Sometimes I wonder at the disproportionate spending of the science communities.
Let me explain why I wonder this. Warning: this is an opinion piece, a rant… of a sort… complete with link-fest.
Seems like all we hear about these days is how everyone needs to be GREEN – blah blah blah – which is more than just driving a hybrid and shutting off unnecessary lights, by the way. For instance, did you know that even when your hair-dryer is sitting in the off position, or your toaster, or your blender, and even your coffee maker, electricity is still flowing through the electrical outlet your stuff is plugged in to? To eliminate this waste of electricity, you have to be diligent and unplug stuff. Other countries, notably Europe and Australia, have switches on the “powerpoint” (electrical outlet) that turn the electricity off completely to whatever is plugged in, so you can be sure that you are not wasting any electricity.
Anyway, as you know… the airwaves and internet are loaded with articles and reports on how global warming is causing droughts, floods, and other severe weather changes; it causes the loss of polar ice (hey now!) and that melting ice is changing the very chemistry of our oceans, which in turn causes more problems; and climate change is displacing not only people, but also animal habitats. The reports are disparaging to say the least, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the depth of the problem.
And it really pains me to admit that I can’t say with any sense of conviction that I am a greenie, because considering the monumental task of slowing down – much less stopping – global warming, I seem to barely have a big toe on the green bandwagon. I do try, but it feels like the proverbial drop in the bucket.
Now, I’m kinda getting closer to why it astonishes me to see the science community spend money on what seems to be, like, projects that aren’t really necessary.
For example, take the fact that several thousand people, communities, and institutions have spent or are spending millions and billions on projects like the Large Hadron Collider, which is broken by the way and will remain so for at least a couple months whilst engineers work to warm up the uber frozen rooms to make repairs, and then refreeze them. Just how much electricity does it take to go from absolute zero to maybe 7 degrees Celsius, then back to absolute zero? Hmmmmm….
Even without this unforeseen complication, the total expected cost of the Large Hadron Collider project is: €3.2–6.4 billion. (At todays market exchange rate of approximately 1.44970, that’s [squints…gets calculator…] approximately $4.6 billion to $9.2 billion in US dollars.)
Clearly my math skills aren’t what they should be, but that’s entirely beside the point. As a person who can squeeze a week’s worth of groceries out of what most folks spend in one week on fuel alone, I can certainly see the potential for the classic waste-not-want-not scenario.
I mean, really… is the LHC project going to solve global warming? Is spending this obscene amount of money going to provide enough water for everyone on the planet, thereby enabling farmers to have flourishing crops and thus reduce food shortages? Maybe spending this kind of money is going to resuscitate the world’s floundering economy.
This is not to say that I’m not all for scientific exploration and the benefits that come from it (and the LHC project is wayyyy awesome…) but it just seems to me that we got bigger issues right now that could use a serious infusion of research, time and money.
You know these are things that bother me and I wonder if I’m alone in this regard? [pauses, listens for crickets…]
I sincerely hope I’m not alone in my concerns.
Maybe we need a big dose of optimism to help us along, a success story that says: “Hey people, last year your efforts to reduce your carbon footprint resulted in saving an entire village from going hungry for the next twenty years!” or something wonderful like that.
A little momentum here would be nice.
The entire save-the-world thing can’t be left to just ordinary citizens learning to drive less, or consume less, or recycle. Whereas those things are important, that alone won’t fix the problem. Or slow it. We need for corporations to do the right things, for governments to do the right things, and for the scientific community to research real solutions rather than just repeating the same old confirmations that we are indeed in the midst of the world’s worst crisis ever.
If Global Warming is the world’s worst crisis then shouldn’t we be focusing ALL our energies on fixing it?
So my message to scientists:
Stop with the doom and gloom reports until you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is.
You be the judge.