Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What, Actually, Are They Getting?

As I left the office today the story that was breaking was about a man "with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis who may have spread the disease to passengers and crew on two trans-Atlantic flights."

This news, I thought, will certainly alarm and concern a great many of our readers. On the other hand, I often wonder how much of the information we report actually sinks in with the public.

Example: We have been posting stories about global warming for several years now. One might think it's almost a household word. From where I sit every day, I would almost assume that everyone knows what it is and what is probably causing it. Yet yesterday, I sat outside a Dunkin' Donuts with my son as a woman in a large SUV drove up. Two pre-teen girls hopped out of the SUV, went inside the shop, and proceeded to wait 10 minutes or more to place and get their order. THE WOMAN SAT INSIDE HER CAR WITH THE MOTOR RUNNING THE ENTIRE TIME.

The weather was not hot enough for her to want to keep the air conditioner running, nor cold enough to justify the heater. In fact, it was a sublime 75 degrees or so on a glorious late spring morning. God has rarely created such a perfect day.

I debated whether I should politely tap on her window and suggest that she turn the motor off, but I also realized such an move would probably be perceived as an act of aggression. What do to?

As I watched the woman mindlessly waiting in the running car, I couldn't help thinking about the Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon where all the dinosaurs are standing around smoking cigarettes and the caption beneath it says, "The real reason dinosaurs became extinct."

For decades I have worked in the communications business, sincere in my belief that if we just get all the information out there, people can make wise choices about the world they live in.

But they don't.

The woman in the SUV obviously was ignorant about global warming (and probably a great many other things as well) but that's not as surprising as her sheer wastefulness. The price of gas is now more than $3 a gallon. It would seem she might have a little concern, at least, about that.

Weekly, we also report stories about the rising price of gasoline, but it appears that until there just isn't any anymore, Americans are going to continue to expect that it will be plentiful and (relatively) inexpensive (in Europe and other countries gasoline is far more expensive than in the U.S.) Again, the dinosaurs come to mind.

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