Friday, March 12, 2010

The Earth, It's Climate, and Changing Temperatures over Time

I love hot-button topics.  They make it so easy to flush out the people that really have an understanding about their point of view from those that regurgitate the latest rhetoric from their favorite talking head.  Today I'd like to prod at the topic of the human race's influence on the planet's environment.  When you stand back and look at all of the conversations going on about Global Warming or Climate Change, it is immediately evident that the two opposing sides are just as polarized as the two popular political parties.

As with my views on politics: these two sides are working overtime to create confusion on this topic to prevent any real work from getting done.  On one side there are people that believe that the warming trend seen by scientists is part of a natural cyclical phenomenon and that all of the green house gases produced by the human race has little (some, but over all a very small) effect on the global climate.  The opposing view point, a near polar opposite, believes that human contributions of pollution and other changes to the Earth (including deforestation, over-population, misuse of resources, etc) are causing great harm to the planet's climate.  Each side is so violently opposed to the other's point of view that in order for any progress to be made, one must first overcome the hatred between individuals rather than being able to thoughtfully approach the topic of discussion.

All of  the people in the "global warming is fake" camp aren't willing to spend any money on some made-up phenomenon; and all of the people in the "you're causing my global warming" camp can't raise enough capital to get any real work done by themselves.  Fuck global warming.

The real motivator in this equation, as I hinted at before, is money.  America (even with all of its financial problems) is the innovation capital of the world because everyone is out to make a buck for themselves with their newest invention or idea.  Our entire way of life is about making things better and more efficient so that you can sell your wigit for less than the other person with the same profit margin.  So let's talk about money in a way that will make all sides of this issue happy.

The first and foremost issue that is at the heart of the global warming debate is anthropogenic pollution primarily in the form of sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon oxides.  These compounds are primarily byproducts of high-temperature combustion like those found in automotive engines or industrial processes.  Bottom line: burning coal and oil = bad.  From the point of view of the people that live off of these processes, this is the cheapest and most cost effective method of making the things that people use all the time (driving cars, plastics, electricity, etc).

Those of you familiar with my blog know that I am not a fan of government agencies not doing a good job...  You'd never guess why the Department Of Energy was founded.  It seems that President Carter was having some problems with an oil shortage (an Energy Crisis, if you will) that hurt the country... anyway, he thought that for the sake of National Security we should END OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL.  Thus the DOE was formed by the signing of the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977.  Sure they have other things to do also like manage the US stockpile of nuclear weapons and over-watch the country's nuclear power plants but come on!  In 33 years you couldn't get around to giving up foreign oil?  Sorry for my little tangent...

The big deal is that in order to get people to work together, it is all about compromise.  In stead of blaming the big terrible corporation for making money on polluting the air, remind them that if they want to continue to utilize American talent and technological progress, then they should be putting more of their money into a local economy rather than shipping $700 Billion (almost as much as the cost of the entire Iraq war) over seas.  Maybe mention that one of the things that made ExxonMobile the largest energy company in the world was US innovation which is now in jeopardy because of our lagging education system.

The only thing that frantic ranting and raving about the end of the world does is further drive the polarization in this country.  I think it is quite obvious that the last thing we need is yet another issue to hate one another over.  Let's talk about this like rational human beings and talk about solutions that everyone can get behind.  It is easier to make this a matter of national pride than world destruction.  Angel Investors (the people that help make your idea into a real working company) love this sort of thing.  It is also historically the best way for the US in institute change: by example.  It was only when the US started strong-arming other nations that our global popularity started to suffer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Clear Message


I am sure that by now you have heard the results of the Massachusetts Special Election to fill the US Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy: Joe Kennedy pulled in 22,237 votes!  That was averaged out to 1% of the vote.  Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, claimed victory over the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley 52% to 47%.  The media outlets are calling this a clear message from the people of Massachusetts that they are frustrated with [pick one of the following: healthcare, the economy, President Obama's policies, the Democratic majority, et cetera].  That's a really long message.

This got me thinking: who decides what my message is?  Is my message automatically the primary platform of the winning candidate?  Where does this come from?  I've been asking a lot of people what drove them to choose their candidate and the most common response I get is that they were choosing the lesser of two evils.  Generally, this means that the voter doesn't really like any of the candidates or their platforms, but the one that received their vote was the most tolerable.  What about people voting party lines for whatever reasons they can come up with?

So lets take this example of the Special Election.  I work with a lot of people that lean towards the right and are very passionate about their positions.  It was no surprise to me that they were voting for Scott Brown when I asked them... what was interesting to me was that they all unanimously agreed that Joe Kennedy was more in line with their political view points.  When I pressed a little harder, all of them eventually admitted that while Joe Kennedy was their preferred candidate, they were going to vote Scott Brown because he "had a chance to win."  Of my admittedly small polling pool (tens of people), all of them thought that Joe Kennedy was the superior candidate.  So lets take some liberties here - if even 25% of the people that voted for Scott Brown felt this way and in stead decided to vote for Joe Kennedy, wouldn't that send a stronger message than electing a Republican?

Now it is true that 40% of Scott Brown's votes wouldn't have saved Joe Kennedy... but how many people that voted for Martha Coakley felt that casting their votes for her would save the Commonwealth from the Republicans?  What if 25% of Coakley's supporters actually felt that Joe Kennedy would make a better candidate than Martha Coakley but only voted for Coakley because she "had a chance to win?"  Combined with Kennedy's 1%, that is 51% of the vote.

Obviously I am throwing in a lot of speculation - there aren't any polls conducted that identify the public's opinion of the "better candidate" other than the way people vote.  My point here is that you don't win anything for picking the winning candidate - this isn't a horse race or your fantasy football league.  The truth is that you have a greater chance of seeing the real change everyone is hoping for if you were to vote for the candidate that best fits your personal beliefs rather than the one that has a chance of winning.  As I pointed out in my example: it only takes a small amount of people from both parties to make a real change.  Bottom line: vote for the candidate that best represents your point of view and more importantly understand what it is that you actually stand for.