People used to believe the earth was flat. If you walked to the edge you would fall off. Sounds silly today but in the 15th century to challenge this belief was dangerous. Galileo, who has been called the father of modern physics and the scientific method, used the telescope to observe celestial bodies. He championed the work of Copernicus, another early scientist, who believed the earth rotated around the sun and not visa versa where the earth was the center of all activity. Galileo was investigated by the Roman Inquisition which found his ideas heretical since they challenged the teachings of the Church. He was later condemned to permanent house arrest.

***

An almost universal distrust of science continued through the 17th century when the Little Ice Age upended all norms. The Little Ice Age represented a major shift in climate change. It was not only terribly cold. Rivers froze. Crops were ruined. People starved. And the kings and lords lost their source of income. The only explanation was that God was punishing mankind.

But despite the horrors of this period and loss of life, it led to the breaking up of the old feudal order, to new and expanded trade, to new ways of thinking and scientific thought, and to the beginning of an intellectual and industrial revolution; a move from the fortress to the market, from communities centered on castles and churches to more diverse ones in which exchange and trade, cities and literacy were crucial.

Philipp Blom describes these events in “Nature’s Mutiny, How the Little Ice Age of the long 17th century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present.” He explores clues as to what might become of us.

How might we deal with the new climate threat ? Blom says “it is likely that current economic and political principles of highly developed societies — growth and exploitation — will result in their decline or even collapse unless humans take control of the situation they have — once unwittingly, now all too obviously — brought upon themselves.”

***

Today, centuries later, there are still too many people who don’t trust science, and promote conspiracy theories. With the pandemic and another major shift in climate change, this is more than silly. It is dangerous. It was once hoped that if enough people were vaccinated there would be herd immunity and we could indeed return to a normal life. But scientists now doubt this is going to happen because of people who refuse to be vaccinated.

Or people who refuse to wear masks even when science says it will halt the spread to those who have yet to be vaccinated and will prevent new variants from gaining strength. Here’s a quote from Tucker Carlson on Fox. ‘Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from our response to seeing someone beat a kid at Walmart … . Call the police immediately. Contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you are looking at is abuse. Child abuse.”

***

We live in a free country but there are rules we are all expected to obey or there is a penalty. If people refuse to get vaccinated unless there is a valid medical reason, or to wear a mask if required, they need to pay a price. No admittance to sporting events, movies, concerts. No flying on commercial airlines and no use of public transportation. No admittance to bars and restaurants. No entrance to the workplace, including schools, nursing homes, hospitals. There is no longer an excuse for opting out. Vaccines are available to all even without an appointment.

***

Here is another idea that doesn’t make sense — merging Caltrain with BART. It’s not possible physically since BART uses a unique track system not compatible with others. BART can’t run on Caltrain tracks and Caltrain can’t run on BART’s. BART just runs a local service with multiple stops. Caltrain is a commuter rail system with express service. Now you could merge Caltrain into a BART system politically. That would be bad news for Peninsula commuters. Caltrain is well managed and has won many awards for excellence. BART has experienced all sorts of problems — safety and cleanliness and freeloaders. Caltrain is a small system compared to BART and riders concerns might get muffled if BART takes over. Improved coordination yes. Merger NO.

***

Is Liz Cheney one of our modern day Galileos? She is about to face another kind of banishment — ouster from her leadership position in the Republican Party in the House of Representatives and maybe loss of her congressional seat — for telling the truth and denouncing lies about a stolen election and the assault on the Capitol Jan.6.

Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at sue@smdailyjournal.com.

Recommended for you

(20) comments

Ray Fowler

Hello, Sue

If Democrats followed science, schools would be open. If Democrats followed science, fully vaccinated persons could be in the same room without masks. Yet, the leading Democrat makes comments and takes questions from reporters... everyone vaccinated... while insisting everyone wear a mask. What happened to the science?

Even if science was showing no damage to the planet, we should respect our home. Be good stewards. But if we agree that we should reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, why do Democrats ignore the science behind using nuclear power as an energy source?

Rel

Ray, only in your Orwellian world are the Democrats not following science. Was it a Democrat who called the pandemic a "hoax"? Have the Democrats made mask wearing a political issue rather than a health issue? Are the preponderance of Democrats not following science by refusing to be vaccinated?

It is precisely the Democrats who are following the science by delaying opening of schools. Last one checked, there is no cure for Covid19, hence the abundance of caution to make sure our children do not catch it, or carry it. Wearing a mask, though fully vaccinated, is also a cautionary procedure. The wearer is following the science by preventing the carrying of the virus to someone else - an act of caring and love in most circles.

