At Kloor’s, Dan Hughes provides the following interesting challenge for Planet3.0:
I have a couple of questions.
(1) Will representatives from the less-developed world, those who are looking froward to an un-compromised fulfillment of their future needs, be among the invitees?
(2) Can these people be correctly and truly represented by people who have personally, on their individual basis, decided to experience a state of development that could not under any circumstances be sustainable on a world-wide basis.
I suspect that every aspect of the ‘carbon footprint’ of every invitee far exceeds that which could be sustained on a world-wide basis. Starting with the salary, which is solely carbon-based, for the work they do and the choice of food, housing, transportation, and consumption of products and services that are not essential for life. What percentage of the world-wide population, for example, could the Earth’s systems support if every one made even one trip to an International Conference.
Invitees under (1) above could provide insight into the vast chasm between The Talk and The Walk.
In summary, has the level of resource consumption that is world-wide sustainable been quantified and do those who advocate sustainability meet this requirement?
From another direction, my posting at my old blog:
Trying to be both editor and reporter at a site with at least the intent of reaching a broader audience than this one has already been revealing. The nature of a site is, to some extent, as much about what it excludes as about what it includes. The blogger just writes whatever he pleases. The editor has to consider what will build the community and what will splinter it.
What’s more, for the first time ever, I have information on “background”; that is, a source really wanted to tell me something, on condition that I not explicitly tell the audience. It’s hard to explain why they would do that. I find it sort of weird, really. And now there is the question of whether to betray the source and my reputation, or to tell only half the story, or to let the story drop. This changes journalism from an exercise in nonfiction writing to an exercise in politics.
The editor’s temptation not to rile people is pretty palpable. I find myself suddenly inclined to “safe” stories. The key to making Planet3.0 work is to improve the quality of disagreement. So being a chickenshit won’t work.
On the other hand, I see plenty to criticize on both “sides”. This is also a problem! Criticizing mainstream science makes you a tool of the denial industry, and ultimately an instrument of the decline of civilization and the biosphere. Avoiding that is the whole point. Refusing to criticize it makes you a voice in a tame chorus, incapable of saying anything that isn’t explicitly in the interest
The point of view of the scientist is to advance the truth. It’s really hard under the circumstances when politics and science get tangled up. My guiding light will continue to be to get the maximum amount of truth visible to my intended audience. I think it may be the case that doing this will lose me more friends among my allies than it gains me respect among my enemies. This is a sign, I think, of how low we have sunk. I will have to brace myself for it.
Much as I do not want to give attention to the ridiculous obsessions of the bunkosphere, I also don’t think that making Planet3.0 into another also-ran pop science site is enough.
There are basically a bunch of approaches around today:
- tell everything that makes the future look scary, and nothing else
- tell everything that makes the people looking scared ridiculous, and nothing else
- tell all the above without choosing any of them
- science and engineering fandom, repeating press releases
- get into the thick of the policy, trivializing or ignoring science and engineering
If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to close the loop. The venue we need is not afraid to draw the big picture.
yields this from Rich Puchalsky:
You know my long-term answer to this long-term question of yours: if you’re not doing science or popularizing science (“also-ran pop science blog”, etc.), then it makes no sense to pretend that you aren’t taking a political position.
I haven’t really looked at Planet 3.0 at all because I’ve been busy with Occupy Wall Street. You have to figure out how that kind of thing impinges on what you do. If the answer is “not at all”, then yeah, I don’t understand what people would find valuable about the site.
And on the same thread, Steve Bloom asks point-blank:
Michael, I’d been meaning to ask you to do a little compare/contrast with the evolution and current roles of Climate Progress and InsideClimate (the former SolveClimate — see here. Possibly there are some others in the same general category, although I can’t think of any off-hand. But given those two examples, how will Planet 3.0 be different?
Good questions all.
First: having identified a sustainable mean footprint, is an individual ethically required to respect it?
Second: every publication or non-publication is effectively a political choice. If a publication’s objective is to attract the best ideas from all sides, how does it thread the needle between giving offense to all on the one hand, and being dull as pablum on the other? Is this a lost art or has it always been nearly impossible?
