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Out of Sight, Out of Mind



Bayou-Diversity (4 October 2020) here is obviously some truth in the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” Humans are a visual species with large areas of our brain dedicated to processing visual stimuli. Most of our knowledge concerning our surroundings is acquired through our eyes. We tend to deem matters that can’t be clearly seen as low priority, and for a great many people, if a concern can’t be observed directly and unambiguously, it apparently does not exist in their mind. Herein lies a problem as it relates to addressing some of our most serious environmental issues, because they first must be acknowledged.

Plenty of “out of sight” examples are out there. They range in magnitude from the loss of biodiversity associated with industrial pine plantations on millions of acres in rural parishes, to the fact that we can’t see the invisible, atmospheric carbon dioxide that is causing global climate change. Visually scanning the sky today doesn’t reveal rising CO2 levels caused by our burning of fossil fuels for energy or the fact that the last time CO2 levels were this high was more than 3 million years ago. We can’t see the fish in the oceans to know that due to overfishing, nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished. Similarly, we can’t see birds that are no longer here, this in light of exhaustive research that says there are almost 3 billion fewer birds in North America than a half century ago; more than 1 in 4 have disappeared. This particular example makes me wonder how many people could go through a week without seeing a single bird and not notice that something is wrong. And if the COVID virus was as large as English peas, public acceptance of its dangers would be more widespread.

So who or what does see and recognize these issues? Science does – that ongoing, systematic gathering of knowledge concerning the natural world using experiments and observation (though not necessarily visual observation). Robust science can see through the biased cataracts of personal opinions to provide clarity and suggest solutions. That’s worth keeping in mind. ©KO

 

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