Coatless Canadians in Ketchican

Our last Alaska stop was Ketchican and it was only a short 4 hour stopover, so we just roamed the town centre, which had a funner spirit about it than the previous two stops. A playfulness overlying the need to make the most of the tourist season to carry over.

Back at the Skeptic Conference, we were treated to interactive lectures by Don Prothero who blogged here about the conference.

It’s important to note the the melting of glaciers and ice sheets is significant not only for increased sea levels, which means less land, but also the loss of ice sheets means that the global tectonic plates are responsible for earthquakes as the weight of the ice sheets stops pressing down on the plates, the plates rise back to their pre-ice sheet positions, causing earthquakes, such as the August, 2011 on the east coast of the US and Canada.

We were also treated to a lecture about Emergency Preparedness, which is a passion of mine, by  Randall Duncan, Director of Emergency Management in Sedgwick County (Wichita), Kansas, and instructor for FEMA and Park University in Missouri. His lecture was very layperson friendly and clear – the cost of doing nothing to prepare is too high, and it comes down to three simple choices:

There’s two obstacles to the adapt and mitigate strategies: Lack of political will and religion.

Politicians are about securing enough benefits to their constituents so that they will be re-elected – this being the case, politicians do not take a long view or make the hard decisions – they are driven by what is popular so they get re-elected.

It is difficult to convince people to prepared for potential negatives, despite the cycle of famine or feast, because when we are feasting, we forget about the famine days.

When financial resources are scarce, people are more likely to hold onto the money or deal with what’s necessary in the short term, rather than spend money to mitigate future disasters, which may or may not occur.

This is where the religious obstacle comes into play – people who beleive that disasters are god’s punishment for human behaviours (usually the things they don’t like or approve of, such as the fact of there being gays and lesbians, abortion, women’s rights and so on) – they are not prepared to mitigate against their god.

Moreover, people who beleive in the rapture are also not going to be willing to have the government mitigate against god’s wrath and don’t see a need to, since after the wrath, god will restore the earth to it’s original factory settings for the believers.

People who throw their hands in the air and say the universe and the earth is too complex for humans and resort to god as if that explains anything are saying that understanding science is too hard, so they won’t listen.

They don’t want to understand climate science or even that climate scientists are all in agreement that human activities – transportation, industry, commerce, resource extraction, conversion of natural habitat to farmland or urban sprawl are all contributing more pollutants and gases that contribute to warming than the earth can store.

Sure, a lot of the warming is natural – volcanic ash, coal seam fire – but natural processes have natural offsets – it’s human activity that is unchecked and unbalanced – especially since we are no longer subjected to natural limitations on infant mortality rates. Modern medicine means more people live and modern dentistry enhances the lifespan of people.

More people living means more infrastructure, more livestock, more carbon and more more more.

Humans are outbreeding the earth’s ability to balance our polluting output. Fortunately, there are some check and balances occurring on this front too – most countries are not breeding at replacement levels. Some even point to pollution as a link with the drop in sperm counts in the industrialized nations.

Mr. Duncan put it plainly – we have to plan for future contingencies or we will cease to survive. Adapt or die – and it’s the adaptivity that’s the meaning of Darwinian fitness.

2 thoughts on “Coatless Canadians in Ketchican

    • The socializing outside of the conference was really the best part – the conference dedicated would hang out in the bar – Crow’s Nest – on the highest deck at the front of the ship – so we nick named it 10-Forward – since it was the 10th deck and the geeky Star Trek Next Gen reference.

      Every now and then, I get confused that Caesar, a waiter, isn’t coming by and saying “Happy happy hour” and bringing me 2 frozen lime margaritas. There’s a lot of pressure on the cruises to drink – and I drank more in that week than I have for the whole of last year, maybe the last 2 years.

      I had been looking forward to meeting Michael Shermer, but at the last moment, I was a bit resistant because anytime I’ve ever met a famous person who’s work I admired, was usually, something less then pleasant. It’s been 20 years and I still can’t read Marion Zimmer Bradley books.

      But Michael came every night for a while and hung out and he was a very decent and approachable guy – as long as you aren’t overly fannish – you get to met the genuine person. It was interesting to watch him interact with the fannish people vs his colleges at the Skeptic magazine and those of us who acted like his was a regular guy – which we all are, just regular people.

      On the last evening, we went to the fancy dinning room to find out that the late seating people had come early and were at the table – so we got seated at another table, which was for 8 people. Michael, recognizing us from the gatherings and me from the conference, brought his partner and we ended up having dinner, just the four of us. His partner has a wicked dead pan sense of humour, she was fabulous.

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