January 18 2011
Donna Wiesner Keene
Many people look at the past and see the progression of science as jerky, a few steps into ridiculous theories then a discovery and sanity. Bill Bryson in his amusing way in At Home writes about the dangerous, toxic chemicals in early colored wallpaper and how it ruined the health of Victorians. We can all shake out heads sadly at the penchant for beauty that induced women to pale their faces with arsenic and lead.
Yet so many of us trust today's science as absolute. Today's science is politicized, and therefore simply unscientific or unsafe in ways only the minority may see now.
Take next year's outlawing of the incandescent bulb for no better substitute than a bulb that emits less light, is filled with mercury, but uses less energy - if one doesn't consider you'll need extra lamps and bulbs just to see. Or ethanol - that eats a hole in your skin and the combustion engine, but was originally deemed to be such a wonderful, organic, renewable energy. Subsidized by millions of middle class Americans at the pump, in taxes, and when buying new cars more often, ethanol has created Iowa millionaire farmers and ruined Mexican peasants who cannot afford to buy corn meal for torillas. But a country that pours sugar into repairable old cars in a "successful" government program called Cash for Clunkers shouldn't worry about a bit of subsidized, forced engine damage, right?
Recently I attended a conference at a 5 star hotel and was appalled when my hair appeared oily and dirty by 11 am. Coming home my girlfriend complained that her hair was straight and oily lately ... and the only thing we'd both changed was our new ionic, tourmaline hair blow dryers. Tourmaline stone supposedly helps hair dry faster while adding shine; ionic hair dryers emit negative ions believed to help hair dry faster, smoother, and with less frizz.
For my girlfriend and I, that meant our naturally wavy hair cuts, cultivated over decades, now looked like the advertisements for Les Miserable and we had become our teen-angst, hippie, unwashed again. Not the look I was going for.
There are more serious issues - billions wasted on global warming regulations, cancer treatments that cut into and therefore metastasize cancer, regulating naturally occurring carbon dioxide -- but if we cannot get figure out how to light our houses, use corn, and dry our hair, should we really presume that we know how to permanently shift global temperatures?