Denial of undeniable facts

It is quite frightening how people dismiss scientific phenomena and continue to live as if such knowledge never existed or was totally of no consequence. A case in point is the link between environmental degradation and persistent blackouts.

To a great number of people, the blackouts are purely the result of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) staff miserably failing to deliver on what they are mandated to deliver.

That our wanton cutting down of trees has resulted in our rivers drying up, thereby depriving Egenco of the resource they need to generate power, is to such people cheap talk designed to provide a convenient excuse for poor performance. Of course, where I fault Escom and Egenco is that they have failed to quickly diversify from water to other feasible technologies for generating power, but that is the story for another day.

Everybody talks about climate change now and the impression one gets is that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon. There is a general failure to recognise and admit that the greenhouse gases which we generate by running our petrol and diesel propelled cars are the major cause of global warming.

One of the things that struck me most when I visited Amsterdam in The Netherlands was the number of bicycles in that city. Dwellers of Amsterdam have developed a preference for bicycles to cars because the former do not pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. It would be next to impossible to convince a Malawian to give up a car and travel by bicycle instead.

Dear readers, global warming is real, it’s not fiction. Carbon dioxide, methane and similar greenhouse gases are an absolute hazard. Earth and its neighbouring planet, Venus, are almost the same size and, until recently, were regarded as twin planets. But apart from the similarity in size, there are huge differences between Earth and Venus.  Venus has a source of carbon dioxide in its system as a result of which its densely thick atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which has resulted in a runaway greenhouse effect. Despite being further from the Sun than Mercury, Venus’ surface is the hottest in the solar system, hovering around 420 degrees Celcius.  Tin and lead would immediately melt on the Venutian surface.

If we are not careful, we will create another Venus on Earth because of the endless greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere. We are now contemplating installing a coal fired generation plant in Malawi. It will certainly alleviate the current power generation problems, but at a huge environmental cost because burning coal releases so much carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.

There are hosts of people in Malawi who do not believe an iota of what environmentalists say and warn us about. They do not believe, for example, that deforestation results in dwindling water levels in rivers and lakes; they do not believe that running a petrol or diesel engine or indeed a coal plant results in global warming; they do not believe anything scientific and regard science as nothing more than a figment of the imagination.

Scientific skepticism is by no means confined to Malawi. When, in 1974, Roland and Molina warned that gases known as CFCs (commonly used in refrigerators then) were eroding the ozone layer in our atmosphere and, therefore, making humans vulnerable to the effects of excessive ultraviolet light, they were attacked by a sizeable group of skeptics, mainly from the industries that did not want to give up use of CFCS. Later, in 1985, a yawning ozone hole was discovered over the Antarctic and the skeptics were silenced once and for all. The use of CFCs now belongs to the confines of history.

I recently read about a conference in North Carolina that drew together skeptics of the scientific assertion that Earth is spherical like a ball. Organisers and delegates to the said conference believe instead that Earth is flat like a disc. My foot! That would mean that you can get to the edge of the Earth and you can fall off. It would also mean that you cannot launch satellites that go around the Earth to provide a wide variety of services such as communications (for example, DSTv), global positioning, among others. It would mean that the numerous images of a round Earth that we have seen captured from space are somebody’s deception in imagery.

We must search within and be honest with ourselves in terms of the basic scientific concepts which inform (or should inform) our understanding of what is going on around us. Can we destroy our forests and continue to enjoy uninterrupted power? By no means!

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