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In 2011, London’s National Theatre mounted a play, The Heretic, by Richard Bean, that had the hot topic of climate change as its driving theme. His protagonist is a respected academic in the earth sciences department of a Yorkshire university, Dr. Diane Cassell. Her specialty is the measurement of sea levels in the Maldives.
Can you already see where this is going? Bet you can, and you’re right. Her scientific objectivity compels her to report the truth (and it is the truth): that in violation of all alarmist predictions that the Maldives would be completely underwater, sea levels in the Maldives have not in fact risen by more than the annual norm of a few millimetres in 20 years. In fact, new seaside resorts are being built in the Maldives as I write.
All hell breaks loose. Dr. Cassell receives death threats from eco-activists, and she is suspended by her faculty boss. Such are the perils of the heterodox thinker in a world gripped by climate-change apocalypticism.
Canada’s own version of Dr. Haskell is real-life zoologist Susan Crockford, a specialist in polar bears and dog domestication, as well as a widely-respected expert in animal bone identification who has helped catalogue museum collections and assisted police in their forensic investigations. Crockford’s academic work is of a high enough standard that she has been published in the prestigious journal Science.
She was for 15 years an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Victoria (an unpaid position that allowed her to further her research), until—without explanation—her May renewal application was rejected by UVic’s Anthropology Department. The lack of a university affiliation will put paid to her ability to apply for research grants, so basically this could mean the end of her scholarly career.
Crockford announced the non-renewal along with background information attesting to what had up to then been a stellar career in research, on her Polar Bear Science blog, accusing officials at the university of bowing to “outside pressure” in their decision. According to journalist Donna Laframboise, who wrote an article on the story for the National Post, her diligent pursuit of explanations was stonewalled by UVic. A UVic spokesman declined to say, for example, how many people were on the rejection committee or how many of them were zoologists who could make an informed decision on her competency.
The UVic expulsion follows on the heels of Crockford’s previous expulsion from the UVic Speakers Bureau, which sends out volunteer speakers drawn from faculty, graduate students and retirees. They speak on diverse topics, including climate change. For almost a decade, the Bureau had arranged for her to give unpaid talks to elementary and high school students, as well as adult community groups. One of her talks was titled Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change.
But in 2017, she was told that from then on, a policy change required that the Anthropology Department chair needed to confirm that Crockford was “able to represent the university” when discussing her topics, a requirement that up to then had never before been brought up as a speaker’s obligation. (Hang on to that phrase, I’ll be returning to it in my wrap-up.)
There seems to be little doubt that Crockford’s apparent crime is climate heresy of the kind that scuppered the fictitious Dr. Haskell’s career. She shattered a myth that is deeply beloved by the Gaia religion’s climate-alarmist clerisy, in reporting the truthful information that polar bear populations are not plummeting as a result of shrinking Arctic ice. In fact, polar bear numbers are stable and even rising. As Greta Thunberg might say to Dr. Crockford, How Dare You? How dare Crockford tell this inconvenient truth, and render useless what has been the darling poster child for Doomsday-inclined warmists.
Really, dying polar bears have had a formidable grip on the public’s imagination. They are awesome creatures, in actuality capable of great ferocity, so not the cuddly creatures suggested by Coke ads, but since they are powerful symbols of extreme-cold endurance, and unique in their coloration and habitat, they are justifiably beloved national symbols. It would truly be a great tragedy if they were at risk of extinction. So one can see why they are catnip to climate-change warriors, and why the sky is the limit to the eco-warrior imagination in exploiting them for their political agenda.
Speaking of the sky being the limit, in 2009, a pollution activism group called Plane Stupid launched a graphic cinema campaign to illuminate the impact of carbon emissions, in which dozens of extremely realistic-looking CGI polar bears fall from the sky to their death, spurting “blood” as they careen off buildings and smash into car roofs with a great wincemaking thump, as an airplane whines ominously overhead. Plane Stupid said the ad was inspired by the fact the 400kg of carbon produced by the average European flight is the same weight as the average polar bear. England’s advertising regulator was not amused.
In 2011, polar bears were referenced in the above-mentioned play, The Heretic. Dr. Cassell says at one point: “This generation are disaster junkies. … Every day they wake craving a narrative fix. When they see a photograph of a polar bear, hitching a lift on a passing ice floe, they cannot see an animal at ease in its natural habitat. What they see is the last five minutes of Titanic!”
Well put. When Crockford was delivering her truthful polar bear shpiels to elementary school students, she says she was repeatedly “astonished to learn that every single teacher believed that only a few hundred to a few thousand polar bears were left.” Such widespread indoctrination-fuelled ignorance gave Crockford additional motivation as a scientist to speak up and inform both students and teachers that the global population of polar bears is estimated as 22,000 to 31,000 and may even be quite a bit higher.
Polar bears are adaptive and well able to withstand changes in their Arctic environment, she tells her audiences. The ability to “adapt” to changing climatic conditions is of course very triggering to the alarmist clerisy, who know that any comforting truth offered to hoi polloi that takes the edge off climate-change panic makes their task of terror-mongering that much harder.
It’s one thing to cut loose an academic who doesn’t toe the party line on climate change predictions—let’s say someone on the faculty who is convinced we’re going to enter a cooling cycle very soon, and we should be preparing for adaptation to a colder world. It would still be wrong to censure that researcher if he or she was working from a reasonable hypothesis that could neither be proved nor disproved, it would be somewhat understandable that the university wanted to present a united face to the world on what it considers the received wisdom, even though projections of drastic warming due to anthropogenic forcing is also a hypothesis, not a fact. But never mind. Let’s stipulate that the latter hypothesis is what “represents the university.”
But Dr. Crockford is not disputing the hypothesis of global warming nor the role of humans in causing it. All she is saying is that even if the Arctic is getting warmer, the prediction that warming would have a disastrous effect on polar bears was not borne out. The polar bears are there and doing fine. We are way beyond hypothesis territory here and into bloody factual reality. The polar bears are there. You can go up north and see them if you want. Nevertheless, UVic is by all appearances saying to an honest authority on her subject, your bloody facts don’t interest us, because they don’t “represent the university.”
If a UVic can claim that demonstrable reality uncovered by bona fide methodology does not “represent” it, then UVic has effectively declared itself a religious institution, no different in principle than the Jehovah’s Witnesses that “shun” members of their faith who challenge a core doctrine. They are prepared—no, they apparently actually want—to have little kids sobbing into their pillows at night over the allegedly disappearing polar bears, and they want elementary school teachers to keep on drilling that myth into their vulnerable little heads, for ideological reasons alone. The conclusion they are chivvying us toward is that the prohibition of proven truth and the promotion of faith-driven lies is in fact what “represents the university.”
The shunning of Susan Crockford has all the earmarks of an intellectual scandal and an institutional disgrace. Unless they have some hitherto suppressed information proving that Crockford is morally unfit to continue as a member of the UVic community, UVic should reinstate her forthwith as adjunct professor, and as a member in good standing of its Speakers Bureau, along with an apology for their error of judgment.
Then they should publicly state that they understand the polar bears are doing well—and that’s okay. Then they should go about their business and let all their academics go about theirs—free from surveillance by the Thought Police—to uncover the facts as they find them and to share them with the world, a process that is—when not impeded by popular delusions and the madness of crowds—the scientific norm.