Happy Birthday, Doctor Seuss…Some Thoughts On Lessons Of Childhood

Well, it’s Theodore Geisel’s birthday again and with the movie release pending for The Lorax, it has me thinking once again about my childhood. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat is one of the first books I ever remembering owning. I got it for my birthday as a young child. (I can’t remember which one my twin sister, Lara, got). I read that book ’til the cover fell off, over and over. I loved Seuss’ magic with words.

“The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play,” possibly the most well known opening line in twentieth century children’s publishing. Who could forget those words and what child couldn’t grasp the emotion behind them? Many a child had their days ruined by weather. No sand castle? No playing outside? No swingset? No bike? Sigh.

But as much as I loved The Cat In The Hat, I still remember The Lorax as my favorite. What I loved about The Lorax was the mystery of the hand reaching from that perilous tower, and the young boy wanting to know more, as so many young boys do, who gets a tale of a lifetime. I was one of those kids: frustrating adults with all my questions. In many ways, I still tend to be. I’m always questioning “What if?” “Why?” etc. That’s probably why I went into writing science fiction and fantasy.

But for me, The Lorax‘s message was so important. Despite being raised Conservative in a Christian and Republican home, the environment was something I always had a special relationship with. The Earth and nature resonate with me in a unique way. They inspire me, move me, touch me, and fill me with emotions at the experience of their beauty, aliveness, scents, smells, etc. I grew up in the farmlands of Kansas, far from the logging country of the Pacific Northwest, where that industry is such a part of the culture and economy that it’s iconic. I don’t think I saw my first logging truck into my teens or twenties. And it was on a trip somewhere, not around Salina where we lived. But one of my favorite singers, John Denver, sung a lot out the environment and I always found myself wondering why humans are so careless with the planet and land God gave us to live on. For me, it’s a no brainer. We need the Earth, the Earth doesn’t need us. We need the planets and animals and other ingredients in our food chain. We need the various products which give us quality of life. While they might not forage well, the cows and sheep and pigs probably wouldn’t mind if the slaughter houses shut down. And they probably wouldn’t get emotionally distraught at the disappearance of their farmer-owners. Just saying.

Seuss’ The Lorax taught a great lesson about how much our drive for more and more, whether it’s money or wood or anything else, leads humanity down dark and troublesome paths, with end results we should carefully consider. It taught lessons about respect for nature and the appreciation of the unknown. It reenforced my dad’s lessons about not being wasteful and about making full use of things as much as possible. From water to food, we were conservation minded at home. My dad installed Naval shower heads to cut our water waste from long showers. So much so that it was a huge adjustment switching back to regular shower heads when I moved out on my own. He taught us to turn the water off after we got wet, apply soap and shampoo, then turn it on to rinse, then get out of the shower. No dilly dallying or long shower concerts for me, his wannabe rock star son. That stuff had to occur elsewhere. He taught us about composting everything from orange rinds to grass clippings, using toilet paper conservatively, and minimizing trash. To this day, my parents are lucky to fill a 15 gallon bag of trash in two months at their house. I have several trashcans, with specific ones devoted to aluminum, milk cartoons, hardboard, etc. And I make an extra run to the recycling center monthly, since the city offers no street pick up.

The Lorax reenforced these lessons and did it in a non-preachy, fun way. Like so much of Dr. Seuss’ work, it was simple, with basic vocabulary and stunning rhyme, yet at its heart lay an important lesson for us all. It saddens me a bit to see the Hollywoodization of The Lorax now which seems to contrary to the message. I haven’t even seen the movie yet but there are wasteful tie-ins of paper, plastic, etc. everywhere. How many of those will wind up enlarging our nation’s landfills or landfills around the world? Is that really what Dr. Seuss would have wanted? I doubt it.

But The Lorax is still in print and so we can do our part. We can buy the book for a child we know, and help them get a start. We can teach them of its wonders, of the lessons that it holds, and watch their eyes light up with magic at the beauty of its prose. We can share it with a stranger or a neighbor or a friend. We can share it with our grandkids or our children once again. For me, it’s really simple, and a thing I mustn’t dodge. For the lessons of The Lorax still are needed quite a lot.

Ok, I’m no Dr. Seuss, but I hope you get my point. For what it’s worth…

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. May we honor you well. And thank you!

