The most surprising thing I learned, or perhaps the most thought-provoking idea I was introduced to, came from the LabXchange PredictionX discussion with Gina McCarthy. Having worked in both environmental science and public health, she remarked that people don't necessarily question claims made about something like toxicity, but they tend to question claims made about climate change. (Similarly, she later noted that people tend to trust doctors more than scientists). This was surprising because it makes sense, but it was a very clear and revealing comparison that I hadn't considered before. Accepting predictions about our immediate health seems easier: there is expert consensus about the prediction that ingesting some toxic substance will lead to negative effects in an individual's health. There is also expert consensus about climate change, which has been predicted to lead to negative effects to entire populations, their health, and their general livelihood. Though likely inevitable, as poisoning is, the harms of climate change are projected to come some time in the future, and thus this prediction about harm is stretched past a point that people will care about it. As McCarthy was discussing this, I found significant her quote that "people don't accept problems there are no solutions to." This is reflected in the toxic substance/climate change comparison, but I am struck by the paradoxical nature of this truth. Not accepting a problem because of its perceived lack of a solution makes it no less a problem, and in fact likely lessens the likelihood that there will be any solution.
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