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Hooray! We’ve Succeeded In Scaring Our Kids

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Child psychiatrists, psychologists and educators are report rising anxiety among today’s youth, thanks to all the doomsday talk about the destruction of the planet. 

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Cold War was in full flower. The geopolitical chess and rhetoric went back and forth between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, both of which held nuclear arsenals some claimed were sufficient to destroy the world multiple times.

A survivable nuclear war was an accepted concept back then. School kids went through drills for nuclear attacks just like for schoolhouse fires. Some families even invested the time and money to build and stock underground bunkers where they could hole up to wait out the inferno.

Because we lived about 20 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base, east of Rapid City, SD, folks probably didn’t harbor much hope of survivability. Home to a B52 bomber wing, the base was suspected of being a primary target in a preemptive strike. Of course, that area of western South Dakota was ringed by lots of underground missile silos, too. In fact, the late Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) used to say that if the Dakotas ever seceded from the Union, the two states would constitute the third-largest nuclear power in the world.

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All the while, armaments continued to grow more powerful and fearful. The first bomb dropped in Japan was estimated as equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. A few years later, the first hydrogen bomb was pegged at releasing the energy of 10 million tons. Later, a Russian megabomb was said to pack the wallop of 50 million tons of TNT.

Back in those days, the news was full of technological breakthroughs, not at the dizzying pace of today, of course, but the sky seemed to be the limit as the American economy hummed, and the U.S. and the Soviets reached for the promise of space. Regional conflicts continued to percolate around the world, with the U.S. and the USSR generally supporting opposing sides. Over all of them seemed to hang the potential for escalation to a nuclear confrontation.

Needless to say, the threat was real – not perceived. For instance, I remember the angst – in adults and kids alike – as we followed news coverage of the 1962 faceoff over Soviet missiles in Cuba. And when the Soviet Union finally imploded in 1991, we learned just how close the Soviets had come in the 1980s to pulling the trigger on a preemptive strike on the West.

Discuss this Blog Entry 9

Thomas Howard (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

Wonderful reminder of the cold war. Right on. Then off the track. Man caused global warming in your lifetime is fact. (Well O K, very, very high probability.) Global warming leading to climate change leading to enormous disruption. No not the end of the world as nuclear war would not have been, and probably not nearly as life changing because of the timelines, but a world wide major, major disaster none the less.

CalfDoc (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

Until we start realizing it is all about control, we are in a no win situation. Let's start calling it climate control because that is what it is about. It is way for those who do not like our way of life to force us to change.

Frank Schlichting (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

Well written article thank you!
If the climate is changing it doesn't really matter whose fault it is. The fact is that we are powerless to stop it and unable to reverse rising CO2 levels. So we should be instead concentrating on adapting to any climate changes that may or may not be occurring.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

I have read that part of the basis for increased anxiety among youth involves (but I am not suggesting is limited to) the increased availability and use of tech gadgets which distract, solicit attention, divide attention, and also obviously over-stimulate by providing much more information and input to the users, than was the typical habit some decades ago. When I notice that students in university classes are simultaneously texting, on Facebook, writing a paper and also apparently taking notes for the class in which they sit, I wonder about the effects on their mental health. Learning to focus for more than 30 seconds is a valuable skill, which I believe is related to the ability to relax, gain perspective on what is happening at the present time, and then make the most sensible judgement to assist future action if required. That's what we need to do as we consider ominous happenings like climate change, or nuclear disasters: focus on the problem first.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

The EARTH's Climate has never in the history of it self been stable. From rain forest to desert to ice age, each has covered EVERY bit of the earth's surface at one time or another. Are HUMANS a factor? YES but only a very minute one. If ALL of the earths humans adopted Al Gore's philosiphy could we change the final course of history? Probably NOT even a noticeable amount. Earth it's self produces more Greenhouse gasses than humans do. Volcanoes, fires, Methane gas (methane is a natural and constant emition from the environment) as well as many many more carbon emissions.
The earth's climate has made many changes during it's history so I doubt that we humans are much of a factor then or now.
Is it just me or have others noticed that most of the self proclaimed "ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS" always have solutions that require OTHERS to change thier ways, but not them? Almost sounds like a Control issue to me.................

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

Polling the uninformed is not a great source of knowledge. One human may not affect climate change even farting more than a cow, but 8 billion of us with the tools that move mountains, bring up oil, gas, water, minerals, from miles below the surface of the earth, the oceans and even the ocean floor, send robots to Mars and beyond, and scoop fish from the sea with nets miles long and harpoon whales with rockets, can easily affect the climate that is only the thickness of a layer of saran wrap around a grapefruit.
"See the whole board."
R/PxT=Q, and pregnancy prevention is the peaceful way to put our species back in balance with our home. And the young people can do it.
Meanwhile the Keystone Pipeline is a much safer way to move oil than by rail, and we should be building a water pipeline from the Mississippi basin into the Colorado basin.

JR (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

Wow, I'd sure like to know exactly who would "peacefully" control the human population by deciding who could reproduce and who couldn't?? Not exactly my idea of putting things back into balance. I don't think it was God's idea either. If the science could come out over the politics, it would be a whole different story. The world has been changing long before we ever got here - I don't think anyone was around to keep the dinosaurs and wooly mammoths safe from the changing earth. Our United States has succeeded in many technologies that go above and beyond looking out for the environment. Yet we over-regulate, which thus pushes industry and manufacturing out of the country and overseas. This not only hurts our economy but puts production in the hands of other countries that are not as particular about using good and up-to-date technology in their energy production, manufacturing, and agriculture. And I for one do not want to be at the mercy of another country for my food, goods, or fuel.
Turn the news media off people.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

I am talking about a global societal norm, not 'deciding who can and who can't' reproduce. You can't tell any of us what 'was God's idea'. God is an idea, and each of us decides for ourselves what that idea is; for me it is Jesus' love.
Humans may not end up being any smarter than dinosaurs or wooly mammoths and we may become just as extinct; but we can try to do better. You are sure right on target that the politics of the uninformed trumps the science!
John R. Dykers, Jr.

on May 9, 2014

In the Cold War days, there was actually some real to fear. This global warming is bunk. An engineer friend of mine tells me the polar ice caps on Mars ebb and low, too. Is that because of all the cows and SUVs on that planet? Bunch of bunk this climate change is. If the U.S. were to zero out its emissions, it would have no affect because the rest of the world won't go along; so let's wreck our economy and give the kids something to really worry about.

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