Year 2, Month 8, Day 6: Department of Tribal Ironies

The NYT’s blog “Scientist At Work” reports on a study done in Mongolia which shows that the herders there are very much up to date on how bad things are getting:

Mongolian herders may not know the term “global climate change,” but almost all know that their weather is changing. If asked whether the weather will get better, stay the same or get worse, most of them will say the weather will get worse. Mongolian herders already face difficult seasons with winter temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius and strong, gusty cold spring winds. Summer may not offer much of a respite. The days alternate between cold nights and daytime heat waves or cold, windy, rainy days. Over the last 20 years strong wind gusts have become more frequent and storms arrive with little warning. The herders love their lives, but many are afraid there may be no future in herding for their children.

I sent this as a letter to the Times on July 20, but I’m also sending it as a comment to this blog; I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy, I guess.

It used to be that the phrase “outer Mongolia” was a kind of not-so-clever shorthand for “the back of beyond” — a place utterly removed from the fast-moving news of the day, with a population steeped in ignorance and superstition. How far we’ve come. The herders of Mongolia are fully aware of the vagaries of our fluctuating climate; they may be remote, but they’re not stupid, and their lives and their livings are threatened by the rapid transformation of Earth’s atmosphere. Meanwhile, in our own country, the proudly ignorant citizens of Republicanistan cling to complex and irrational belief systems. Rejecting as irrelevant such modern concepts as evidence, proof, causality and logic, they base their tribal decision-making on magic incantations and the invocation of divine forces. What does it say about our contemporary political environment when Mongolian herders are more sensible about climate issues than over half of the US Congress?

Warren Senders

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