An Approach to Conservation
By David Ririe
(From NETWORK, the family newsletter,
volume 1, November 1996)
Conservation of the planet's essential
resources has long been a concern of many people. As long ago as
1878 an English political economist, Thomas Malthus proposed in a
widely accepted essay his Malthusian Doctrine. It said that whereas
the human population increases geometrically, the means to provide
for the population increases arithmetically and unless war or famine
intervened in drastic proportions, the ability of the earth to support
the numbers of people on it would be inadequate. His theory proved
flawed because the population grew slower than he anticipated and
food-producing technology increased far more rapidly then he could
have possibly foreseen. His theory, though alarming to many people
at the time, has became less worrisome as the years have passed.
While in grade school, I remember
becoming alarmed one day as the teacher presented a lesson on conservation
of coal. She stated that within a few decades the world's coal supply
would be virtually exhausted. Relating this gloomy forecast to my
own little world, it concerned me that our house might not be heated
in a few years because of lack of lump coal for the stove. Over the
years my worry disappeared as new sources of home heating energy
came on board. A few days ago, I reviewed a report of a committee
chaired by Carroll L. Wilson of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
entitled "Coal, Bridge to the Future." In it the experts
suggested that coal could be utilized to offset the energy requirements
occasioned by oil depletion for many years into the future. The shivers
I had feared as a result of my teacher's misinformation never happened.
Throughout my lifetime conservation
issues have come one after another to the attention of the populace.
Often in order to get audience attention and political response these
causes have been exaggerated and dramatized. For a long time soil
conservation was a pressing issue. Air quality was at the forefront
in industrial areas during the 1960's and we all remember the lines
at gasoline stations in the 1970's. But of all these issues, the
one that probably had more to do with launching the environmental
movement was the publication of Rachel Carson's book, "Silent
Spring" in 1962. In this publication we were warned that the
earth was being poisoned by chemicals. when Earth Day 1970 occurred
on April 22, 1970, it was estimated that more than 20 million concerned
people participated in an environmental awareness celebration.
The environmental movement in the
United States has grown ever since with a parade of issues, million
of meetings, thousands of publications, and unknown numbers of confrontations
and lawsuits. A whole new field of law has developed to handle environmentally
based litigation and organizations for every conceivable cause or
combination of causes have come onto the stage.
All of us certainly need to be
aware of and concerned with the environment. After all, Genesis states:
"And God blessed them, and
God said unto them, Be fruittul, and multiply, and replenish the
earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth
upon the earth." Genesis 1:28.
In the beginning, man was given
dominion and instructed to subdue and replenish the earth. He was
not given a license to destroy or run roughshod over the earth, its
creatures or its environment. Man was, however, given control and,
contrary to what some environmentalists think, his needs should not
be subservient to other creatures, the earth itself or the environment.
As the environmental movement grew
in size and influence it spawned impending catastrophes by the score.
So many hazards have been uncovered that the greatest detriment to
our health, happiness, security, and well-being could well be the
stress generated within our minds of real or imagined catastrophes.
In a recently published book entitled, "The Scientific Catastrophes
in Our Time," the author, Walter J. Karphus, of U.C.L.A., lists
and discusses eight major catastrophes that have recently been predicted
by members of the scientific community. They are:
(1) Depletion of the ozone layer
and consequent increases in ultraviolet radiation exposure with the
drastic effects on the health of humans, animals, and plants;
(2) Changes in global climate due
to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases;
(3) Pollution of the atmosphere
with radioactive particles;
(4) Pollution of the earth and
its atmosphere with radioactive particles;
(5) The AIDS epidemic;
(6) Overpopulation; that is, the
(7) Worldwide economic depression;
(8) Earthquakes of catastrophic
Each of these eight catastrophic
occurrences have been subjected to computer models in an effort by
scientists to determine their probability and the seriousness of
their consequences. Books have been written on each of the eight
issues and I have read some of them. I do believe all of these things
deserve our attention and we should learn what we can about them.
Efforts will certainly be made in the future and are being made to
appropriate vast sums of money from the public treasury, the credit
of the national government and various philanthropic donors for the
prevention of these disasters. In addition we can expect to be bombarded
with requests for contributions to save ourselves and the earth from
catastrophe in the form of any one of the eight listed or a hundred
and one others that are or will become problems.
When considering suggested global
catastrophes, it is my opinion that we need a moderate, conservative
approach to the impending happening. Both the "Chicken Little,
The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling" attitude with its immediate
alarm or the proverbial "ostrich head in the sand" approach
are foolhardy. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to become
informed enough to participate in intelligent voting and perhaps
Let's look at one of Karphus' stated
catastrophes for example, the so-called greenhouse effect.
Back in the 1970's climatologists
had studied the rise and decline of the ice ages by several methods,
including analyses of ice cores, tree growth rings, samples of alternating
layers of silt and clay in bottoms of lakes, and fossil dating. They
had determined that ice ages of the past occurred in approximately
one hundred thousand year cycles with 90,000 cold years followed
by 10,000 interglacial or warmer years. Since we were now at some
10,000 years since the last ice age and the earth appeared to be
cooling off; the ice age people were prophesying that serious results
would occur eventually. Some proposed costly measures to monitor
and perhaps even ameliorate the effects of global cooling and the
impending ice age.