Still Skeptical On GW Theory But That’s Beside The Point

It’s been a while since my last Global Warming post, so I feel like making an update for various reasons. (Mostly because it’s on my mind at the moment.) The more I look into it, the more I remain convinced that the scientific community’s dogmatic attitude is distracting them from far more important matters. There have been plenty of scientists poking holes in the theory, plenty of studies showing significant warming periods throughout the Earth’s history even warmer than this one, that I find it ridiculous how much like attacking pitbulls GW proponents become the moment anyone dares questions GW theory. That just makes me question it more. Why are they so threatened by questions? Isn’t that how science is done, by asking questions? I have been around religious cults. I have people in my family who belong to one. That’s exactly how cultists act. Science is no good when you stop questioning things. It stops being science. And GW proponents have made GW their religion, plain and simple. I have a religion. I don’t need another one.

The purpose of this post though is not to rehash that old argument. Instead, while I don’t think we have it all figured out, I remain convinced, as always, that man has harmed the environment. Anyone who says differently, to me, is just being an idiot. How many oil spills do we need to clean up to realize we’ve harmed the environment? How many missing mandrakes must we uncover? How many cities have to have regular smog warnings and level alerts? Fact: Man has been a bad steward of the Earth. There’s no dispute on that. What is disputable is the degree of Global Warming and what we can and must do to reverse it.

It hardly matters, to my mind, whether you believe in GW theory or not. Man must change how we treat the environment in the face of continued distruction and depletion of resources. Fossil fuels won’t last forever, for example. Future generations will pay a price for our refusal to change our reliance on them. Future generations will also pay for continued deforestation, destruction of animal habits, and so much more that we are aware of and continue to ignore. It’s really shameful that there are so many simple things which every person can do that most people never bother with. Separating recyclables and taking them to recycling centers: I live in a small city of 13k. There is no city wide recycling but we do have centers and I separate everything per the list and it gets dropped off regularly. We are talking over half the garbage I generate that’s being reused here. Why in the world wouldn’t I want to do that? Problems exist with our landfills, people. The amount of land on the Earth is not growing. We are using it up at an incredible rate. Garbage has to go somewhere and no, New Jersey, barges in the ocean is not an attractive option. Everyone should be recycling in the United States and major developed countries. Some poorer nations have more of an excuse but one of the things we should be doing instead of fighting over theory is helping them develop programs.

This is my thing. While we fight over theory and argue over facts, the indisputable facts get ignored as well and nothing gets done. There is plenty of evidence that we harm the environment and plenty we can be doing to do better with it, plain and simple. We need to focus energy on that. So what if some people won’t get with the program? That’s always the case. Those who are aware should do all they can. Yet how many people are not? “It’s too hard.” “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t have time.” BAH HUMBUG. It costs me so little to recycle that I can’t even calculate it. Just a few extra trash cans and seconds of my time. Period. Instead of carrying the recyclables to the trash can, I carry them past to a recycling bin (whichever ever of the 4 bins they belong in). No one can reasonably argue to me that’s too expensive or time consuming or hard. And recycling is just one of the things we can do.

What about driving less or carpooling? People value their freedom more than the environment. That includes most of us. I live alone on the opposite side of town from family, and I’m currently unemployed. But I drive only when I must. I walk around the area of my home a lot. Within a few blocks I can find minimarts and restaurants and various places to keep basics going. And when I have to drive, I wait until I have multiple reasons to do so and go to the many different places on one trip. Just being conscious of this saves me a lot of gas and also tends to save time because coordinating stops at places congregated together makes more sense and takes less time than multiple trips.

That’s two simple things any of us can do.

There are more. I once got involved with Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign (now Oceana). As  supporter, they sent me a simple wheel on basic household products which are environmentally destructive and how to make environmentally friendly substitutes out of other common household items. I’ve done this. I’m conscious about littering and how I engage with natural habitats and environments. No more breaking off branches or throwing rocks, etc. I try not to mindlessly disturb the place, instead, enjoying it in all its charms while leaving a minimum record that I was there.

There’s more. Look into it. I don’t have time or energy to lay them all out here. We do have a responsibility to future generations for their planetary home. We have not yet discovered somewhere else in the Universe we can go and live. Recent water planet discovery aside. We don’t have capability of sending colonists into space and since the government just defunded NASA, it’ll be a while. Nope. We’re stuck here, on Earth. This is our home and this is where we’re gonna be for a while to come. So we need to do better. Period.

