PAT NEAL: Real science too scary to deal with

HALLOWEEN USED TO be the scariest holiday of the year with ghosts, goblins and the zombie apocalypse threatening to knock on your door when you least expect it.

No more.

These days, we have a holiday that is more frightening than any ghost or goblin you could possibly imagine: Earth Day.

The recent Earth Day “Celebrate Science” event held at the Port Angeles waterfront was more frightening than any haunted house.

It was more like a haunted planet, with one scientist after another revealing disturbing scenarios threatening the survival of humans as a species.

It began with a presentation by a doctor on the overuse of antibiotics.

These are the miracle drugs that have allowed people to survive everything from abrasions to pneumonia ever since they were discovered.

Antibiotics have become so popular worldwide that they are overused to the point that bacteria are developing immunity to them.

Animals raised on the factory farms that provide most of the protein in America just seem to grow faster when fed a constant diet of antibiotics.

While the effects of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on human health is uncertain, we are studying the problem.

Another doctor described the advances made in the treatment of prostate cancer by shoving a thingamajig up the keister with some special sauce.

That had the (male) audience squirming in their seats.

It was scary.

Next, we were treated to another harrowing vision of a lifeless ocean being turned to acid by the increase in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

This endangers the survival of shellfish such as clams, crabs and oysters and the small organisms that are a food source for fish-loving creatures like me.

Moving right along, we heard a representative of the salmon restoration industry bemoan a loss of funding.

Apparently, the salmon restoration industry depends on the sales of fishing licenses to fund its activities.

With the mismanagement of our fisheries, fishing license sales have dropped.

Washington state’s recent proposal to increase the cost of fishing licenses was soundly rejected by angry license buyers.

People are giving up fishing in Washington.

They’d rather buy fishing licenses in British Columbia or Alaska.

There was a stimulating discussion of foodborne illness and the flu-like symptoms that can make a family reunion potluck special and convince anyone to cook their food until the smoke alarm goes off.

Next, a scientist warned that the dreaded subduction event could hit at any time in the next hundred years with a 9-point-something earthquake and a 30-foot tsunami.

The good news is we’ll probably be dead by then.

The bad news is there’ll be few surviving human structures — in other words, no pizza delivery.

The celebrated science event was frightening and depressing, but at least no one mentioned the probable cause for many of our environmental disasters.

That would be an increasing population of over 7 billion humans that could double in the next 50 years or so without regard for their carbon footprint.

We’ll ignore that.

Americans are afraid of science.

There could be many reasons for this.

Science is complicated and confusing.

Scientists use big words.

Scientists are always warning us about something scary.

A 2012 poll conducted by the National Science Foundation revealed that when questioned, 74 percent of Americans guessed correctly that the Earth revolved around the sun.

That means one out of four people in this country are living in the Dark Ages.

The human brain has evolved for millions of years to get this smart.

Artificial intelligence is evolving faster than the human brain.

Hopefully, someday robots can save the Earth.

They couldn’t do too much worse than people.


Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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