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Monday Topsight, June 26, 2006

futuramalgore.jpgLight blogging week (of course, the week when I get a hat tip from BoingBoing). I'm spending the next few days at the Institute for the Future's Health Horizons conference (PDF), including serving as the keynote speaker tomorrow. I'll be talking about the role of current and emerging mobile interactive technologies as a catalyst for change in the healthcare system (i.e., the medical aspects of the participatory panopticon).

I'll also be one of the leaders of a major project at IFTF starting next month; I'll provide more details when I can.

Al Gore, Futurama, and Me: My shameful secret. When I met Al Gore last February at the TED speakers' dinner, after exchanging a few pleasantries, and before mentioning anything about WorldChanging, I told him that I was honored to meet the "first emperor of the Moon" -- Gore's title when he appeared as a guest character on the cartoon Futurama. I was pretty happy when he responded with his line from that episode, "I have ridden the mighty Moon Worm!" (and somewhat less happy when he turned to Stewart Brand and explained that his daughter was a writer on the show, and that it had "something of a cult following").

But Gore's back in cartoon form in this promo for An Inconvenient Truth ("the movie that will make you feel like you should probably do something!") shown at Grist, wherein he mentions his "hybrid pimp-mobile" and delivers a sound thrashing to the robot Bender. Sigh. What could have been...

Speaking of An Inconvenient Truth...: I finally got a chance to see it this weekend. Little of the material was new to me, unsurprisingly, not just because I had covered so much of it on WorldChanging, but because Gore delivered his slide show (Keynote, not Powerpoint, btw) at TED. Stirring, effective, and all that, but I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed at how little discussion there was of the bigger kinds of changes that are necessary to fight climate disaster. He did mention Robert Socolow's Stabilization Wedges, but there was more emphasis on buying hybrids and compact fluorescent bulbs; what we really need to do is reimagine our urban systems and transform how we deliver energy, and so forth. For the scale of the disaster underway, it was a bit... frustrating... that the solutions mentioned weren't very Big Picture.

Janice's response to my criticism was that Gore was trying to talk about what we as individuals could do, while those Big Picture ideas are out of the hands of most of us, and she undoubtedly has a point. Still, I wish there was more recognition that avoiding climate disaster will mean changing how we live, not just what we buy.

The Scale of the Problem: You've probably heard that the US National Academy of Sciences has come out with a report on the evidence for human causation of global warming, with a particular focus on the so-called "hockey stick" model showing a sharp jump in CO2 and temperatures. Unsurprisingly, people with their fingers in their ears going LALALALA have tried to cherry-pick lines from the report to continue their denial (and no, I don't link to crap like that, it's easy to find), but I was suprised at how few of the reports of any stripe actually link to the report itself.

- Here's the NAS Press Release, with the short summary of findings.
- Here's the Report in Brief (PDF), giving more aspects of the article. This is probably the one to read for the best balance of details and brevity.
- Finally, here's where you can download the full article for free or buy a print copy; you'll need a free sign-up to the NAS website to download the PDF.

More Self-Promotion: I'll be a keynote speaker at the upcoming International Association for Public Participation conference to be held in Montreal, Canada, in November. Anybody have any hot tips about things to see and do in the late Fall in Montreal?


I had the same reaction to "An Inconvenient Truth." I wish Gore was training 1000 people to do simple solar demos at the more than 3700 farmers markets that take place every week around the USA as well as the 1000 people he will train to do his Keynote presentation.

I took my Solar Survival Show to YearlyKos to see if others would pick up on the idea and am in the process of putting all my information online so that others can replicate it. Had a chance today to hand my paper on the concept to John Kerry and did the same with Harry Reid, Arianna Huffington, Mark Warner, and Bill Richardson at YearlyKos. Hell, I even emailed the Mustache of Understanding, Tom Friedman.

Maybe some one of them will listen but I won't hold my breath.

Jamais, Gore addresses that very subject in our interview, in what has now become a rather infamous exchange:


There's a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What's the right mix?

I think the answer to that depends on where your audience's head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there's going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions.

You beat me to it, David. Before discussing solutions, you have to get people to recognize there's a problem.

It's probably more effective to get the discussion started by talking about small things like CFLs than by scaring them off with suggestions of a massive redesign of our society.

First they have to let what they've learned about the problem sink in and once they are educated enough, they'll realize that a big problem needs big solutions. Hopefully..


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