Lasting impressions


Sometimes events can make an lasting impression. For example, take at the popular expression: “Where were you when JFK was shot?”. The meaning behind this is that this event shook people so much that it made a lasting impression. This is why they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing at the very moment they heard about the news.

I have to admit, there was only one candle on my proverbial birthday cake when JFK died, so not much of an impression for me on this one. But there were other similar experiences for me and some of them had to do with the global warming theme. For example, there is quite some discussion about whether there was or wasn’t an ice age scare in the 1970s. Was it a real widespread concern at that time? Or just the shrieking of a vocal minority?

I was about 19 years old and was being trained as a lab technician (specialization environmental compounds). We got courses such as chemistry, biology, ecology,… and also a course named “Study of Air, Water and Soil”. Until that time I only was aware of the “Coming Ice Age”, global warming wasn’t raised yet. One day, the lecturer explained some things about climate, more specifically about temperatures. He said that at that time there was a debate over whether the temperatures would go down (because of aerosols) or go up (because of greenhouse gases). I was really surprised, as were my fellow students. This was the first time hearing of a debate about something we thought was settled. I still remember the class room where it happened, in a prefab building, me sitting a the left of the class room, second chair on the second row, the teacher making some schematic drawing with some sun rays on the blackboard (that wasn’t black, but green by the way),… That day my ice age belief was shaken.

Thinking about it afterwards, the fact that I was genuinely surprised about this statement showed that the ice age scare was real for me. Otherwise the statement about the debate wouldn’t have made such an impression. The ice age scare was brought by the media and people (at least in my surrounding) were digging it. It was real, as real as the global warming scare is now. It was a “hot” topic at that time and it gave birth to many scary predictions and wacky solutions. Now they seem crazy, but back in those days they were taken seriously.

Whether there was a scientific, ahem, consensus on the matter, I don’t know and I don’t really care. Yes, I realize that some people try to explain that the issue was not alive with the scientists back then. But hey, it wouldn’t be that difficult either to explain global that warming isn’t an issue with scientists today, just a change the definitions will do (although scientists take global warming for granted, not many really talk about attribution).

Some say the ice age scare was only by a small, but vocal, group of scientists who dominated the media. Could well be. Maybe that is not even that much different than the situation we have now…


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