Humans worry. We worry about big things (will I lose my job this year?) and little things (did I remember to tip the barista?). But we always worry.
That made sense in the early days of the human race. Throughout time, the overwhelming majority of people have lived on the edge of death. Hunger was constant, nature was deadly. For every fat, coddled Henry VIII, millions of peasants were working all day to scratch out enough to eat and remain in their rickety home.But in the United States in recent years, things have been, dare we say it, pretty good.
We’re generally well fed (even the poor are often overweight; it’s multi-millionaire movie stars who are starving themselves, voluntarily) and enjoy dependable shelter (even with last year’s rash of foreclosures). Nature’s not much of a problem -- there are no wolves at the door in 2009. So we’ve found other things to worry about.
The end of the world, for example.
Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have made a nice living with their “Left Behind” series of books. Their Web site warns of:
• Political crisis
• Economic crisis
• Worldwide epidemics
• Environmental catastrophe
• Mass disappearances
• Military apocalypse
Then adds, “And that’s just the beginning . . . of the end of the world. It’s happening now.” Maybe. Worry about that if you wish.
What you’ll never have to worry about is these writers winning a Nobel Prize. No, those are reserved for more secular doom-mongers. The green extremists have adopted the same apocalyptic language, without the religious undertones. In their telling it’s mankind, not some all-powerful deity, that’s set to destroy the planet.
There’s no claim too large. In fact, the bigger the better. Al Gore says, “Ocean levels will rise by 20 feet.” Instead of scoffing at him, experts say, “You should write a book and make a movie!” Then they give him a peace prize.
Meanwhile, some scientists have been looking at what we used to call facts.
A team at Colorado University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research studied the possibility of massive increases in sea level, and concluded anything more than a six-foot increase was probably impossible.
“Physical considerations show that some of the very large predictions of sea level rise are unlikely because there is simply no way to move the ice or the water into the ocean that fast,” Tad Pfeffer, an author of the study, told the Boulder Daily Camera last September. “This is a bit of a reality check.” Indeed.