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Monday, 5 March 2012

Save the Libraries and the Books!

I just stepped away from the fossils for a moment, because I came across this draft.

I am an old educator (well that will come as a complete surprise to nobody).  I also write books, and I haunt libraries.  Add to that my long history with computers, which began in 1963 when punched paper tape was a modern form of input.  The tape had five channels, punched in Baudot code (Baudot also gave his name to the kilobaud).

I am also a former bureaucrat and as a management consultant, spent some time doing fraud investigation, so I have a short patience span when it comes to would-be pole climbers who seek to wreck the status quo, so that they can later point proudly to the carnage and say "I created that."

All of these elements have come together in a thoughtful piece that I delivered recently on ABC Radio National, called A Question of Collaboration.  (That link will take you to a transcript and, for an unspecified time, the podcast.)

Basically, I have had it up to the gills with idiots who say "we don't need books/libraries any more because we can get everything from the internet.  These people are illiterate morons who don't understand the internet, don't know what books are, but through a quirk of fate (or dirty tricks) have managed to gain a small amount of power.

I think they were the people Isaac Asimov had in mind when he wrote:
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'
It's odd, but most of the people who speak kindly of "the wisdom of the elders" are themselves a bit wrinkled and grey, but really, we older folk have had more time to see acts of villainy, to recognise them when we see them, and we are in the position of having no axe to grind when we blow the whistle on the villains.

Well, we have one small axe.  I am passionate about the need to act now on climate change, not because I expect to be here to be harmed by it, but I have grandchildren, and that means that my genes will be here to be harmed by it.  I am sufficiently trained in science to understand the principles, but as a science writer of many years' standing, I have a deep understanding of how science works and how scientists work.

In short, I can see that climate change is real, that the models linking the changes to rising carbon dioxide levels are valid and convincing, but more importantly, I know that the mad conspiracy theories about scientists "just doing it to get research funds" are just that: mad.  I also now have a fair inkling of how these "movements" are in fact a form of Astroturfing, where pretend citizens' groups are set up to wind up the crazies and set them loose.
This was the aftermath of a dust storm that travelled all the way from Lake Eyre to Sydney. The dust was the result of an
El NiƱo event, probably exacerbated by climate change. Nobody knows for sure, and you can't say climate change caused
any individual extreme event, but we can say for absolute certain that we are getting more extreme events than ever before.
And that makes me mad, because the crazies are putting my grandchildren's future at risk, simply because they think they shouldn't have to tread a little more lightly on the planet.

So how does that relate to books and libraries?  Well, the more we wipe out the bastions of learning, the libraries and the books, the easier we make it for the thugs to take over, chanting as they pour in, 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'

If you are a grandparent. you owe it to your posterity to take a stand for the future. Take a stand for books, take a stand for knowledge and understanding, take a stand for substance over style.

Take a stand for compassion and wisdom over the hunt for a quick buck.

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