The Democrats, as well as Republicans, are not building nuclear plants for two great reasons: startup costs, and no practical means of disposing of nuclear waste.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Rel,

It's okay for you to hate Trump, but it pains me to see you repeatedly make a piñata of yourself. You love repeating things you get from the media without checking it's veracity. About your hoax claim, pick your source.

https://www.bing.com/search?q=what+did+trump+mean+covid-19+is+a+hoax&form=ANNTH1&refig=fbbf82bc1c014fcaa8abbb2f38f8ac35

You make assertions about vaccines, prevention and nuclear waste as if you know what you are talking about, when you have so much as backed up your claim of being an economist. There are sufficient numbers of doctors, scientists and pundits that disagree with your view of things.

You epitomize being Orwellian.

Rel

Wilfred, it would be helpful if you carefully read my response. I asked if any Democrats called the pandemic a "hoax". You gave me sources about Trump saying the Democrats are calling his treatment of the pandemic the "new hoax". The real point is Trump never gave the pandemic the focus it deserved by downplaying the wearing of masks or social distancing which likely caused the loss of thousands of lives. He, in effect, ridiculed science.

Not sure what my being an economist had to do with my reply to Ray, but I am sure there are a few scientists, doctors, and pundits that would be contrary to my stated opinions, but the majority of said experts would be on my side.

Finally, you make my assertions as a mirror of the media, as a way of a putdown, while using media references as a refutation. You can't have it both ways.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Rel,

It is evident to me that you are either punch-drunk or have your own understanding of English grammar. My dear man, to me, you make no sense at all. I'll let you unwind as it serves no purpose for us to compete in a race to nowhere. As I once said to you, I do not suffer fools. So puzzle me this, if you are smart enough to truly believe what write, then I am not smart enough to show you otherwise. I anticipate your understanding. [wink]

Ray Fowler

Rel

I will just say at the outset... it is becoming somewhat wearisome to do your homework for you, and respond to items in your comments only to have you scurry away.

Orwellian is a term that best describes the progressive left's drive to destroy all sense of self and individuality. In the name of making sure all individuals are treated the exactly same, in their false and deceitful quest that pretends to exalt individualism, no one is allowed to step outside what the progressives define as acceptable. And progressives are already steadily headed in that direction by fusing the media with government, and injecting progressive indoctrination into our education system. Of course, there will always be someone at the top of the progressive pyramid to remind everyone else that the masses have to stay in line, but what they are really saying is "two legs good, four legs bad."

Pleeeeeze... stop going backwards. I am not Donald Trump's apologist... I'm not even a Republican. Take your worn out complaints about what happened in the last presidential term to someone else. And yes, Democrats are making mask wearing a political issue. Partly because their messaging on this topic is just as confusing as what has come out of the CDC and from alleged subject matter experts. Masks are not necessary... oops, now masks are critical... oh, no... wear two masks... it's OK to not wear them outside... oops, again, no masks inside if everyone is vaccinated UNLESS you're the president. He's wearing masks outside while obviously distanced from others AND he wears a mask indoors when only vaccinated persons are allowed into the same room. So, which is it? And if someone... regardless of political affiliation... is seen outside without a mask and no one in the immediate vicinity... they are scrutinized and vilified. That's the work of woke Democrats... BTW I carry a mask in my pocket whenever I leave the house in the event I may have to use it.

Vaccinations... hmmm... it wasn't that long ago that the Veep said she would not be vaccinated with a dose of anything the former president endorsed as safe. What kind of message is that? With large numbers of persons being vaccinated, some might be rolling the dice and not getting vaccinated as we move toward herd immunity. That makes sense to them as they don't want to roll the dice on suffering some debilitating (or worse) side effects. You're not suggesting that vaccinations be made mandatory under penalty of prosecution, are you? If so, that would be consistent with your Orwellian proclivities. BTW I am vaccinated, as I am in an older age demographic, and I had surgery to remove cancerous tumors only three months ago. I'm guessing some of those Dems who are now demanding that everyone get a vaccination were "line cutters" I saw earlier in the year. Maybe not.

No. You are 100% wrong. The science was saying open the schools... but teachers unions said "no" and Joe blinked. The science clearly supported opening schools, and proof the science was sound is the experience noted in other countries AND what happened in private schools in the US. Then the teachers unions suggested guidelines for opening schools when they were good and ready to go back to work. Those demands started appearing in CDC guidelines. They're teachers not doctors. Can anyone on the left or right deny the science that supports how damaging distance learning has been in the development of our children?

