Don Gale: We should not let fear guide our decisions

Most of our problems are made by humans, so they can be solved by humans.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Glen Canyon Dam, on the Colorado River in northern AZ, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

No, it is not the end of the world. Far from it.

Still, humans today use fantasy fear to make all kinds of foolish mistakes, from not having children, to not continuing education, to not saving money. But the future is as promising as it has ever been.

How can, we be sure? Because, with few exceptions our problems are caused by human beings. So human beings can solve those problems. We just need a few optimistic, forward-looking leaders. Negative thinking brings negative action and negative outcomes. Positive thinking brings positive action and positive outcomes.

The most serious challenge is global climate change, caused largely by human production of greenhouse gasses. Solutions are straight-forward: First, human beings must reduce the greenhouse gases we send into the atmosphere; second, human beings must find ways to remove some of those gases from earth’s blanket of air. Both approaches require research and investment, not gloom and doom. Much of the research has already been done.

We don’t need to eliminate all greenhouse gasses because trees, grass and green plants convert carbon dioxide into the oxygen animals, including humans, need to survive. (It’s counterproductive, then, to eliminate trees, plants and green grass.) Climate change is a world-wide challenge, requiring world-wide leadership.

Sadly, we lack leadership today, partly because we struggled through four years of a witless presidency, and even more years of bigoted Senate leadership. But the leadership vacuum will eventually be filled. Until then, as Franklin Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Some fear the war in Ukraine. It has already inflicted a horrendous toll. But the war is all but over. The egotistical fool who started it has been defeated. Soon, the good Russian people will push him aside. He has killed too many innocent Ukrainians and too many of his own soldiers. He is a pariah throughout the world.

Almost a century ago, another madman destroyed Europe. World leaders came together to create international organizations designed to prevent future wars. Obviously, those organizations must be improved to prevent future disasters such as Ukraine.

Those of us who live in the Western U.S. fear the drought that began at least a decade ago. Global climate change will likely stretch the drought another three or four decades – unless we do something about it. Stop-gap measures such as water conservation are not enough. The problem is not a shortage of water. The world has plenty of water. The challenge is water distribution, just as it was a century ago when resourceful leaders created Boulder Dam. And half a century ago when resourceful leaders created the Central Utah Project and Glen Canyon Dam.

Two straight-forward approaches will eliminate the Western drought: First, import excess water from nearby areas. Second, reduce end-user demand by converting ocean water into irrigation water to replace Colorado Basin water in California and Mexico. Both remedies are expensive, but no more so, relatively, than building Boulder Dam, fighting a war, putting life-changing satellites in space or dozens of other engineering challenges over the last century.

Another problem causing much handwringing is health care. Again, it’s a distribution problem. Health care science improved dramatically over the past few decades, but too many fellow human beings do not have access to modern medical miracles. We can — and we will — find ways to spread the benefits without foolishly weakening the public-private system that created those benefits in the first place.

We have always created problems for ourselves. It’s easy to talk about those problems. It’s easy to agonize over problems. It’s easy to identify simple-minded, short-sighted remedies. It’s easy to march, demonstrate and organize cause-centered interest groups. But such activities are mostly ineffective.

The challenge is to think beyond simplistic responses. The challenge is to rise above human emotion, to rely on human intellect, and to have confidence in the promise of human ingenuity. That’s when the hard work begins. That’s when meaningful solutions are put in place. And that’s when reality drives out fear.

Don Gale.

Don Gale, a long-time Utah journalist, has observed and written about fear-mongers for years. Experience shows that gloom merchants are almost always wrong.