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Scaring the Young for Mother Earth

The most stubborn winter we can remember has at long last ended here in Kansas, and we seem to have skipped spring altogether and headed directly into summer. May arrived at a chilly 35 degrees, but since then we’ve had nothing but high 90s and low 100s in at the afternoons with just a few brief moments of ideal moderation in between. We can’t complain, not after eight straight months of relentless griping about the cold, but neither can we consider it an unalloyed good. There’s suddenly a lot of lawn work to be done, for one thing, and worse yet, global warming alarmism is now back in season.
All the hysteria that now accompanies warmer days is annoying to old-timers such as ourselves, who have been through enough of Kansas’ famously cussed weather to have noticed how very erratic it is and how little it cares about human activity, but apparently it is downright nerve-wracking for the young folks. According to an intriguing report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail, “Child psychiatrists, psychologists and educators say they’ve seen an escalation in the anxiety levels of today’s youth, who are constantly exposed to doomsday talk about the destruction of our planet.” This strikes us as unfortunate, and even akin to a sort of mass low-level child abuse, but the scribes at The Globe and Mail seem to regard it as a positive development. The story is “part of a series examine the health repercussions for Canadians of a changing climate,” and argues that making the next generations of Canadians even more neurotic than usual is just one of those repercussions and perhaps the one that will finally force Canada to revert to a pre-agricultural society that will surely result in paradise.
The Globe and Mail’s story begins with the obligatory anecdote, and concerns a sweet-sounding 14-year-old whose downtown Calgary neighborhood was recently devastated by floods on the Bow and Elbow rivers. We can readily sympathize with the poor lass, as we are nestled between the Arkansas and Little rivers that occasionally interrupt the persistent droughts by threatening to jump their high banks, and would have flooded our humble bungalow on a few occasions if not for the enormous Big Ditch that the city plowed on the west side five decades ago, and we are therefore saddened to learn that she has since become such a global warming enthusiast that she’s joined her school’s Model United Nations program to “take an active role” in combatting the stuff. It’s sad enough that the poor lass has had the bejeezus scared out of her by nature’s savage fury and humankind’s recklessly high-minded conjecture, but to think that she’s also been taught to place her innocent youthful faith in the likes of the United Nations is downright heart-breaking. The authors of The Globe and Mail’s story are encouraged by this tale, though, and hold out hope that it will spur the change needed to reassure all the panicked 14-year-olds that the future will be saved.
“While the Alberta floods haven’t been directly linked to climate change,” The Globe and Mail rather glumly conceded, but it was quick to add that “destructive weather events are expected to increase in the future.” Those expectations come from the same experts who cannot explain why there has been no global warming during that 14-year-old’s lifetime, a “pause” that rudely defied all the experts’ computer models that continue to predict an increase of destructive weather events sometime in the future, but this goes unmentioned in the story. Also unmentioned is the possibility that the Bow and Elbow rivers rise and fall on their own, as they’ve done for the past many millennia, or the possibility that Calgary needs to dig a Big Ditch or devise some other man-made solution for flood control. Such counter-intuitive notions are unlikely to occur to the United Nations, but we hope at some point they pop into that 14-year-old girl’s head.
A warm early summer night on Monday allowed us to sip a beer and catch up with an old friend at the patio of Harry’s Uptown Bar and Grill, and during our far-ranging conversation he lamented all the global warming propaganda that his 10-year-old son daily encounters. We know his son as an all-American boy, bright and buoyant and being readied for an uncertain future, and we were relieved to hear that he’s being taught a healthy skepticism about the imminent end of the world. The kid is such a classic Kansas boy that meteorology is one of his many intellectual enthusiasms, and he can already name the kinds of clouds that dot our skies and predict the calamities that are likely to follow with the accuracy of a grizzled old-timers, and he’s seemed to have acquired the stoic respect for the unconquerable power of nature that is the beginning of Kansas wisdom. There’s an avuncular right-wing internet wag in the boy’s life who has warned of impending economic collapse user the weight of unsustainable debts and an irreversible decline in his nation’s cultural standards, and his dad is probably sowing the same doubts, but at least he’s not worried that the family’s big ol’ Chevy Suburban is going to cause the apocalypse.
That 14-year-old Canadian girl and our 10-year-old Kansas pal aren’t hearing anything new. Our youth was in the era when Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome and every other Hollywood filmmaker was predicting a bleak future of mass starvation and Soylent Green, but instead we’ve arrived at a time of mass obesity and human remains are being used for furnace fuel rather than a dietary staple. Most of our peers wound up rather screwy as a result, now that we think about it, and if the likes of The Globe and Mail have their way future generations will similarly suffer, but we’ll leave that to the future. It’s summertime, and the living is easy.

