Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Planet made of Diamond

In recent weeks, the scientific community has congratulated itself for the discovery of a planet that is composed of a carbonic substance similar to what we know here on Earth as diamond. Not so fast, jewelers! It is 4000 light years away.

The method to confirm this discovery is the good old scientific method: observation, simulation, hypothesis, testing, confirmation, peer reviews by anonymous, qualified scientists. In the words of Dr. Matthew Bailies, it is likely to be the greatest scientific discovery of his career.

He very quickly shuns pride for the achievement and wonders why, if the scientific community and the specialized and general public are cheering for such discovery, is it not possible to be consistent with scientific discovery following the scientific method that proves, without reasonable doubt, that human behavior with the Earth's natural resources is causing a net negative impact on the world's ecosystem?

The question is pertinent. A group of scientists identify a body in outer space that would take 4000 years to arrive at if we traveled at the speed of light, but the samples collected for decades from all possible locations on our planet are disregarded as sufficient proof of anthropogenic interference -that is, caused by humans- in our ecosystem.

It may not be a matter of method. If we wonder what would happen if exhaust fumes from combustion engines would stay at surface level instead of flying kilometers up into the atmosphere, we would have gotten sick from them half a century ago and we would have probably solved the problem by now.

It may be a matter of belief. Some people choose to believe there is no anthropogenic climate change because they don't see it. Some others choose to ignore its existence or become indifferent to it because it would imply changing the comfortable life that at least 1 billion people on the planet (14% of us) have achieved through technology, energy, safety, market economies, food availability, health, entertainment, etc.

Unfortunately, it may also be a question of incentives: some people may be receiving monetary gains from the lifestyle and processes that are involved with human contamination of nature. I am almost sure that if my father was an important shareholder of a Big Oil Company I would find it more difficult to criticize pollution from carbon emissions and green house gases.

Which leads us to the field of ethics, that moral ground that we used to have and may have escaped this generation of new leaders that we are forming. More on this later.

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