Being a sleuth for the truth will protect you against fake news
These are challenging and confusing times, indeed. Younger people are trying, with difficulty, to make sense of it all. It is the same for those of us who have been around for longer.
This article is directed at younger people who may be confused about what to do. It has starting ideas and examples to start, but there is more to do. Finding the truth is a lifetime’s adventure.
Indeed, there are mountains of fake news and uncertainties. There is even uncertainty about the uncertainty — and fake news about fake news. What can a younger person do to understand what is going on in the world?
To start, be a questioning consumer of what you read, hear, and see. Always check the validity of things by looking at multiple sources. There are often multiple perspectives. Develop research skills. Be a constant and consistent seeker and researcher for the truth.
If you learn how to research well you can help yourself, your family, your friends, and your countries. This world needs good researchers and thinkers. The truth is the truth. And the world is full of false information and uncertainty.
Go to the original sources when that is possible. Go to reliable and well-respected sources with a long record of getting things right. For example, if you want to find out what is happening with petrol prices and oil go to places like the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the International Energy Agency in Paris, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Saudi Arabia, the Energy Information Agency as part of the Department of Energy in the US. Look at sources that are known for accuracy and checking their findings — and amending their results when new data come in. An organization that publicly corrects its errors is a good sign that they take the truth seriously.
These sources have data on countries around the world. They are solid and trustworthy sources that check and double-check their data regularly. But you may find that they sometimes have quite different results compared to each other. And then is when you can become a sleuth for the truth.
Who knows, if you get good at this you might use those truth sleuthing skills to find a job in an energy company, a ministry, The World Bank, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Aramco, and other good places. Good places need good researchers. Also, you might develop ideas for starting your own company. Entrepreneurs need to be good at finding the truth also. The best entrepreneurs I know are always looking for innovative ideas and data to support them.
If you are looking for data on economic development the UN’s Development Program is a solid source. The World Bank is another solid source. One could look to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, for data on food insecurity, hunger, agricultural development, and food prices. Given that food prices are increasing very quickly worldwide, and if this issue interests you, I suggest you regularly check the FAO for such prices to get a feel for what is happening in the world.
Another way is to visit markets near to where you live and see what is really happening. What you might notice is that there are different prices according to the neighborhoods where the food is being sold. A clever way to understand economics and your world is to get out and check the numbers yourself. Use common sense. It is important and it can be developed.
Water data can also be found in UN sources and in regional and national sources. Water is going to be an increasingly critical issue for the world. One could turn to Reliefweb, The World Bank, and Our World in Data, which is an excellent source for information on a wide variety of important things, national data sets, and the like. Water is a very contentious issue and the more you know about it the better your understanding of your world will be. Who knows you might help solve your countries’ water problems?
Energy is used to clean and transport water. Water is used to make energy. Water and energy are needed for food. Energy is needed to make food. There are linkages in this complex nexus. And this is a simplified version of the way it really works. A good start on this is to look at the articles on the energy-water-food nexus in FAO and other UN documents.
One useful place is the water footprint gallery at waterfootprint.org. Look at how water is really used to make the things you eat, drink, and use. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a reliable source on climate issues as is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in the US. Berkeley Earth is another source. This also has good data on air pollution all over the world.
When it comes to what is happening in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, it is best to go to the most reliable and truthful sources available. Use your good minds to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Things are moving very quickly. We all need to be researchers in our lives. Why? Being prepared is a big part of living right. And you will be less likely to be fooled by fake news.
Check the sources. Learn about them. Ask your teachers, professors, parents, mentors, and others about them. Help your friends and family understand them. Challenge the sources. Help others navigate this messy world of truthful data, uncertain data, and fake news
One of the greatest sources of anxiety and fear is not knowing. One thing I have learned over my years on this planet — you do not know until you know. In other words — ask questions. Be a seeker. Be a questioner. Be a thinker and a researcher. Be cautiously optimistic. Being pessimistic gets one nowhere.
The world needs good people to figure out this uncertainty, uncertainty about uncertainty, and how to cut to the truth through fake news. Use your minds, research, double-check, ask around, and be sleuths for the truths in your world.
• Dr. Paul Sullivan is a senior research associate at KFCRIS and non-resident fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council.