Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harder than you think

A quote I'm sure I've used in this blog before is that a definition of insanity is to keep doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I keep reminding myself of that every time I check the comments section of the CBC, especially when it comes to polar bear stories. And yet, there must be a hidden history of mental illness somewhere in my family because I catch myself doing it from time to time.

I don't talk about polar bears much because of a previous job, although friends certainly know that all it takes to get me to start hyper-ventilating is to mention our furry friends. I do have some distance from the previous job, so I'm a little more comfortable talking about it. However, I still tend to err on the side of caution.

The thing that drives me nuts about this story's comments section are all the posts going how terrible it was that they had to kill the polar bear and God, couldn't you have found a better way and how terrible people are for living in the bear's habitat.

It makes me want to smack people. A lot.

Polar bears are one of these issues that people think are simple - the climate is changing, polar bears depend on ice, therefore anything or anyone who harms the bears is evil and bad. But it's not that straightforward. Polar bears are complicated and protection of the species is a phenomenally complex issue. And anyone who tells you otherwise, or offers up simple opinions like some of the ones I mentioned above, needs to either educate themselves better or shut up.

That's the maddening thing about polar bears. People think they're experts. But unless you live in the north, unless you really familiarize yourself with all sides of the issue- with what scientists say and what people who live here say - then you probably don't have a clue.

When I worked with the Packet they used to do these fisheries hearings in rural Newfoundland. You'd have a bunch of scientists who would do presentations on their findings about the status of cod stocks. And then fishermen, some with no high school education, would come up and point out that these highly educated people had no clue what they were talking about, and would back that up with their own personal experience.

There was a give and take there. Fisheries science is a bitch of a thing and the knowledge of people who live the fisheries, day in and day out, in invaluable. But there is a tendency for people to discount it because they don't have alphabet soup after their names.

It's not a perfect analogy for what happens with polar bears and the north. I think scientists value local opinions. I just don't think the average person down south does. And that's a mistake. A mistake you can see every time you read the comments section of a CBC story on polar bears that runs down south.

Last Five
1. Pretty in pink - Psychedelic Furs*
2. Man of the hour - Norah Jones
3. So jealous - Tegan and Sara
4. Green grass (live) - Tom Waits
5. Feels so good - Van Halen


Megan said...

The "I used to work on this" thing is interesting. If you weren't a government employee, that would never be an issue.

I know, because I feel the same way.

I never write about issues I deal with at work. My general rule of thumb is that if it looks like something I would write at work, it belongs at work, not on my blog. This has interesting results. I can certainly speak at length about these issues. I can explain the intricacies and describe the different perspectives. I can do this much better than many other people who make attempts of their own. (This is especially clear when I read CBC comments.) And yet I say nothing.

If I worked anywhere but the government, I might have a different rule of thumb. I might even be expected to have a different rule of thumb.

I just think this is very interesting.

Delbert Grady said...

Great comment about the fisheries. I too, have seen scholars make a case on issues that they had no direct 'hands on' knowledge of. Many times they are not aware of other things in the equation.

The bottom line in this is: The more you are aware and educated of the base problem - the more complicated it proves out to be.