The word is that Donald Trump isn’t much of a reader.
Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam affirms this – that then-candidate Trump “struggled to read” when preparing for a dismal guest-hosting of SNL last year.
That’s OK, Mr. President. Research finds a broad swath of our population, up to half of us, is what University of Indiana researcher Larry Mikulecky first termed “aliterate” – able to read, but having no interest in it.
So, let’s assume not that our president can’t read, just that for him it is unnecessary.
Reportedly he isn’t interested in long reports. He demands Twitter-sized explanations with lots of pictures and charts.
Granted, not every picture will prove illustrative to the reluctant reader in the Oval Office.
No doubt he saw pictures of the rivers of humanity on Earth Day — hundreds of thousands — protesting his anti-science, anti-environmental policies. (Sample sign: “I can’t believe I’m marching for facts.”)
Professional marchers, you know. Sad.
Women’s March. Tax Day “Show Us Your Returns” March. March for Science. Next up: People’s Climate March. Millions of people, all told. All pros, apparently.
Fortunately, we have other visual cues that might seem more compelling. If we could get them before Trump’s nose, he might be a changed man.
Consider some before-after photos distributed by Associated Press showing now-decimated glaciers – among them the Trift in the Swiss Alps and the Mendenhall in Alaska. Ice built up over generations has vanished in the veritable blink of an eye: 10 years.
The same applies to glaciers around the world.
Depletion of the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas may be the planet’s most grave matter. It is a key source of water for the Ganges River, which sustains more people than any river anywhere — roughly a billion in India and Bangladesh.
I realize Trump believes this global warming stuff is a hoax, but something is melting those ice fields. Maybe the big-government climate cabal is sending professional defrosting teams up in the hills with hair dryers.
So what if global warming is happening? If it is, says Trump’s anti-science brain-trust, just wear polyester instead of wool, and turn up the A/C. Also, wear scuba suits on the nation’s coasts.
OK, so how about some other pictures? Let’s try charts.
The publication Anthropocene Review charts side-by-side the respective acceleration of various earthly quantities – most prominently carbon dioxide levels – along with such things as ocean acidification, population, fertilizer consumption and water use. Every one shows a gradual incline until late in the 20th Century. Then, in great rapidity, the up slope is beyond dramatic.
And guess what? That stunning slope just about tracks the trajectory of Earth’s surface temperatures in the same time period.
You may wonder what “anthropocene” means. It means that mankind is making a mess of things. For the last 12,000 years or so, we’ve lived in what scientists call a climatological sweet spot, the Holocene epoch, which followed the Pleistocene, when the planet’s last ice age occurred.
Many who study natural history assert that with increased pollution and development, we have moved out of the Holocene into something they call the Anthropocene – “anthropo” for “man” — an epoch in which human activities warp, degrade and dictate earthly conditions.
Yes: conditions no longer dictated by nature but by human nature.
Speaking of glaciers and those photographs that we want President Trump to see:
We can talk numbers, said American James Balog, who photographed the devastation, but nothing “touches the heart more profoundly (than) when you see it in pictures.”
All of which, of course, requires that one have a heart to be touched.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.