Columnists, Here's That Rainy Day, Opinion

Running from hurricanes in the age of incuriousness

Since ancient times, man has forged explanations for the inexplicable. The ancient Mongolians claimed Earth rested on the back of a giant frog whose movements caused earthquakes. The Igorot people of the Philippines believed the eldest son of Lumawig, the Great Spirit, formed mountains when he sent water flooding over all of Earth, forcing the ground to rise.

People create stories to make sense of their surroundings. As time and technology progressed, the scientific method replaced mythology, and the scope of discovery globalized. Curiosity drives people to understand the environment, encouraging us to learn, make calculated decisions and ultimately survive.

Yet curiosity lacks in recent times. Scientific evidence is met with disdain and disbelief by the public and elected leaders. Despite clear scientific evidence for the global warming, our own president has called the phenomenon “nonexistent.”

The hot-button topic of climate change was exacerbated after two major hurricanes left parts of Texas and Florida dilapidated and waterlogged. Scientists agree that no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, but warmer waters provide storms with perfect conditions to grow and become more dangerous.

Despite current partisan divisions, science has not always been a partisan issue. Since 2008, when Republican Sen. John McCain ran for president with a strong climate platform, top Republican lawmakers have gone from publicly endorsing climate science to growing silent on the topic, kept quiet by big money.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott strongly and repeatedly warned Florida residents of the wrath of Hurricane Irma, calling it “a catastrophic storm that our state has never seen before.” But climate scientists have been predicting storms like Irma for years, yet Gov. Scott continues to say he is “not convinced” that global warming is a reality.

Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin. Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica and Puerto Rico, strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in fewer than two days.

If these were ancient times, people would wonder what they did to anger the deities. But we live in the information age, not the era of blind conjecture. Asking “Why?” is more important than ever.

People must take collective action to limit our impact on the planet, refocus attention on data and facts and stifle the plague of incuriousness that — unlike all plagues that have so far beset us — may be our undoing.

Mackenzie Karbon is a junior majoring in jazz performance.

September 25, 2017

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