NATURE NOTE – Number 75                                                    August 28, 2023                                                                                        

Introduction:  A little different approach this time.

Our current Topic:  Caution on what you read

I’m telling you that while I’m here writing in hopes that you will read and buy into what I am writing!  Let me explain.  Climate change/global warming are the big topics of the day it seems, having passed COVID and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in the news media.  Adults and older scouts are subjected to all sorts of stories and articles about the environment and nature from sources that you would hope are reliable and factual.  But let me cite two examples I have personally encountered to illustrate my “caution” label. 

A local newspaper carried a commentary in a Sunday editorial page written by a university professor.  The professor said the average global temperature has risen by 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit each decade since 1970.  If that is true, the average global temperature today would be 26 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in 1970.  Wow!  When challenged, the newspaper published a small-print correction to the original article saying it should have been .52 degrees Fahrenheit.  That misplaced little dot was a significant difference in the message.  How many readers saw the original 5.2 degree per decade statement but missed the correction?  How many read it, thought it had to be true, because “it was in the paper.” This was perhaps a typo error by the writer or the newspaper, but it still appeared to be a statement from an educated professor. 

The second situation was a statement in a national magazine that said “The National Parks are warming twice as fast as the rest of the county.“  Really?  How does climate change recognize park boundaries?  Digging a little deeper with a couple of emails, I eventually understood (sort of) what it meant, but it was not what it said. A lot of details were left out. 

The point here is, as more and more folks write about the environment there’s going to be more chance of information being released that may be wrong, misleading, or slanted for whatever reason.  This is where the caution label needs to be applied, and adults and older scouts need to be aware of that.  Most of what they read will be correct, because “they” said it was true.  Who are “they”?  The scientists, I suppose.  But this brings up another key point to keep in mind:  science is not static.  We once thought the earth was flat, walking on the moon was impossible, and the way to treat a venomous snake bite was by cutting it and sucking out the venom.  Things change in science as “they” research more, collect data, pursue more ideas and do more experiments.  Remember all the different answers we got about COVID?  As we continue to get smarter about nature and the environment, science will change some of the answers.  That is to be expected.  That doesn’t mean today’s answer is wrong, it’s just the best answer we have today. 

We are seeing more and more media coverage about all of the stress young people are under, partially because they are learning that the planet is doomed, all the plants and animals will die, the air will become unbreathable, cities will sink into the sea, and… maybe it’s not worth living any more.  Wow!  This is a very dangerous place for young people to go.  So just maybe using some caution on what they read and hear about the environment and applying some thought to it might show that it is not always a true, complete, or an unbiased statement.  The more you know about a subject the more you can apply that knowledge and common sense to what you read or hear.  And remember, SCIENCE IS NOT STATIC!  The future will produce answers and solutions as it always has.  Mankind has survived five ice ages, two World Wars, Woodstock, and the COVID pandemic.  Keep the faith, young folks, keep the faith.  The planet is not warming 5 degrees Fahrenheit each decade and the climate is not changing more over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park than over High Knoll Mountain on the reservation.  


I know this has been a different NATURE NOTE, but it shows a great opportunity for scouters and parents to help make young people THINK, challenge when it is needed, and work to help science move forward. Get on THAT bandwagon.

Thanks for reading.  Next time we will talk about something simpler.

Comments welcome at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bob Garst