Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 3, 2018

A scientifically credible reason for the actions of St. Olaf College

Warning!  This post is intended for adults only.

While criticizing American institutions of higher educations (as represented several times on this website by St. Olaf College and Harvard University) for their inadequate leadership in our fight against global warming, I have wondered what their real reasons for their inactions are.  If the leadership of those institutions know that our continued use of fossil fuels will eventually lead to the demise of the human civilizations on this planet, that might suggest that these academic leaders are sociopaths who do not really care about the future of human beings.  Since I personally know faculty and administrators at St. Olaf College, however,  I am absolutely certain that they are not sociopaths – they care very much about all citizens of the world.  So that then leaves me with a dilemma – why do the actions of St. Olaf College and so many other colleges and universities on this issue – such as their continued financial support of fossil fuel industries – resemble those expected of sociopaths?

This leads me to next suggest that these institutions do not accept the science behind global warming.  However, I do not believe in that possibility either. Certainly, the highly respected scientific research power house that is Harvard University would not go against the clear scientific consensus of thought on this most important of environmental issues and, I am sure, neither would the science departments of St. Olaf College. 

So, let’s try again: why would these institutions of higher education be behaving like sociopaths?  There is at least one other explanation that might be both believable and credible – even though, if true, neither St. Olaf College or Harvard University would be inclined to admit it at the present time. This reason is best described by the leading proponent of it, a retired professor of climate science at Arizona University name Guy McPherson.  The essence of his view is that it is presently much too late to arrest our drift towards the onset of catastrophic positive feedback effects which will quickly lead to the near extinction of the human species.  And, he forcefully predicts that this will occur very soon –  within the present decade.  While McPherson’s projections might sound like science fiction to most, they are not.  They are based on readily available science along with the application of the uncertainties typically assigned to scientific assessments of the future.  In my view, the most important of these uncertainties concerns the rates at which the positive feedbacks McPherson refers to kick in.  They might or might not be much slower than he envisions.   

You can make your own assessment of Dr. McPherson’s credibility and thoughts by observing an interview of him at

Be sure to listen to both part i and part ii of this video.  If you have difficulty in finding part ii you can find it at:

Now, if you did, indeed, do as I requested above, your view of the climate change problem might be somewhat different from what it had been prior to listening to Guy McPherson’s explanation of it.  You might, for example, now be more seriously considering the possibility that it is indeed much too late to do much about the relentless advance of global warming.  And, If the folks at St. Olaf College and Harvard University tend to share the view of Dr. McPherson, that might at least partially explain their behavior. This would then make them not sociopaths, but prudent administrators of their institutions financial resources – which they might need in the all-too-soon coming decades – during which “enjoying the party while it lasts”, McPherson tells us, will be the only game left for human to play out during the remainder of this geological epoch.

So, to St. Olaf College (my alma mater) and Harvard University:  my apologies to both of you for my previous criticisms of what seemed to me to be sociopathic behavior if, in fact, your behavior was based on the scientific views of Guy McPherson. If your actions are thereby explained, please do continue to invest your financial resources in fossil fuels industries, if your wish, and please do continue and even expand your high-carbon footprint activities, such as your studies abroad programs.  And, I will now admit that is might turn out to be a good thing for St. Olaf students to witness first-hand the degradation of all parts of our planet along with other citizens of the world and especially those whose portions of our planet will be affected before ours.

In closing, I will add:  if I have identified here the reason behind the inactions of St. Olaf College and Harvard University concerning the fight against climate change, it also explains why neither of those institutions of higher learning would care to admit to their motivations.  Both of those institutions prefer to boast about how they are preparing their students for the future and they prefer to suggest that that future includes the long as well as short terms.  By an admission of belief in McPherson’s view, any claims they retained to for the long-term welfare of human beings would merely constitute deceptive pandering. Thus, we have not heard from either of these institutions of higher learning any credible/logical explanations for their behaviors, so far.  If a scientifically credible one still exists, other than that suggested here, perhaps the folks at my alma mater, St. Olaf College, could share it with us. I would be pleased to provide exposure to it on this web site.  Unless things have change recently in our democratic republic, the truth, even if unpleasant, is to be preferred over fantasy. 

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