The question to an 8th grade science class was, “What are the possible causes of global warming?” After numerous standard answers I decided to press some less forthcoming students with the question. I asked Demarkus what he thought was causing global warming, not in the least expecting his stunning answer. After some thought he said, “the potatoes.” I was running through my mind all the potential scientific scenarios of how potatoes could cause global warming; fertilizer, albedo, cultivation, water, pesticides, energy expenditures and etc in an attempt to in some way support his response. But I was wrong to look too deeply as I discovered that Demarkus had a more direct answer. I hesitantly and out of sheer curiosity asked, “Why the Potatoes?” His answer was as thoughtful as it was completely wrong. At least I think he was wrong, I don’t really have any proof that he was wrong, I suppose he could have been right, but here is his answer. “Well I think that potatoes may be the cause of global warming because they are down there under the ground after all and no one can tell what they are doing down there.” I was stunned and couldn’t speak. Never had the null-hypothesis been used by a middle school student with such total lack of depth. Well it did have some depth as potatoes are found under ground but I’ll admit that I still wonder after all the fear mongering, scientific gerrymandering and general monkey business on both sides of the issue if perhaps maybe Demarkus might have been closer to the”root” causes of global warming than what I sometimes read in the papers or see on TV.
For years after that when something unexpected occurred at that middle school the science teachers would look at each other nod knowingly and say “it’s the potatoes.”
©2011 Richard Safris