I just had to laugh then I got sad when I read your comment suggesting how caring and loving Democrats are because they wear masks. Did you see the news, today? Five young girls, ages 11-months through 7 years, abandoned on the US side of the border "in the middle of nowhere?" And why were they sleeping huddled together in a framer's field? Could it be the border crisis created by Democrats? The answer is simply, "yes." It's amazing that Democrats claim to be the party of compassion when they are actually the party of dependency... and now we're right back to the Democrats' Orwellian vision of America...

You also made a comment on nuclear power but no mention of the science behind using it as an energy source. Again, I'll do your homework for you... Now, launching nuclear waste in outer space is not a real solution, but reprocessing and transmutation may help develop proper disposal protocols. World-nuclear.org advises that there are already means available to dispose of 90% of nuclear waste. Start-up costs? Well, the US Navy is currently operating about 100 nuclear reactors... safely. Can that technology or maybe even some of those reactors be used to provide clean energy for civilian use? That way, you wouldn't have to build large solar power arrays covering who knows how many square miles or thousands of windmills. The bigger problem re: nuclear waste will be the radioactivity unleashed by Iran... with the help of Democrats.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Mr. Fowler,

Another jonrón. Thank you for the edification. Perhaps, with your loving patience, Rel will become the man he fantasizes being. Intelligent.

Rel

Ray, your original post to the letter writer is the position the Dems are ignoring science. In the Orwellian world "black is white and white is black" which is what the right has practiced and you are practicing now despite your 10,000 word essay to the contrary. If any party is anti-science today, it is mainly the Republicans (or what remains of the party), with their anti-mask, anti-vaccinations, anti-social distancing rants.

Finally, you ask me to stop going backwards as if to ignore the recent past. The old saying "he who ignores the past is doomed to repeat it" applies. Learn from it no matter how wearisome it is to you.

Ray Fowler

Rel

Congrats! A response... but not a rebuttal. While not exactly scurrying... your penchant for non sequitur is clearly on display.

Sorry, comrade...

*Democrats are moving ever closer to an authoritarian regime, and it appears party line propaganda is working on you.

* Dems are the party of science? Skrrrip! According to Dems, how many masks should we be wearing and where?

* Dems were critical of the vaccine until Jan. 20, 2021. No science involved there... just politics.

* Are Dems saying vaccinations should be mandatory?

* The easy one... does the science show that keeping schools closed damages our children? Hint: yes.

* What should we do about the border crisis created by a Dem administration?

* What science are you referencing that says nuclear power cannot be used as a safe and clean energy source?

You have missed the point entirely re: going backwards. Yes, we can learn from the past... and we should. But going backwards and complaining ad nauseam over things you cannot change is not a good use of your time. Otherwise, we would never get past... If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care program, you can keep your health care program. We will reduce every family's heath care cost by $2500 per year." How many "I Love Lucy" reruns do you want to watch?

But a key reason for not going backwards is that it diverts attention from important things happening today... things like five little girls dumped all alone in a farmers field outside Quemado, Texas.

Terence Y

Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever get the feeling Rel is one of those folks who visit the zoo and pokes at or rattles the cages of an animal? Only to be surprised when an animal responds, usually negatively? Or one of those folks who visit Yellowstone, sees a bison, and creeps closer and closer to get a better picture? Only to be surprised when the bison charges? As I anticipated, another SmackDown was delivered. Sorry, Rel, when you poke the bear named Ray (or Wilfred or Dirk) don’t be surprised when you get mauled. BTW, Rel, since you’re losing the battle you may want to call in a few tag team partners for help. I’d recommend you cut your losses, scurry away, and join your partners to regroup.

Rel

No, Terrence, it is, as usual, just you. it is always an indication my position is strong when the opposing view only uses character assassination as a reply.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Terence,

I appreciate being favorably described with Dirk and Ray, but you are more deserving of that than I. Let's hope that Rel digs a little deeper so that we all benefit. I honestly believe if he chooses to be more open minded, his discourse would become worthwhile.

Terence Y

Rel, the cogent arguments here are attacking your assertions not your character. I’m sure any of these commenters would happily share a drink with you. The bigger question is if you would return the favor. Maybe you'll impart, or hear a few more, an economist walks into a bar jokes. BTW, I hear SM is supposed to go into the yellow tier. Oops, can’t use yellow as that would be racist, golden tier. Meaning being able to meet more bar buddies in a bar rather than at home.

