Elected officials cannot even agree on reality.

“The saddest aspect of life… is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ~ Isaac Asimov

As Isaac Asimov noted, modern humanity is challenged by the tendency for our wisdom to be outpaced by the unforeseen consequences of science, creativity applied in ever-emerging technology. During the period he described, the foremost dilemma validating his point was nuclear science applied in lethal weaponry that could end civilization in a war of escalation – which remains a looming existential threat. 

But now we face another menace to survival in the form of climate change, the solution for which doesn’t precisely conform to Asimov’s bewildering insight. The greatest threat to solving climate change isn’t a lack of understanding, but rather the calculated propagation of misinformation intended to subvert the credibility of well-established scientific knowledge, used as a means to protect profit making activities.

Two other concurrent trends are making this dangerous subversion of truth more destructive. First, social networking has amplified the enervating influence of rumors and false conspiracy theories. As epitomized and confirmed in analysis of the 2016 U.S. presidential election revealed in the Mueller Report, disruption of public opinion has been made far easier for malefactors to achieve through the compelling coercions of internet communication. Ironically, this computer-age information technology has been stealthily crafted into a weapon of malicious misinformation, with tragic societal outcomes.

The second factor impeding America’s ability to grasp and act upon mutual self-interest is the growing suspicion of public institutions and those in power. Unfortunately, the blame for stagnating conditions suffered by many working-class Americans has been misplaced, to the point where tribal-like allegiances, often based on race and sub-culture, are blocking consensus at a time when it’s crucial to our future.

In effect, the persuasive delusion of social networking has combined with increasing discontent caused by conditions manifested after decades of public policies favoring corporate activities at the public’s expense.

Since Calvin Coolidge declared that America’s business is business, there has been a series of U.S. policy concessions to the nation’s corporate sector, which has gained further advantage by exploiting low-priced foreign labor, global markets, artificially cheap resources, and offshore tax-shelters. The culmination in corporate dominance of American politics came with the now infamous 2010 Citizens United case, wherein the U.S. Supreme Court awarded citizen status to corporations, perversely equivocating political spending with freedom of speech, thus protecting it under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Accordingly, we now incur the consequences, as much of Washington and many state-capitols labor under the yoke of corporate campaign contributions and lobbyists who wield great power – and who sometimes actually draft legislation that shamelessly and recklessly advances opportunistic corporate activities. These same influences have concentrated wealth through tax laws, unaccounted-for damage to public health and the environment, and other unfair accommodations in public policy and the prejudicial administration of law.

America not only endures the overly sluggish reach of wisdom described by Asimov, but citizens and their elected officials cannot even agree on reality, often rejecting pivotal scientific facts. This is largely due to the well-funded manipulations of corporations pursuing agendas that prioritize short-term financial benefits and shrinking regulatory controls. This explains ongoing federal efforts to override state objections to offshore drilling, EPA’s proposal to dismantle regulatory rules protecting clean air and water, and a well-financed Big Oil campaign to sustain brazenly fabricated denial or marginalization of climate change, its calamitous impacts, and/or the causes.

Until Americans regain the capacity to agree and rationally act upon basic realities, we will flounder at ever greater risk to our collective future. It remains uncertain if such consensus can be reached soon enough to avert the worst impacts of climate change, thanks in no small part to those who profit by strategically prolonging misinformation to discredit unsavory but vital scientific truths.

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Image: Washington, DC - April 29, 2017: Thousands of people attend the People's Climate March to stand up against climate change – Editorial credit: Nicole S Glass / Shutterstock.com and licensed by LikeTheDew.com using contributions from generous readers like you.

David Kyler

David Kyler

David Kyler is the co-director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a non-profit membership organization he co-founded in 1997. The Center works to protect, preserve, and sustain the vital natural, cultural, and economic resources of coastal Georgia.

One of David’s deepest convictions, and a founding principle of the Center, is that environmental research, scientific information, and public involvement are urgently needed to improve decisions affecting the sustainability of natural systems. Accordingly, the Center’s slogan is “Advocating responsible decisions to sustain coastal Georgia’s environment and quality of life.”

To pursue the Center’s mission, Kyler gives priority to raising public awareness about issues affecting coastal Georgia at all levels – from local to state and national, to global. He frequently publishes letters and opinion columns in Georgia newspapers, often commenting on controversial issues that require improving the analysis and coordination of both economic and environmental considerations.

In the past three years alone, on behalf of the Center David has published close to one-hundred commentaries on a range of issues, including offshore drilling, protecting Cumberland Island National Seashore, risks of contamination by coal ash and other toxic materials, coastal development controls, and conflicts between environmental protection and economic development practices.

In the past decade, under Kyler’s influence, the Center has been one of the few Georgia non-profit organizations persistently voicing alarm about the global climate crisis and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In 2018 and 2019 the Center hosted several public forums on climate issues in the Savannah area and collaborated with the Climate Reality Project in organizing a rally in Savannah, scheduled to be coordinated with the international Climate Strike.

Through his work with the Center, David is helping to redefine economic self-interest by incorporating the principles of sustainability in public policies governing both economic development and environmental protection. He is convinced that systemic analysis and life-cycle assessment, including thorough evaluation of economic and societal externalities, are essential to responsible environmental stewardship.

He holds degrees from Lehigh University (BS, Industrial Engineering) and Southern Illinois University (MS, Design Science), and has completed advanced studies in Resource Management and Policy at the State University of New York at Syracuse. Mr. Kyler has worked in environmental policy analysis, regional planning, and public-interest advocacy for over 40 years. He’s been a resident of Saint Simons Island since 1977 and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.