There is a Dr Seuss tale about two creatures called Zax, one north-going and one south-going who, while travelling along their paths one day meet face to face on the plains of Prax. Neither is willing to step to the side so that they may continue in their paths; instead they vow to stand there face to face as the days, seasons and years pass them by. Eventually a city and highway are built around them and the tale ends with them still standing there refusing to budge.
As a child this story fascinated me because I couldn't understand why one of them couldn't just move a bit so that they could keep going; what to a child's mind certainly seemed a far better fate than to stand still for years missing out on life. Children are much more willing to co-operate so that the overall priority of play continues. Even if they radically disagree about whether the toy they are playing with is called 'Tommy' or 'Timmy', they don't stop playing, they just work around it, playing is by far the bigger objective. When those children get older however, something happens. That need to co-operate seems to become much less important and the need to be right prevails. Taken to extremes you have people lost in the past refusing to budge from their outdated views. Somehow they believe that they will be vindicated in the end, because, after all...they are right.
We can't all be right. Neither can we all be wrong. I read an interesting comment posted under an article about global warming where plenty of mudslinging was going on and then this one sane poster interrupted the show with this thought. He wondered why everyone was so obsessed with the need to be right at all costs. He asked what happened to people having individual views that were equally worth consideration. That maybe, just maybe if we were less focussed on having to be right, no matter what, we could actually learn something and as a whole move forward. I held my breath as I looked to see if there would be any reactions to this, but sadly the next comment picked up where the last mudslinger left off, as though his insightful question didn't even exist. His was a lone voice in the midst of dozens and dozens of Zax. I admired that commenter, it took real backbone to jump in and ask that question. He positioned himself for some nasty flaming, but instead no one even paid attention to him...which actually when one thinks about it, might be worse.
It seems as though there is a huge online community of Zax arguing over who is right on the subject of climate change, as though there is even the possibility of a unilateral explanation for it. Everyone who is partaking of the climate change/global warming 'debate' seems to have a view and most of these people absolutely believe in the rightness of their position, whether it is well researched or simply a bias that feels right. They argue over whether it exists. They argue over whether it is man's fault. They argue over political machinations and media involvement to create a conspiracy for CO2 emissions taxation. They argue the scientists are lying to the public to get more funding from the politicians. They even argue about the retreating sea ice cap and whether NASA is telling the truth. It's quite ugly out there. Lots of Zax standing nose to nose in the plains of Prax refusing to consider any other position than their own.
Today's post has a simple message. Just like the Dr Seuss tale, I wonder if we were to fast forward into the future will we see all those Zax still standing face to face resolutely holding their positions? Will the climate have changed significantly around them without them even noticing? Being right isn't what climate change is about, it's not a contest. For all we know, something completely unexpected is causing the warming temperatures. But no matter what, one thing is certain, science will always move forward and scientists will figure out what is happening, hopefully before it is too late. And hopefully before we all end up becoming relics of our own blinkered biases.
Originally published on Paradigms Bend Feb 8 2011