As paradise burned, DeSantis fiddled with climate-change education
While the world watched in horror as Maui burned , Florida educators were busy adopting a new climate-change curriculum that minimizes teaching about the dangers of global warming and distorts scientific information. If only Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) were stupid enough to believe all this, but a Yale- and Harvard-educated military veteran cant pretend he doesnt know better. Far worse than a stupid governor is an intelligent one who plays dumb and down to voters. DeSantis didnt invent the strategy; its a tried-and-true approach that goes back (at least) to Richard M. Nixon and a 1966 stump meeting at the Wade Hampton Hotel in Columbia, S.C. Campaign aide Pat Buchanan recalled in a New Yorker interview that the room was filled with sweat, cigar smoke and rage, and the law-and-order rhetoric burned the paint off the walls. Leaving the hotel, Nixon said, This is the future of this party, right here in the South. A generation or two later, the GOP institutionalized willful ignorance when Sarah Palin walked onto the vice-presidential debate stage, winked and asked then-Sen. Joe Biden whether she could call him Joe. (During debate rehearsals, she kept saying Joe OBiden.) DeSantis has watched Donald Trump bamboozle and flatter his supporters by glamorizing their worst instincts. If the governor was once considered Trumps understudy, its clear by now that DeSantis is Trumpier than Trump. Think of him as a modern Don Quixote : Hell teach Floridas children to hate windmills and love fossil fuels. Floridas new curriculum is a product of the Prager University Foundation, a conservative nonprofit that aims to present The Other Side on hot-button issues. PragerU , as it is known, has produced videos on a variety of subjects, including climate change, for kiddies as well as adults. There will soon be optional content in civics studies for the K-5 set. Does anyone remember kindergarten civics? All I recall is playing kitchen. In previous incarnations, Ive been a fan of Prager and its co-founder Dennis Prager, who is not a right-wing nut but a thoughtful conservative who believes the country is going to hell. I happen to agree with him on this point. I also think we shouldnt terrify little children with frightening information about climate change that theyre not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle. Common sense dictates we dial back the apocalyptic narrative. Needless to say, many parents are delighted to get climate change out of liberal educators hands, along with discussions about LGBTQ+ issues, race and gender. (Please see age appropriateness above.) We are well into the Age of Affirmation, where facts are negotiable, truth is relative and my truth is all that matters. Are there different truths about climate change? Not really. Certain facts are no longer up for debate: Earth is warming; fossil fuel emissions contribute to that warming; the effects of climate change are evident in almost daily disasters. Today, we weep for Maui. Whats next? The problem with some of the PragerU videos I watched is their both-sides-now approach to established science. He said/she said might work in couples therapy, but science isnt subject to romantic interpretation. At least it shouldnt be. What is debatable is the degree to which we can reduce emissions by using alternative energy sources without also breaking the economy. I like my air-conditioning, lets be clear. Where I live in the South, air-conditioning isnt an optional luxury. It is, as Christopher Buckley wrote in his novel Has Anyone Seen My Toes? , a human right. PragerU plays down the relationship between human activities and global warming; refers to climate science as hysteria, and compares activists to Nazis . (Memo to Prager: Only Nazis can be compared to Nazis.) One video on the Prager website features conservative darling Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center . Lomborg, who looks more like a surfer than a scientist, works with hundreds of experts in several problem areas, including climate, in search of the most efficient solutions. His appeal is that he accepts the seriousness of climate change but prefers to shift our focus away from dubious environmental fixes to economic investment in human communities. For example, he says that because poor people suffer greater losses from severe weather events, we should spend our resources lifting them out of poverty, so they have a higher chance of survival. Sounds nice, but Lomborg doesnt say who should pay for the lift. Another Prager video stars self-described philosopher and persuasion expert Alex Epstein. In a voice that says, Im talking to you, second-graders, he claims we need to use more natural gas and oil, not less. Why? Because when production is reduced, prices go up. And did you know that more people die of cold than of heat by 9 to 1? Epstein must be referring to the two or three dozen people who havent yet migrated to the Southeast , where it is very, very hot but also where Northerners can buy a nice, air-conditioned home with all the money theyll save on overpriced fuel. A 2021 study published in the Lancet supports Epsteins claim. But other research shows declines in cold-related deaths with no increase in heat-related deaths because, get this, global warming has people acclimated to hotter temperatures. More important, Earths warming affects the climate , period. This doesnt mean that people, therefore, will die of heat. Extreme cold might just as likely be connected to the planets warming. Fossil fuels are probably an easy sell in Texas, where the Prager curriculum has been welcomed. Its probably just coincidence, but the 15-member Texas State Board of Education boasts 10 Republicans and five Democrats, among them a Shell Oil lawyer and the CEO of an oil-field service company. Just sayin. Meanwhile, the devastation is incalculable on Maui and especially in the city of Lahaina, where more than 12,000 people live. Weve heard that people ran into the Pacific to escape the fires. Some have been rescued. Tourists dropped everything and raced to the airport, where airlines had delivered larger planes. Although wildfires do occur in Hawaii, this was a one-off, exacerbated by a month-long drought, low humidity and strong winds from Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles to the south. Not to be hysterical, but this is yet another disaster unlike any other. Residents were warned that Hawaii was in a red flag situation. As are we all, I fear. As are we all.