Ray Fowler

Rel

You wrote... "Wearing a mask, though fully vaccinated, is also a cautionary procedure. The wearer is following the science by preventing the carrying of the virus to someone else - an act of caring and love in most circles."

OK... where is the science supporting Democrats wearing masks outdoors?

Reported in the NY Times this week... "There is not a single documented Covid infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table."

Dirk van Ulden

Sue - you forgot to ask Blom who or what caused the Little Ice Age? That went away like most natural cycles. And why does he need to throw in that our current cycle is caused by mankind? Your references are a bit spotty. And comparing Liz Cheney with Galileo, LOL She is representing the party that we don't want anymore. She is also the daughter of a most despicable former VP who teamed up with Bush to get us ensnared in Iraq. She is an avid Trump hater and just cannot stand seeing her swampy empire vanish. Good riddance.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Mayor Lempert,

Whether science or religion is accepted and followed is immaterial to the argument you make. If not for "doubters and science deniers", progress would not change with our understanding of either. We should not forget what science said about homosexuality or female hysteria. In the end, what does matter is that we are free to decide what we trust and empowered to act upon those beliefs as guaranteed by our Constitution. After all, we are a nation of laws, not constrained by people who "follow the science", without the benefit of training in the science they follow.

https://www.hrc.org/news/flashbackfriday-today-in-1973-the-apa-removed-homosexuality-from-list-of-me

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_hysteria

BenToy

Liz Cheney represents what the old GOP used to be...someone who you may disagree with, but willing to discuss issues without name calling, or fall into denigration or outright lying.

As for science and the deniers...IMHO, it is more than ignorance, but an outright refusal to accept what their own lives depend on.

Arguments end with them saying am not 'fighting fair'...as if they don't understand a discussion.

Pointing out that their smartphone, wristwatch, TV, automobile, stove, washer, refrigerator, etc...and their security system are all based on science & technology. Most do not know the difference between science and technology either.

Terence Y

Oh dear, another river of SUEWAJE (SUE Writing Another Junk Editorial). So now Sue is advocating for a new form of racism – the anti-vaxxed vs. the vaxxed race? I’d like to say I’m surprised but since she represents the party of the KKK and Jim Crow laws this feels a part of their party’s natural progression. I guess engendering an even greater division than we have today is tops on the list. And I guess the lives of people who are unable to take the vaccine are expendable. Or maybe we should ship them off to a place like Molokai. Meanwhile, thanks, Sue, for possibly convincing folks to not bother taking a vaccine. Although when you have your COVID-vaxxed parties, don’t be surprised if one or two of these folks crash the door and decide to mingle. BTW, maybe you can use your influence and create a COVID Unification Legislation Tribunal (CULT).

markolbert

Great op-ed, Sue! And one highlighting an important issue which many people overlook: being part of a community means you both get to participate in how that community's rules are defined and are obligated to follow them. Or at least accept the consequences for not following them.

Personally, I very much value all the individual freedom I have in the United States. But I'm not crazy enough to think my freedom is either absolute -- allowing me to do whatever I darn well please -- or doesn't come at the price of being willing to accept my community setting boundaries on what choices I may wish to make.

It's a price I'm willing to pay because the benefits of being part of the United States are immense. I don't need to grow my own food, I don't need to walk around being ready to shoot anyone who might have a mind to threaten me (although I do have to remember their are nutjobs out there who think the right to express their individual freedom involves the right to slaughter people at random) and I get to earn money safely so I can enjoy the stuff produced by the other members of my community. Like cars, cell phones, airplanes, motorcycles, etc., etc., etc.

For those who think the price is too high, you have the option to change the rules by convincing enough other people they should be changed. Failing that, you can I suppose go live on a desert island someplace.

Keep the op-eds coming!

Terence Y

Mr. Olbert, your reasoning sounds vaguely familiar, similar to reasons which initiated the rise of the Nazi Party and the KKK, Jim Crow laws, the slave trade, etc. I thought we, as a society, were trying to remove racism and divisiveness. It appears the more progressives try to progress, the more they tend to regress to the darker days of our history. Maybe these so-called progressives should first try their utopian ideal on a desert island to see how effective or how long their society would last.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for visiting the Daily Journal.

Please purchase an Enhanced Subscription to continue reading. To continue, please log in, or sign up for a new account.

We offer one free story view per month. If you register for an account, you will get two additional story views. After those three total views, we ask that you support us with a subscription.

A subscription to our digital content is so much more than just access to our valuable content. It means you’re helping to support a local community institution that has, from its very start, supported the betterment of our society. Thank you very much!