My niece and nephew saw Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” the other week, and it actually managed to get to them. It seems that the science teacher had their entire class make a field trip to the theater where it was playing. He feels that the issue is far too important to leave to their parents haphazard ministrations.
The indoctrination session was stunningly successful, and my nephew in particular was more than a little freaked out by what he saw.
Later, he gravely informed me that the polar bears are drowning. Further, unless we do something, the oceans will rise and drown our coastal cities. There can be no room for doubt because, get this, ” All the scientists are in agreement!”.
Much internet research and conversation ensued, on both of our parts. Finally, reluctantly, he accepted that perhaps we aren’t going to drown in the next twenty years after all.
Maybe. He’s still reserving final judgment.
Since when have middle school teachers and washed-up politicians commanded such powerful moral suasion?
Next time I see him, I’m showing him the following

Antarctic disaster:
Certain moments stick in your head. Take, for example, the story of the Siberian ponies adrift on an Antarctic ice floe surrounded by killer whales. Something about the scene… lodged in the mind of Sidney Nolan, who painted a version of it when he returned from his own eight-day trip to Antarctica…
What had happened? Nolan explained it in a letter to Hal Missingham, director of the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney…. “Once, five of the ponies, covered in green rugs, were lost on an ice floe which drifted out to sea surrounded by killer whales…Bowers and his party, on the floe with the ponies, managed to save one of the ponies after some awful moments. The episode was witnessed from the shore…through field glasses and tears. Anyway, it is roughly this moment I have tried to paint.”
You can see why the scene might have affected Nolan. For starters, it was horrible to contemplate; it would have affected anyone. But it also had a particular quality – surreal, deadly happenings in an extreme, implacable setting – that Nolan seemed to relish…
The only pesky thing is that the above all happened in 1911…

Cute. Hopefully, it won’t be too subtle for him.
UPDATE: He wasn’t too keen on my polar bear population dynamics presentation. However, he did get a snicker from the following, a collection of
alarmist rhetoric from thirty-five years ago. If it seems familiar, well, it ought to.
I’ve recycled it from this post seven months ago…

Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something,” ecologist Kenneth Watt declared to a Swarthmore College audience on April 19, 1970.
Dubbed “ecology’s angry lobbyist” by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”
Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, wrote, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine”.
In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
Barry Commoner cited a National Research Council report that had estimated “that by 1980 the oxygen demand due to municipal wastes will equal the oxygen content of the total flow of all the U.S. river systems in the summer months.” Translation: Decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.
In his “Eco-Catastrophe!” scenario, Ehrlich put a finer point on these fears by envisioning a 1973 Department of Health, Education, and Welfare study which would find “that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out.”
Keying off of Rachel Carson’s claims about the dangers of synthetic chemicals in Silent Spring (1962), Look claimed that many scientists believed that residual DDT would lead to an increase in liver and other cancers.
“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones,” warned Sierra Club director Martin Litton in Time’s February 2, 1970, special “environmental report.”
Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.
Kenneth Watt was less equivocal in his Swarthmore speech about Earth’s temperature. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Funny how humor can get the job done where mere statistics fail, isn’t it? Still, I could tell that it wasn’t quite enough. Then his mother (who is as unappreciative of this sort of thing as I am) had an inspiration. You see, he’s been going through this Extreme Christian phase lately. When she suggested that perhaps the Rapture might take everyone before the ice caps melted, well, he just brightened right up. He’s still reserving judgment, but he’s much more his old, cheerful self. Go figure.
A mother knows these things.