” or get out.

Second, I don’t know who the “we” is that you’re referring to, but I, for one, am not building a dike—no matter how high the sea level rises, how toasty my summers get, or how many polar bears have to die. Got it? And by the way, think of all the things that didn’t work for Holland.

OK, I think me and Stossel are straight.

But, as it turns out, the more he rants about how off-base the scientific community is regarding its global-warming predictions, the more worried I become about climate change. It’s the truth. And, believe me, at age 32, I’m a lot of things, but an ecologically conscious man is not one of them. To give you an idea, when I throw a plastic water bottle in the garbage can, I’m 79 percent sure that an old Chinese lady will fish it out later that day, which by and large is good enough for me.

But the more Stossel continues stockpiling ammunition, gathering any scientist he can who supports his “chill out, Earth-lovers” attitude, the further I get from my own laid-back/apathetic view of our environmental crisis.

Fortunately, Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas (known for her previous skepticism of the ozone depletion) is here to convince me further that something must be done. Baliunas not only agrees with Stossel, but also goes on to suggest that added CO2 in the atmosphere actually may benefit the world. Her theory is simple (even for an astrophysicist): Plants love CO2, and we love plants, right? Let’s pollute!

Thanks to Baliunas, the idea of paying 40 bucks to offset my Civic’s carbon emissions for the year sounds pretty good right now. Especially when Stossel is out there, right by her side, like a faulty robot set on “destroy,” yelling: “Warmer may be better! More people die in cold waves than heat waves.”

So, fair enough. I set my refrigerator to low and Stossel banishes me, right along with the other “fundamentalist doom mongers.” But none of these measures for environmental safety we’re taking are going to actually harm the Earth, right? I’d rather be a fundamentalist doom monger with unnecessary light bulbs than an underwater fundamentalist doom monger with no polar bears to watch on the Discovery Channel.

In this environmentally unstable world, when scientists warn us that the sea is rising, shelf ice is melting, droughts and wildfires are becoming commonplace, heat waves are intensifying and animal species are under the guillotine of extinction, think to yourself, long and hard, “What would Stossel do?” Then, of course, do the exact opposite.