When I Knew - Draft - When I knew Audio - MP3
I didn't need climate science to figure out human caused global warming. It made sense from what my experiences told me about mass industrial society's outcomes. As a young, suburban latch-key teenager, I suspected it. You might argue that I "got it right for the wrong reasons," but it's a fact. I got it right for real reasons.
So how'd I get this special knowledge before the existence of climate deniers?
In the 50s, I could stand on the Seal Beach, California shore in July and clearly see the mountains many miles away. By the mid-sixties, "smog" obscured this once clear view of the mountains, generally. It's much better today. Still, I learned about something caused by humans, car exhaust.
"Something's up," I surmised in my youthful way of thinking. I would then use my experience to reason out climate change as time passed. Increases in cars along with the geometrical progression of humanity caused concerns. There's more. (So what's the problem with congress?)
My good friend, Dean Smith (RIP), and I brainstormed probable climate problems from a National Geographic article written in the early 1960's. A single sailor on a sailboat spied a piece of plastic in the mid-Pacific. At the time, a piece of plastic in the middle of an ocean came as shocking news. (See Duston Hoffman in The Graduate.)
Then we brainstormed the long-term meaning of our way of life, especially the internal-combustion technologies. Neither of us knew squat about science. Neither of us were old enough to have a driver's license. We reasoned that plastic pollution would grow with the human population. It did; we reasoned how air pollution would increase with spread of fossil fuel use. It did. If I could find that National Geographic article, I would send it to all of the United States Congressional Representatives, free.
Learning Cigarette Smoking
I bought cigarettes in the 1960s as did many of my peers. I no longer buy cigarettes. The Surgeon General's warning label remained for the future, as does the fossil fuel warning label.
In 1965, President Johnson warned me that we caused climate change:
"This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." President Johnson
He didn't warn me about cigarette smoking. I needed neither of these warnings; I understood both outcomes by my own experience.
We all learned that cigarettes would cause serious damage to our breathing after years of sucking in cigarette smoke. We stopped as a result, but stopping did not come easy, which most heroin addicts will verify. They say, "It's easier to kick heroin than cigarettes." I heard this from heroin addicts in Santa Ana and Westminister, California.
I worked with them part-time. I drove them to the Santa Ana methadone clinic and a well known heroin addict told me about methadone's part in war. Hitler used methadone to help his infantry soldiers survive freezing cold in Russia. He also used it to keep his infantry soldiers near their organizational supply lines, rather than accidentally stray off and find a safer, warmer place in the world. You see, methadone addiction surpasses heroin addiction by six-fold. Hitler didn't provide warning labels on his methadone, either.
My generation, the "baby boomers," were known as "the first generation to be raised by television" and "the Vietnam generation." We were also the first generation to grow up with televised cigarette mass-marketing propaganda. At one time, Hollywood's stars smoked cigarettes, generally.
Likewise, we got the full-thrust of a planned, coordinated, Detroit propaganda campaign to buy cars. Young Vietnam soldiers returned home to buy their first car, smoke cigarettes, and deny climate change.
You can see how television played a big part in recruitment for the military, as today. In those days, the draft remained a motivator as well. It remained an inevitability for the young, working-class males to enter the military, mostly.
In Vietnam, many of us smoked even though we knew smoke hurt our breathing over time. It did. Tobacco industry deniers knew about cancer and tobacco smoking, too, but warning labels were another "intrusive government regulation." Young infantry soldiers were given Chesterfield King and Lucky Strike cigarettes by the carton while in the "boonies" (bush, field). I assume Marine infantry received similar gifts. Keeping cigarettes dry during the monsoon season was a "bitch." Somehow smoking seemed like a fair trade off.
Warning labels would not have deterred a committed smoker, anyway.
Since the odds of dying instantly or from a horrifically painful wound were about one-in-three, having another "cancer stick" seemed reasonable enough. Many infantry soldiers are known, as it turns out, to harbor suicidal ideas at times. I think that they reason something like this: is it better to die a horribly painful death at the hands of another, or die instantly, painlessly by one's own hands. At least the death anxiety ends.
Likely enough, since war and smoking joined hands, I must assume that soldiers gave away their positions by smoking; noses came into play as offensive tools, a serch-and-destroy fragrance. Finding opposing infantry soldiers before they find you has positive outcomes in the infantry's cat-and-mouse role reversals. It's a question of who gets "smoked" (Excuse the pun). Charley neither left cigarette smoke trails nor signs of other luxuries, at least not in my experience or noted in the Vietnam war history books.
Now at the tail-end of my years, I see the consequences of the internal combustion engine; it's not a luxury but a necessity for most of us. Dean and I could never have imagined the many international economic, political, and cultural ramifications of internal combustion as a necessity.
We could never have imagined the rate at which gasoline emissions would poison Earth's atmosphere. Just as we figured, though, too many cars burning gas in too short a time would cause problems. It's such a simple idea.
Which wicked propaganda campaign misdirected the American people toward environmental suicide?