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Tales Of Our Times: Truth Hides Out In Several Venues

on November 24, 2017 - 9:13am
Tales of Our Times
By JOHN BARTLIT
New Mexico Citizens
for Clean Air & Water

Truth Hides Out In Several Venues

We humans have a distinct flair for seeing the glass as half full or half empty. Experience shows a large category of people sees the half full portion. Neither can we miss the multitude that routinely pictures the empty half. The trickier impulse is to see something as half full one time and half empty the next time, depending on the focus at the time. This turn of mind is so richly human it is easily overlooked in the crowd.
 
Of its own free will, this quirk plays large parts in every political camp and in all venues. More than a few examples are features of environmental issues.
 
A frequent case is the economic effects of a regulation. Business reports to regulatory boards typically show the glass is virtually empty. Reports in that venue portray an affected company that is nearly crashing on the financial rocks. A small added cost to meet regulations would bring the crash nearer. Economic peril is the watchword.
 
Yet the same data sound quite different in the annual report to stockholders. The glass there looks nearly full. Annual reports do not speak about nearly crashing on the rocks and a small added cost bringing ruin. Not at all. There, the reports speak of the company’s well being and economic vigor. To spur investors, reports describe corporate talents for solving problems and being stronger for it. Corporate hustle is the watchword.
 
People clamor that either the board version or the stockholder version is a lie, to use the human term. But remember the quirk. The disconnects result from describing just the empty half or just the full half. That last sentence may sound as dizzy to you as to me. But think how odd it is that people see a glass as half full or half empty in the first place, which we all do. People have trouble keeping in mind more than one part at a time. Some parts come out at hearings and others in annual reports. Read both. You will hear the same company making both sides of the economic argument, depending on a different focus each time.
 
Most hearings on emission rules heighten interest in economics. Close behind comes heightened interest in pollution control technologies. Again the truth is in data given in several venues.
 
At hearings, affected companies survey the empty half of available technology. What operating problems have been seen? What sometimes goes wrong? When set conditions drift off of optimum, how low is the dip in emission control efficiency? Trouble is the watchword.

All the while, remedies for these problems are the focus in places such as handbooks and industry’s technology journals. Building answers is the watchword. All the parts are real.
 
The style of recall that depends on the focus of the moment is not peculiar to industry at board hearings. Nor is it limited to people with “wrong politics.” Selective recall is the human condition. The trait stays in our blind spot at every turn.
 
We can see better in venues other than politics, so start with birds. The cheery singing of colorful songbirds is a frequent metaphor for life’s many blessings. We also know the kinds of birds that attack bird nests and steal what they need to eat. We recall either scene from time to time, but rarely both at once.
 
Politics now is battling to determine whether immigrants work hard and strive for success or immigrants rape and deal drugs. No one doubts that numbers of each kind exist. The issue will have no sound answer until people can discuss both aspects in the same room at the same time.

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