Baltimore County

Speaking of things I have no control over

My wife loves what the guys on the defunct Don and Mike Show used to refer to as cable radio, that being what everyone else refers to as satellite radio. Cable radio, however, was a slight to the whole satellite radio industry that I found amusing.

To me, radio is broadcast and that satellite stuff never really interested me. I've been listening to the radio since I could count my age on two hands (it would take 10 hands now) and there's not much I don't listen to. My car has a dozen or so buttons programmed in, but that's not enough, so I still push the button to check the frequencies up and down the dial (though I still prefer the feel of twisting the dial to change stations).

The big attraction of broadcast radio to me is that you never know what you're going to get. Back when I first moved to Havre de Grace, the country FM radio station that's prominent in town now was little more than an afterthought for the AM radio business operation that owned it in those days. During the day, the station played religious country and bluegrass songs. At night, it was punk rock and heavy metal. All good stuff, and entirely unexpected even for those days, if you ask me.

But I digress. The point here is if you flip around the broadcast dial, you can find all kinds of interesting stuff. By contrast, on cable radio you always know what's in store: The religious station always plays religious music; the punk rock station always plays punk rock.

Similarly, on broadcast radio, you can hear a divergence of views on the issues of the day. From a programming point of view, the radio people call this news-talk, though it's generally a lot more talk than news. It's easier, and a whole lot cheaper, to pay a few strong-headed blow-hards to pick up a copy of a newspaper and complain about the stories that are in it, the people quoted in those stories, the people who write the stories and all the stories they'd rather have seen published than it is to hire a reporting staff to go out and actually find out what's going on for themselves.

I'm not necessarily complaining. A blow-hard's gotta eat too, so as long as he or she can draw an audience that advertisers are willing to reach, the news-talk format (or, as I like to call it, the yap format) is a perfectly good business model. And I have to say, I enjoy it. Few things are more interesting to me than listening to people who know about as much as me on a particular subject talking about it like they're the world's foremost authority. Possibly that's because when I'm writing an essay like this, I'm doing exactly the same thing.

Last year at this time, a big recurring subject for the folks on one side of the political spectrum was the weather, namely how much snow we got last year and in each of the previous few winters. This, in their understanding, constituted definitive proof that global warming (or climate change resulting from pollution, if you prefer) is bogus.

By contrast this year, the broadcast blow-hards on the other end of the political spectrum are confident that this year's early spring in the American northeast is definitive proof that global warming (or climate change) is totally for real and it's just a matter of a few years before the Mid-Atlantic states are a tropical destination for people seeking refuge from cold weather farther north.

As a print blow-hard, I'm here to tell you they're all full of hot air. Like everyone else, I've got my own belly button and my own opinion on just about everything, and here it is on this matter: The preponderance of scientific research indicates there is something to this climate change theory. It only makes sense. If you dump enough pollution into a community pond, sooner or later all the fish will die. If you burn enough oil, gas, coal, wood, garbage or whatever, the resulting smoke and its component chemicals will similarly have an effect.

Saying burning a lot of fuel doesn't have an effect on the atmosphere is at best wishful thinking.

By the same token, this isn't the first time in my life here in Maryland that we've had a mild winter and a spring that gets off and running in March. In my lifetime, it seems like we get a few hard winters with a lot of snow, followed by a few mild winters with relatively few days off school and short skiing seasons. The cyclic nature of weather patterns is similarly something that can be documented by doing a little bit of record-keeping. By and large, the big effect on weather patterns in a given year relates primarily to the El Nino – La Nina cycle, which is roughly on a seven-year cycle.

In my not-so-humble opinion, making proclamations of opinion about things that can be backed up with scientific research is silly, though it's been going on for generations. Early in the atomic age, plenty of people were willfully oblivious to warnings about radiation pollution. There are plenty of people out there now who maintain the moon landings were faked. I don't know if anyone still buys into the idea that the earth is flat, but there were plenty of them back when I was a kid.

When it comes down to my life, there's no point in debating the reasons for why we have an early spring or a harsh winter, because there's not much you can do about it. There is good reason, however, to pay attention to people who study the weather and say global temperatures have been inching up. If you want to debate something, debate how much and what to do about it. There is, after all, room for discussion in this regard.

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