Feed on

No new ground broken here, but I just read a news story about the rise of people who refuse to have vaccines administered to their children. Strangely, the families that appear to be most likely to refuse vaccines are the most educated among us, and not like you might suspect, the least educated. The vaccine issue is packed with the same problems that plague economic and environmental questions elsewhere. We have a group of people who seem to disregard the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe. But we also have this same group of people who wish to make choices for themselves regarding what to do with their own children. However, muddying these waters is the fact, yes fact, that THEIR decision to not vaccinate their children does indeed increase the risks of disease and the associated costs of those diseases, to everyone else.

So, what we have is a pretty interesting uptick in the prevalence of whooping cough, mumps and other stuff you may have never heard of because we eradicated the stuff decades ago. I am not going to analyze or moralize, but merely ask what is different about whooping cough than climate change? I think people on all sides of the climate change question, interestingly, can pick an angle to this story that suits their bias. On the “climate change won’t kill us” side of things, you can easily point out that all of the vaccine scare stories that were conjured up by the media and a few fringe people who post wildly on the internet, were of course ridiculous. There is simply no credible evidence that vaccines are causing cancers, autism or any of the horrible things that people claim. And indeed, this is indeed the way the Acid Rain story, the Superfund stories, the “bees and butterflies will disappear” stories, the “we’re running out of resources” stories have proceeded in the past. On the other hand, I am sure that people who sincerely believe that climate change is going to kill us will point to the “overwhelming scientific consensus” on vaccines being “denied” by some fringe wackos.

Given my biases of course, I think the “denier” angle here is most interesting. The same people who are “denying” vaccines’ effectiveness and harmlessness (relative) are from the highly educated group that argues from authority about the “science” of global warming. So it’s fun to see things line up this way. And from a macro-enviro-health perspective, from the numbers I see being tossed around at the number of diseases spreading because of the refusal of vaccines and the number of related deaths, we are talking about a health problem larger than any health problems caused by a warming planet, despite what you hear in the news.

What is even more interesting is that we see these health problems escalate despite us knowing very clearly how to handle them, and being able to handle them for pennies, not trillions of dollars.

Yet we can’t get vaccine policy right. We can’t get people to cooperate on this hugely important public health initiative that is far more important than anything global warming will bring. Where are the marches on NYC on this? And what stuff are you smoking if you think anything serious can be done about CO2. If, and when, CO2 stuff ends up happening, it is going to be despite us, not because of us. And I would want to begin making an argument that were in not, now, for two and a half decades of  climate change worries and policies attempting to do something about it, we’d be further along toward decarbonizing than we are today. But that’s for another day.

Heading out into the woods again, hope the bears don’t eat me. I mean that quite literally.

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