Later in the 70's and in the early
80's, however, scientists plotting the rise of carbon dioxide and
other gases in the atmosphere became alarmed by the warming trend
caused by increased concentration of such gases.. It was labeled
the "greenhouse effect." Computer generated models were
developed by teams of scientists and from them varying estimates
of temperature rise were suggested. Greenhouse gases such as carbon
dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons which are generated by
human activities became part of the input into such models. The sources
of such gases included the burning of fossil fuel, logging and clearing
of rain forests, and anaerobic bacterial actions, such as those occurring
in cows' guts, landfills, and rice fields.
There is now an on-going controversy
about how important this global warming due to the "greenhouse
effect" is going to be and how much attention and money should
be thrown at it. The little red hen crowd would spend billions and
pass laws and more laws, and create commissions and regulatory agencies
to overcome the oncoming catastrophic effects. On the other hand
some scientists say the models are not statistically sound and by
the very complicated nature of the interacting inputs, unlikely to
predict what will happen and therefore, we needn't be very alarmed.
My thoughts after reviewing several
books on the subject of the "Greenhouse Effect," and its
probable global warming are as follows:
I - in addition to the bad effects
of global warming that might occur, we should realize that there
are numerous positive effects that can follow slight global warming.
For example, the Alberta, Canada wheat grower or the Idaho potato
farmer might welcome a little higher temperature and a longer growing
2 - Growers of crops, recognizing
that carbon dioxide is an essential element of plant growth, might
not be too distressed if the atmospheric content of the compound
3 - Many scientists admit that
we do not know the influence the ocean will have on absorption of
carbon dioxide as the concentration of it rises. Also the amount
of and effect of cloud cover on the resulting climate is not agreed
upon by scientists. If; therefore, these effects are not known: why
should we try to fix them?
4 - It seems to me that this is
a time for good, basic research or "good science" and not
a time for "public or political policy" and, heaven forbid,
more laws. As one of my acquaintances, Robert J. Ernst, an attorney
says, "the real environmental crises may be environmental law." This
is indeed an issue in which passage of remedial laws should not precede
complete elucidation and evaluation of the problem. In other words,
at our present stage of knowledge, a small soft mallet instead of
a sledge hammer may be appropriate.
5 - We should conserve our forests.
The environmentalists are right there, but we should not overlook
the fact that we can replace them and nature rejuvenates plant growth.
That some useful organisms may be lost is defmitely true, so reserves
of native forest stands should be set aside.
6 - We should definitely conserve
our fossil fuels and do all we can to efficiently use them. Furthermore,
research into alternative sources of energy is imperative and wise
not only because of the "greenhouse effect" but of even
greater importance, because these fuels are not inexhaustible. I
do not intend to freeze this winter, however, because I might be
adding to the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide when I
switch on my furnace.
7 - In the fields of public opinion
and policy and politics, we should be very cautious and judicious.
We should not listen to every advocate of an environmental cause.
Undoubtedly, as the controversy over what to do about the "greenhouse
effect" continues, movie stars and other celebrities who never
worked a day in their lives will become ninety-day wonders, advocates
and prophets. It makes as much sense to listen to a movie actress
telling us what to do about greenhouse gas emissions as it does for
an atmospheric scientist to direct a movie or tell a rock and roll
star how to stage a performance.
8 - One might also ask, "Will
the predicted ice age cancel out global warming due to the "greenhouse
effect?" Or will other cosmic effects over which we have no
control completely overshadow the man-made causes of global warming?
Or will a shortage of fossil fuels cut down the increases in carbon
dioxide emissions before the temperature rises appreciably? Certainly,
many questions remain unanswered!
If you have decided from the preceding
comments that I have little or no worry about global warming and
its climatic effects, you are correct. Most of the "hype" about
the subject has been generated by climatologists who can't yet give
us a long-range forecast that can be relied on. Why then should I
fret over their computer generated numbers that are subject to so
many variables that they are suspect because of their inputs. Computer
models at best can only give us climatic possibilities, perhaps probabilities,
and unlikely accurate predictions.
In addition to this, my mind will
not be stampeded because of some nut who wants publicity, the politician
who wants more government control of my life and uses gloom and doom
psychology to further his legislation, or even the scientist who
wants a grant to build a bigger and better model.
On the other hand, it does not
surprise me that we read of catastrophes all over the world and see
troubles all around us. The Savior said when He was on the earth
and reiterated it through His prophet, Joseph Smith, that these days
would be calamitous in nature. Consider the following:
"And in that day shall be
heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in
commotion, and men's hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that
Christ delayeth His coming until the end of the earth.
And the love of men shall wax cold,
and iniquity shall abound.
Arid when the times of the Gentiles
is come in, a light shall break forth among all them that sit in
darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
But they receive it not; for they
perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because
of the precepts of men.
And in that generation shall the
time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Arid there shall be men standing
in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing
scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
But my disciples shall stand in
holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall
lift up their voices and curse God and die.
Arid there shall be earthquakes
also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden
their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against
another, and they will kill one another." Doctrine and Covenants
In a nutshell, I am not nearly
as concerned about being right with respect to the earth as I am
worried that I might not be right with the Eternal, All Powerful
God, who created the Earth and controls it and by whose power its
destiny will be determined.
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