5 Environmental Myths Too Many People Still Believe

#2. The Modern World Isn't Giving Us All Cancer

We're surrounded by incredible new products filled with chemicals with incredibly long-sounding names, and that surely can't be good for us, right? Also, we carry radiation-spewing devices that are pressed up against either our groins or our heads. Also, Cheetos are just way too orange.

Cheesy like the light of a thousand suns.

So with all of these probable poisons pressed up in our guts, it's no wonder cancer cases are climbing steadily:


Even when we turn that into a cancer rate to account for our growing population, the rates are still climbing:


But when we correct the statistics to account for the fact that we have a lot more older people around now, cancer rates are basically flat:


So what's the deal? Well, it's a couple things. First, the number one risk factor for cancer is age, which seems obvious. The older you get, the more carcinogens you're exposed to, and the greater your risk of cancer. So, because we're living longer on account of the fact that we know about penicillin and insulin now, we're going to see more cancer. Today's cancer victim was last century's heart disease victim. Additionally, cancer can be caused by no carcinogens at all, simply from cells messing up when they reproduce, or by the everyday background radiation that is a side effect of living in this bullshit universe. Some researchers claim that if we lived long enough, everyone would get cancer; it's an almost inevitable side effect of bodies that are made up of endlessly reproducing cells.

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This isn't giving you license to start cramming pollutants into your gullet; those definitely increase the risk of cancer, and although the overall rate is flattish, some specific cancer rates are going way, way up. But on the whole, this isn't some plague of the modern era, the world now paying for mankind's sins. So long as you minimize your exposure to cigarette smoke, or radiation, or barbecued meat, I wouldn't sweat it too much.

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Wait? What? Fuck you.

#1. Global Warming Does Not Cancel Winter

This particular misconception has been in the news lately and indeed makes an appearance every time it snows. It's usually expressed in the form of: "Global Warming Causes Everything to Get Warmer, It Is Now Pretty Cold, Therefore Global Warming Isn't Happening." It's pretty flawless reasoning, really, based on the facts you'd have if you've deliberately tried to ignore everything we know about the climate.

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Global warming is not going to mean a universal increase across the board, like someone leaned on the thermostat. Yes, on average, the temperature has been going up, and it will continue to go up, but even then not by an amount that sounds immediately alarming. Another one or two degrees warmer? Sounds kind of pleasant.

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Most experts on the subject have dropped the phrase "global warming" and now refer to this issue as "climate change," which is, I agree, slightly weaselly sounding, but it is a more accurate term, considering some of the counterintuitive effects global warming is expected to cause. For example, increased ocean temperatures will mean increased evaporation, which will result in more water in the atmosphere that has to come down somewhere, including sometimes, yes, as more snow. Additionally, the decreasing sea ice in the Arctic may be weakening the jet stream, a high altitude band of fast moving air, which, among other things, is responsible for keeping cold Arctic air in the Arctic, like that polar vortex that ruined everyone's day a few weeks back.

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This file photo, taken in Chicago on January 6, shows the challenging commuting conditions.

Probably the simplest way to summarize the climate-related effects of global warming is that weather will be different. And if that doesn't sound so bad, consider that we've spent the past few hundred years building cities in places that don't flood and farms in places with enough water and ice hotels in places with ice. There is an awful lot of money and human endeavor relying on the weather staying just the way it is.

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and friend of the planet. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to check out some of the cool hemp clothing he's made.

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