Third: Planet3.0 is not the only recent effort to apply the internet to the sustainability problem. What are some of the others (this ties in to our attempt to crowdsource a portal), and what value can Planet3.0 add in a space where we share goals but frankly have to compete with other established sites for attention?
I’ll tell you what I think but I’d like to know what you all think first…
1) Hughes is partly right. If after being convinced that our behavior is unsustainable, we consume like everybody else, our credibility is indeed weakened. Yet ostentatious self-denial is another way one can be criticized. John McCarthy always used to refer to greenies as “self-righteous”, and I’d be hard put to say he didn’t have a point. But that’s a lot less compelling of an ethical argument than that you ought to behave the way you expect others to behave.
I’ve heard academics go on about their Prius and their new home insulation; when asked how many times a year they travel by airplane to conferences, they generally say “that’s different”, or “academic use is small”, or “aviation has a small impact according to total emissions”, somehow forgetting the idea of a footprint altogether.
Here’s one real problem with self-denial. It puts responsible people at yet another disadvantage to irresponsible people. If it takes me a week to travel where they can go in a day, they can talk to more people. If they have a bigger, plusher vehicle when they get there, they will be more refreshed when we get to the meeting. We waste time hanging clothes on a clothesline; they get the dry cleaner to attend to them. So to the extent that we are in a competitive situation with people who don’t want to adopt our ideas, who have money to burn and no intellectual reputation to defend, it’s foolish to give them more advantages still.
But it also stymies recruitment. If a person believes that the instant he is convinced that there is a sustainability problem he is obligated to live the rest of his life in the back of a beat up incense-laden VW van listening to boring music and pretending to enjoy tofu casseroles, he is less likely to be convinced. That is, there is an implicit disincentive to the belief being set up.
It makes no sense, on the other hand, to suggest an “After you my dear Alphonse” sort of a dance either. We are stuck in this world, and we need to start gardually steering it toward sanity. Sudden jumps that exclude us from participation won’t work. If we are to become the change we want to see, we have to do the change to sustainability in a way thrills us. And in fact, some people manage this.
2) This site has a simple, two-point ideology.
First, there is an ethical requirement to preserve the world. Each generation must pass the world to its successors in better shape than they found it. Call it the principle of sustenance.
(There have been generations that have been more or less successful. To my dismayed surprise, we boomers have been a particularly awful generation on this axis, among the worst of all time. But we’re not done for yet. Maybe we can turn this around in our later years.)
Second, in at least the respect of carbon dioxide accumulation, the evidence is compelling that this currently violates the principle of sustenance, and increasingly so with every passing year. Accordingly, we have to find some way to stop behaving in this way.
We are not especially interested in repeating the baseline proofs of this endlessly here. Readers are referred to IPCC WG I documents, the Copenhagen Diagnosis document, and numerous other summaries for nonspecialists.
What to do about this quandary requires an immense effort at an immense policy consensus. Rather than throwing our hands up in despair, we choose to pitch in to try to build one.
But that is the full extent of the politics we profess so far. I personally am always most enthusiastic about the least radical solutions. Others disagree. But I think the longer we procrastinate, the more radical the solution must be. I am convinced that “business as usual” is an immensely unlikely scenario. We really want people to advocate dramatically different approaches to this situation, and toward that, we seek to provide the news stream that is missing in the media, and the intelligent conversation that seems to be verging on extinction in generalist settings.
3) There are a huge number of alternative sites popping up and vanishing all the time. In the end, everyone trying to get us off the damned dime is an ally, and in the end there is only one internet. To be sure, I think a lot of them are dull and predictable, and I find this infuriating, because the subject matter is endlessly and amazingly fascinating, which takes some of the edge off the astonishingly grim and stupid prognosis we live with nowadays.
Most of the pther sites are funded and this one isn’t. Maybe in the end that will prove an advantage.
(We’ll be set up to take small donations eventually, if/when traffic warrants.)
As for the specific one that Steve points to, while it claims interest in the big picture, its focus is on the political machinations in a particular country in a particular season. To them, that may be slow news. But I know some geologists who consider “a glacial pace” to be a poetic simile for “very very fast”.