Sometimes I think people just love to blame others and prefer arguing to real progress. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility. Always someone else who must start first, never me. BAH HUMBUG. One only has to look at the current White House, one of the least effective in U.S. history to see how good finger pointing and blame does. One only has to look at the current ineffective Congress to see how good arguing instead of pursuing progress works. It’s time for a change. By all of us. Period. If we don’t have the guts to do it, we share the blame. Period.

Well, there you have it. My GW update. At least as far as my opinion goes. I’m sure it will continue to piss off bought and sold pro-GW friends. But they, like everyone else, often continue to miss the point, and so be it. I’m entitled to an opinion. For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

I Believe In Stewardship Not Global Warming

In January 1989, while out in Los Angeles preparing to transfer colleges, I interviewed actor Ted Danson for my college newspaper because he was an alumnus.  During that interview, Danson discussed his passion for the American Ocean’s Campaign (now Oceana), which he’d  founded as an environmental-focused nonprofit to educate the public on saving our damaged oceans.  He recalled the time he’d been on vacation with his family and saw such pollution on a beach that he felt uncomfortable letting his daughters swim.  I recalled times I’d witnessed similar sludge in the Rocky Mountains.  I recalled driving through the Alps and being shocked how well preserved they were by comparison.  That was the moment I first believed mankind’s habit of damaging the environment without concern for the future was a major problem.

So, in a sense, I believed one of the tenets of Global Warming long before that theory existed.  Which is one reason I find it easy to say:  I don’t believe in Global Warming theory.  I believe God created the Earth and gave it to man as a home.  I believe we are here as stewards and we have a responsibility to take care of the gift of our planet and preserve it as a gift to be shared with future generations.  I remember hearing about the destruction of Mangrroves by New Orleans and over in Asia as hurricanes hit and realizing the damage had gotten worse than I’d realized.  And thinking we have to stop this.  And I believe we do.

But that doesn’t mean I believe in all this peudo-science used to justify Global Warming.  Climate changes?  Well, Hammartan winds have been causing strange shifts for decades, so why is it all of a sudden Global Warming?  One of my biggest issues with science as a whole these days is summed up in the article http://slate.me/fo8yGr.  Science has become dominated by people with one dominant worldview and ideology.  How can it truly call itself unbiased, how can the methods truly be subjective when the people asking the questions start from such a similar place?  As a science fiction and fantasy writer, I have marvelled how people who can be so creative and open to endless possibility in their writing can be so close minded in their real world attitudes toward God and other subjects.  Is it really so easy to write off a higher being as the iniator of the Big Bang, when one is so convinced a big bang actually occurred?

And the arguments I’ve heard and data I’ve read on Global Warming just prove this to me.  Anyone who even remotely questions the theory is labelled “irrational” or “ignorant.”  What happened to healthy skepticism in science?  Some legitimate questions have been raised about the data and I don’t think true, dedicated scientists of integrity would discount them so quickly.  There’s no doubt, in my mind, that mankind’s activities are harming the environment.  Corporations and governments and others have built for years, destroying habitat and natural resources, without any regard for long term impact.  We’ve known most of my life that oil was not unlimited, that it one day might run out.  The fact that it hasn’t yet, doesn’t change my concern that our dependence on fossil fuels is a long term concern.  In the same way, I can believe that the Earth’s other rich resources have limits. And one has only to read the Wildlife Foundations endangered species lists to figure out  the damage done to the animal kingdom.

Is it really possible for anyone to believe significant damage hasn’t been done to the environment by man?  Not a rational person, no, but rational people still don’t have to believe in Global Warming to be rational.  Sorry folks.  The very suggestion that they do is completely irrational.  This is science, remember?  It’s based on hypothesis which form theories.  In essence, educated guesses, at least until definitive proof exists.  And while definitive proof exists of environmental damage by man, Global Warming theory has not been definitively proven.  So I remain skeptical.

The need for stewardship, however, is obvious.  It occurs not only in personal finance or use of office supplies (particularly witnessed by those responsible for the relevant budgets) but in the face of rising gas prices.  It’s not really a big stretch to apply the concept to other areas as well, such as the environment.  As farmers, my family often spoke of good stewardship of their land.  Land is valuable and to survive, farmers must make the most of every parcel.  Perhaps city folk have a harder time grasping this prospect, but I don’t think it’s that hard.  We have to take care of everything we own if we want it to last.  I learned that every time a childhood toy broke and couldn’t be repaired.

So here I am, proponent of stewardship but Global Warming skeptic. And I am a rational person, despite being a science fiction and fantasy writer.  I have great faith in science and great faith in religion, and I have great faith in human kind.

For what it’s worth…