I Want To See You Be Brave

My favorite music video is “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles. It was written as an encouragement to a friend. But it can apply to anyone who is afraid to speak out.

“Say, what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.” Recently I heard on the radio the song “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles (written along with Jack Antonoff).  I first heard it a couple of years ago and it is probably my favorite music video – the one where people are dancing at various public locations around Los Angeles.  She was inspired to write the song as an encouragement to a friend to speak out, and not be afraid. But, it can apply to anyone who is afraid to speak out.

Hearing “Brave” made me think about people who are afraid to speak out because they fear reprisal. On college campuses students and professors are being targeted if they are not politically correct, which often equates to not being sufficiently liberal politically. (Who knew that liberal arts would mean you must be liberal?) Now teachers and students are targets if they say anything that might in any way be construed as a criticism of or possibly offensive to anyone else. I call it “intolerance for tolerance’s sake.”

In climate science those who disagree with the notion that most of climate change is man-made are ostracized, have difficulty getting funding for research, and their research may be denied publication. Government employees are afraid of reprisals if they speak out or reveal unlawful or unethical conduct by senior management. This is still the case, despite assurances by high officials and even President Obama that they would be free of reprisals for whistle-blowing.

When I worked at the Department of the Interior I would speak up if I thought something could be done better, but also if I thought something was not right. That included how employees were left out of decisions and opportunities. It also included questioning decisions made by senior management and political appointees. I was able to do this without reprisal. Perhaps I was respected because I was careful to speak against policies or practices and not make personal attacks. Was I being brave or foolish?

Others would come to me and ask me to express their concern or complaint. If I shared the concern I might do so, but if it was not a concern of mine I would tell them they must to do it themselves. Most were reluctant to speak out; they were afraid of reprisals. Were they justly afraid?

I read in an article in FedSmith (fedsmith.com, a private-sector newsletter for government employees) that whistle-blowers were often subject to reprisal, and when they took their complaints to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) they almost always lost. It is apparently extremely difficult to prove that adverse personnel actions are a reprisal for speaking out about illegal or unethical behavior, even if that behavior was proven to be true and the alleged reprisal immediately followed. So the FLRA is reluctant to act to protect whistle-blowers.

From what I know the fear of reprisals is justified. The fear of professors on college campuses is justified. Will that change with a new administration? Possibly, for government employees, but I doubt it. For the fear on campuses it will require a change in the public dialogue about what is okay to say in public. It really comes down to our First Amendment right to free speech. We all need to be brave enough to say what we want to say, and confident enough in ourselves to withstand what others may say. I want to see you be brave.

Featured image from http://www.directlyrics.com/sara-bareilles-brave-news.html. You can also see the video at this site, or search for “Sara Bareilles Brave.”

Earthquakes and Climate Change

(No, this is not an article about “earthquake weather.”)

Kenneth Piper, July 10, 2016

I think climate change policy should more like that for earthquakes. Geophysicists and geologists study them to understand the process and where they happen most often. We also study them to try to be able to predict more precisely when and where they will occur. Although some people think we should be able to control earthquakes, we can’t (why is a topic for another article). So, earthquakes happen. And, we cannot expect to stop them from happening.

Climate scientists and other geoscientists also study climate, including climate history and the causes of climate change. Climate varies, due to causes both on the Earth and from outside the Earth. Examples of the former include plate tectonics, ocean currents, changes in vegetation (both on land and in the sea), and changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. Examples from outside the Earth include variation in solar input (due to changes in the Sun’s output and variations in the Earth’s tilt and orbit around the Sun) and cosmic radiation (which varies according to the sunspot cycle and has been found to correlate with cloud formation). There are also various human-caused environmental changes that affect climate, such as deforestation, large-scale agriculture, dams, combustion of various types, and air pollution.

There has been much argument over how much of the climate change is due to humans and how much is due to the other factors. It is clear to me, that without any human effects, the climate has changed greatly over geologic history. Just since the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch, we have been through many cycles of cooling and warming, with global average temperature changes of at least 12 degrees Celsius. The graphs I showed in my previous post “Global Warming: Prelude to the next Glacial Stage?” show that we are due for (if not already beginning) the next downward trend. So, climate change happens. And, we cannot expect to stop it from happening.

Yes, we should continue to study all of this (it is not settled). But the parallel work, which is more important to most people on Earth, is being neglected. That is, preparing for what comes ahead. With earthquakes, there is much study by geophysicists regarding where and how much ground shaking will occur. There is parallel and related work being done by engineers on how to make it safer for those of us that are at risk. And, there are also efforts at teaching people how to be safer and to prepare for the earthquakes to come.

Climate change can be far more devastating for much of the Earth’s population, although it comes more slowly. And, we don’t really know for sure which direction to prepare for. In the short term, we may have some continued warming and some continued sea-level rise. In the long term, we may have to deal with continental glaciation over much of the most densely populated areas. So, we really need to work on both. Instead, politicians, policy makers, and many climate scientists argue over who or what is at fault. And they spend a lot of effort to shut up the people who have different ideas. I’m sure a lot of this is about power, money, and prestige.

We didn’t get to the Moon, or Mars, or the International Space Station by bickering. It’s time we move forward.

Image: Rifting iceberg, from inhabit.com, via Google Image Search