A Simon Bar Sinister Understanding of Nature

NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story on the climate change talks in Copenhagen and talked to an economist named Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg believes that dealing with climate change should be left to future generations when it is a problem for them. A puzzling stance, given that forthcoming generations will be dealing with the consequences of climate change that cannot be quickly or easily turned off and smaller actions now might alleviate larger long term suffering in the future. What is most striking about the interview is when the interviewer asks him to put a price on the last polar. He waffles and refuses of course, but ultimately suggests that if it gets bad we will just throw them some food. No need to worry about complex interactions with the environment and other organism, no seasonal cycles or migration patterns that can be disrupted. Simple. Like in a cartoon written for children.

This is what I call a Simon Bar Sinister understanding of nature. The reference comes from an episode of the classic Underdog cartoon entitled “The Big Dipper.” In it, Underdog’s nemesis Simon Bar Sinister creates a weapon that can dry up the all the bodies of water on the planet. As you can see in the clip below, when the lakes and oceans dry up there are no animals (except for a pack of killer whales) or delicate ecosystems that are destroyed. We only see barren mud and a bunch of human waste. In the cartoon, the fix is simple. Just put the water back. And maybe toss the killer whales some food.