— Bud Norman

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Cell Phone Libertarianism

Our faith in the American public has been slightly bolstered by the eight-point drop President Barack Obama has suffered in the latest monthly Gallup poll, although his approval rating remains an unaccountably high 45 percent, and we are particularly heartened to note that the decline is driven largely by a precipitous 17-point drop in the approval of the young folks.
The under-30 cohort’s enthusiasm for Obama has been remarkably stubborn, especially by the dizzying standards of contemporary pop culture crazes, but it is not hard to see why the young generation’s forbearance has at last waned in the past month. All of the most damning facts about the deadly Benghazi fiasco were well known by the time of the election, and the incompetence and dishonesty and disdain for free speech rights apparently made no impression. The revelation of the Internal Revenue Services’ campaign of harassment to stomp out the Tea Party’s dissent was similarly unmoving, as the Tea Party was just a bunch of middle class white people who didn’t want to pay for the young generation’s health care and Obamaphones. News that the Justice Department had treated a Fox News investigation as a criminal conspiracy also failed to trouble the young generation’s conscience, and for some it was a welcome development to have those buzz-kills get pushed around, and the fact that it was also happening to the Associated Press made little impression on people who get their news through Facebook and rarely read newspapers. Even the persistently high youth unemployment rate didn’t seem to faze the young. When word got out that the National Security Agency was snooping through Facebook and cell phone records, though, that was crossing a generational Rubicon.
If you are ever so unfortunate as to find yourself in one of the nightspots favored by the young folks, you’ll immediately note the strange regard they have for their cell phones and tablets and other electronic gizmos. They’ll contantly caress these damnable devices in the palms of their hands, enrapt by the faint light of the high-resolution screens, texting shorthand witticisms to their most beloved hundred or so friends, “googling” the answer to some trivia question about a Saturday morning cartoon from their childhoods, buying over-priced tickets to some second-rate rock ‘n’ roll band’s concert, or God and the National Security Agency only knows what else. Whatever it is that they’re doing on those things seems to be more important than flirting with the nubile and needy-looking young hipster chicks sitting across the booth, and the latest Gallup poll suggests that young folks don’t seem to believe it’s any of the government’s business.
Some conservatives are hoping that this understandable outrage suggests a libertarian streak that the Republican party might appeal to in future elections, but our experience of young people suggests this is wishful thinking. The young people of our acquaintance are mostly inclined to hold very permissive social views on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage to the right to post photos of their cats on Facebook or “tweet” a misspelling of an obscenity, but they do not embrace the red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and rugged individualism that define libertarianism. They certainly don’t subscribe to the notions of individual responsibility that are just as essential to the libertarian ethic, and they’ve never stopped to consider how economic freedom is essential to social freedom, so they much prefer the goodies provided by an ever-bigger government.
So long as the government can keep the goodies coming, especially during a period of persistently high youth unemployment, the young folks will likely be satisfied with some assurance that the government isn’t keeping a record of their most embarrassing internet searches or awkward post-hook up phone chats. Obama has taken to the airwaves to offer his word that he isn’t Dick Cheney, even as Dick Cheney is taking to the airwaves to defend Obama’s policies, and that might placate the youngsters for a while. Using Dick Cheney as a slur is so five years ago, though, and perhaps the young have grown tired of it. Many of them, we suspect, won’t recognize the reference at all. If the sweet talk to the youngsters doesn’t work, they might even start to notice the persistently high unemployment rates for the young, but unless the Republicans are offering more generous unemployment benefits it probably won’t make difference.

— Bud Norman