Jacob Haller (jwgh) wrote,
Jacob Haller
jwgh

unconscious or deniable = OK

I happened across this little quotation from the head of NASA a little while ago:
In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep airing May 31, 2007 on NPR News' Morning Edition, Griffin said the following: "I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

"First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."
The attitude displayed here reminds me of one I have seen elsewhere, too. For instance, a member of a university department consisting almost entirely of white men reacted to the suggestion that, among her other good qualities, a female candidate might bring some balance to the department with, "Yes, because gender is the only important thing to consider in hiring" -- the unintended implication being that you can tell which departments don't have sexist hiring practices, because they're the ones that are entirely male.

In other words, there are processes in place which have as (sometimes intentional but often unintended) unfortunate byproducts -- global warming is at least in part due to human activity, and the continued dominance of men in positions of power is because of various societal biases (not all of which are explicitly sexist). Measures to counterbalance these forces are then criticized because they explicitly are taking steps in the opposite direction -- we want to change human activity so that global warming slows down, and we want to enact policies explicitly to give women easier access to positions of power -- but the people who criticize these practices don't seem to spend much time worrying about the existing institutional problems. (Usually the people in question benefit from the existing institutional biases, of course. This may or may not be something that they explicitly consider in coming to their conclusion, though; I think a lot of people just have never noticed the institutional problems because they aren't adversely affected by them, and they seem like the natural order of things.)

So causing or reinforcing the original problem is basically OK as long as it's not intentional (or if the intention can be plausibly denied), but trying to fix it is problematic.

I don't say that various solutions to global warming, or to bias in the workplace and elsewhere, aren't problematic, or that discussions of their possible problems is bad, but it would be nice if people who oppose, say, global warming solutions because they try to change the environment would acknowledge that human activity is already changing the environment and that that, also, is a bad thing.
Tags: global warming, politics, rant, sexism
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