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Is it Worth the Risk?
January 9, 2004
By Andrew Longworth

Here's a question: if a person told you that the odds of winning the lotto had increased one million fold, what would you do? Let's also say that the New York Lottery had just dropped the winning six to the winning three. What would you do? What's more, there are no longer 50 numbers but 20 numbers now from which to choose. Your odds would improve considerably, right? What would you do? Despite the odds, still being stacked against you, you would still spend everything short of your kid's college fund to have a shot at millions, wouldn't you? All you need to do is get three numbers right. Sure, you might not get the 120 million dollar payout everyone covets, but you would still win a hefty amount. It only seems logical to act on this.

Next question: if all of a sudden the government went haywire and announced that driving while under the influence was now legal and that a recent survey estimated that one out of every ten motorists out there was driving while intoxicated, what would you do? Hail a cab with your fingers crossed instead of with the old palm up approach? Chances are you would walk before you even chose to take a bus.

Or how about this one: if there were a possibility of reinstating the draft (and that possibility seems very real these days), what are the odds you'd be a proponent of it if you had teenage twin sons in their sophomore year of High School? What if the government told you there was a one in twenty chance that a drafted soldier would return home in a body bag (pardon me, a "transport tube"), after proclaiming their next series of preventive wars? While I don't deny that the true patriots would rally to the cause, even at the likely expense of their own offspring, I am certain that most people would rally for a different cause and anti-war protests would rocket to a new high.

Why all the hypothetical palaver? Why harp on the ifs and buts?

In a 2000 poll conducted by Fortune 500, business executives were asked whether they thought global warming was a serious problem. A resounding 75% said yes, and that government should act on it. Polls, shmolls, you might say, and you may be right.

The jury is still out on whether it is real, many conservatives would claim. But let's examine the American people as well: in a Zogby International poll, Americans advocate reducing global warming by a ratio of four to one, 79% to 17%, to be more precise.

I could throw numbers at you all day, and people still wouldn't budge. I feel the people in Talking Head TV Land could blab amongst themselves about whether we may or may not be drowning in smog. I could be telling you about melting glaciers and polar ice. I could tell you about the environmental group REP America (Republicans for Environmental Protection) and people like Teddy Roosevelt who started putting aside wildlife for National Parks and Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Air Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Limbaughs and the Coulters would still scoff and swear up and down that it's Bugs Bunny sliding down the chimney every Christmas Eve, not Santa.

If the Enviros are right, we need to change, rapidly. If the neo-cons are right, then it was a false alarm, and we can conduct business as usual. The only problem here is, it's not a question of right or wrong, but is it worth taking that chance?

Bush himself said in June 2001 that, "No one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming and therefore what level must be avoided."

In other words, if you're not certain, do nothing. Great. That's just the nihilism I have come to expect and what our government has been excelling at for so long, so that should not be too difficult. And yet, both the USA and the USSR (who just proclaimed their rejection of the Kyoto treaty) manage to do less than zero, meaning pouring fire onto the fire. Then again, the conservatives will argue "What fire?"

But then again, if somebody told you at a store that there were a hundred lollipops and that one of them had been soaked in gasoline, would you take the chance of purchasing one for your son? What if you were a door-to-door salesman and the police alerted you to the fact that out of the hundred or so homes you were visiting that day, one would have a rabies-infested dog waiting at the door? What if you were taking a plane to the other coast to visit your parents over the holidays and a reliable source told you that one plane was going to be hijacked out of the one hundred planes leaving that morning?

Please note that I gave merely a one in a hundred chance to all of the above occurrences. Why is it we fail to act when there may be an even bigger chance that we will all fry like rotisserie chickens soon? Are we frozen in time? What will it take to wake us from our stupor?

Let's just not leave a decision as important as this up to the Coulters and Limbaughs of this world. One thing we have learned about the conservatives is this: they despise change, even if it means filling all the chambers before playing Russian Roulette. Their reliability in changing things is as likely as a pack of hyenas accepting a sick baby elephant as one of their own and nursing it back to good health.

One thing we have learned a long time ago is that they won't change, even with a climate that likely will.

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