Knowledge Is Scary

Published Categorised as Personal, Health, Brain Power
Photo from brain the play

A great teacher takes the arduous learning process, the scary knowledge they’re sharing with you, and makes it rewarding. Even actionable.

What makes a teacher great?

Way back when, students could run all sorts of experiments in their high school labs and witness firsthand explosive chemical reactions. My father told me about one of his lab experiments that, well, turned the lab from useful to demolished. He was unscathed except for a good story.

But by the time I entered high school, those experiments had been relegated to film. For our safety. No getting a piece of potassium and watch it skate around our lab workspace. Nope. Now our teacher Ms Semenovs turned off the lights, pulled out a projector, and had us watch grainy sort-of-colour film of potassium doing its thrilling, eye-popping, oohing and ahhing thing with water and chlorine.

Try not to laugh!
A rather boring but well-explained illustration of what’s going on with potassium and water.

She made all the chemical reactions real to us. There were so many to learn, some we experimented with in class, but all we had to memorize. Daunting! But she gave us an aid to help us remember: how to use them in life. I’ll never forgot how to polish silver without losing silver because of her teaching. She turned scary knowledge into usable knowledge.

Today, with climate change, we need teachers like her. Because of the pandemic — an outflow of arrogant human stupidity, gain of function studies (wheee, let’s see how lethal and disabling we can make a virus!), and climate change — I got an Aranet4 meter. It’s a way to estimate how well ventilated a space is by showing how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is in your air. Basically, how well our individual breath when alone, or collective breath when with others, is being exchanged for fresh air. More exchange, fewer virus particles floating around trying to infect us.

But the more I learn what CO2 levels reveal, the more scary the knowledge it imparts. But unlike my chemistry class, I have no teacher to help me turn that knowledge into actionable usefulness. Instead, I read and reread a University of Toronto engineer’s useful threads on various aspects of ventilation and filtration. I ask another engineer about specific issues in my home. I quiz my retrofitters. I check websites.

It’s fucking exhausting, and I long for a Ms Semenovs who can put it all together and show me what to do.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

The latest scary knowledge the Aranet4 is imparting to me is how much carbon dioxide is in the outside air when wildfire smoke isn’t infiltrating Toronto in any measurable way but pollution is from some unknown source — unknown because no one is reporting on it and Air Quality readings and websites don’t explain where from, only what.

Usually, when the Aranet4 shows increasing CO2 levels, I open a window and down it goes into the green zone. But the last day or so, it goes up! Ack! Or it seems to go down then it reverses course!!

A graph showing drops in carbon dioxide when window is opened.
Graph showing carbon dioxide dropping to 1130ppm when window opened then climbing again to 1148 before closing it.

No website that I can find shows local CO2 levels. Some show a general Air Quality Index level with definitions; some show the Canadian Air Quality number with definitions; some show dominant pollutant for the city or a list of pollutants and their current numbers. So I tried to find out what the CO2 is a proxy for. Maybe NO2 is what I could best suss out. A great teacher would impart this info and explain what to do.

This University of Toronto engineer explained about ventilating when the air outside is complete crap. Basically, close the windows and run your filters. Even though CO2 is building up to fatigue-inducing levels, inhaling PM2.5 is worse for your health.

I prefer to check IQAir’s Air Quality Index site and the site Apple uses for its weather app to drill down to my local area.

But what happens when it’s not wildfire smoke spewing PM2.5 into the air but some other source spewing other equally noxious pollutants?

Not knowing what’s polluting my air while now seeing a measuring device telling me something is, is scary because I don’t have the full picture and so I’m not sure what to do.

But isn’t that how you keep a populace complacent? You don’t provide figures, like currently Ontario has over 100,000 people infected with COVID, 10% of whom will become disabled from it. You keep adding 10 disabled (higher percentage disabled when reinfected) for every new 100 infections and the disability rate will eventually climb to 50% of all Canadians are disabled and unable to work.

When you don’t know that — just like we didn’t know what we’re breathing until we all began getting monitors and discovered Air Quality Indexes — it’s easy to find labour shortages perplexing and not demand government provide subsidies and grants to clean our indoor air from viruses and pollutants like they clean our water. Every indoor air from skyscrapers to bungalows to churches and warehouses. Just like government pays to clean water for you to drink wherever you are (yeah, I know, it still doesn’t in too many First Nations, and those with wells rely on ground water not being polluted).

Twitter attracted so many great teachers on so many subjects. That’s why what Elon Musk with his hidden investors who own the holding company that owns Twitter is doing to this virtual public square is evil. He’s destroying not only community but also a reliable source of knowledge, explained well, with actionable info. Plus we can no longer get real time emergency info.

A great teacher arms their students with this kind of climate change- and pandemic-related knowledge, going further by explaining the cause and the meaning, then providing useful and actionable information. Because when you know what to do with this new knowledge, it can’t scare you any more into denial and complacency. It empowers you and drives you to a better collective life.

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