It’s 1973 and I’m sitting in Mr. Scherberhorn’s seventh grade Social Studies class. He’s rambling on about something, and I’m doing my best to tune him out. That’s because I’m busy pondering whether I could pull off wearing a pair of plaid bell bottoms. I wasn’t what you’d call a cool kid. Bell bottoms would have been a stretch for me, plus, I was broke. And I had just as much chance convincing my mother to buy me a pair as I did convincing her to buy me a Porsche Carrera. Then Scherberhorn says something that snaps me to attention. It snaps every other little spaz to attention as well. It sat us up in our seats straight as washboards.
“Studies show that the Earth is cooling rapidly,” he says. “Temperatures are steadily declining, and we are heading into another ice age. We are moving toward worldwide glaciation.”
Glaciation? Suddenly I’m picturing myself walking through high school commencement wearing a fur lined jumper. The Beach Boys were going to need to come up with some new songs.
Eventually, this whole “coming ice age” hysteria passed into media lore. (This really happened – all you whippersnappers under 50 can pull out your iPhones and Wikipedia it if you don’t believe me.) In the end, we didn’t move into a new ice age; we moved into something far more frightening – the disco age.
This is why I am a global warming agnostic. To make matters worse, the “established scientific community” recently did a cagey change-up. Now, instead of calling it global warming, they’re calling it “climate change.” Suspicious? You tell me. Talk about making every hail storm, drought or hurricane proof of your theory.
Let me be clear, I desperately want to believe in global warming (climate change – whatever). I want to hang with the cool kids. I want to snicker and roll my eyes with the others at the Neanderthal on the elevator who has the audacity to question the wisdom of the established scientific community. In short, I want to be wearing the twenty-first century version of bell bottoms.
But I can’t. I can’t because Mr. Schermerhorn told me we’d all be living in igloos by now. And, the little dope that I was, I believed him. We all did. It scared the hell out of us. I have enough personal insecurities as it is. I don’t need to be the “fool me twice, shame on me” guy.
It doesn’t help my skepticism that we have all these 24/7 news channels that need something to talk about. And weather always makes a compelling story. That’s why television stations love to send their pretty blondes to the beach whenever they’re expecting the annual “storm of the century.” Add a worldwide cataclysmic twist to a story like that and you’re in Neilsen heaven. Back in the day, we just had old worn-out Walter Cronkite, and when you subtracted commercials, we only gave him 20 minutes a night. And remember, he and the other two television journalists working then had their hands full playing musical chairs with Richard Nixon. They didn’t have time to hype the ice age thing. They simply didn’t have time during their stingy 20 minute allotment to make it hip.
Mr. Schermerhorn, if you’re out there, thank you for that heart-stopping alert back in 1973. I’m sure you meant well, and I appreciated the warning.
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