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June 5, 2006 » 10:53 am

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw “An Inconvenient Truth” last night. Go see it. It’s well done, and it’s not entirely upsetting. More importantly, bring someone who wasn’t already planning on seeing it.    (KL2)

My biggest takeaway from the movie: I had previously thought that there was scientific disagreement over whether or not global warming was real. Al Gore shows that this is not the case. They took a 10 percent sample of articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals (almost 1,000 articles), and every single one of them acknowledged global warming as real phenomenon. They then took a similar sampling of articles in the popular media, and over 50 percent of them suggested that there were some scientific detractors. Propaganda stinks, but it sure is effective. (For more on this, check out Michael Shermer‘s Skeptic column in the June 2006 issue of Scientific American, spotted by the movie’s blog.)    (KL3)

This further reinforces my view on the most important challenges we need to address en route to solving the world’s biggest problems: transparency and dialog.    (KL4)

I’m a big believer in markets, but markets rely on “perfect information” to work correctly. When we live in a world that is so easily swayed by propaganda that the popular press reports that global warming is scientifically controversial and the majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, then we don’t have perfect information. I have no gripe with people whose beliefs are different from mine. I have a problem who base their opinions on misinformation.    (KL5)

We need more transparency in society, and we need tools that give us that transparency. For example, when I purchase food from the supermarket, I’d like to know the comparative “carbon costs” of those different items. As my friend Stephanie Schaaf has often pointed out, when you buy locally grown produce, even if it’s nonorganic, you’re helping the environment, because less energy is consumed in transporting the food. Everyone needs to know these things, and then they can decide for themselves whether or not to do anything about it.    (KL6)

One of the ways to create a marketplace of better information is by increasing and diversifying dialog. Talk is not cheap. We need more conversations with the people who already surround us, and we need more conversations with those who are different from us.    (KL7)

Several of the friends I was with bemoaned the fact that those of us watching the movie were the wrong target audience. I disagree. I don’t think the environmental community has maximized its group potential, and movies like this can help catalyze further progress.    (KL8)

Joel Makower at Worldchanging recently wrote about how Houston ranked last in last year’s SustainLane rankings for sustainable cities. The problem? Makower writes:    (KL9)

Houston’s problem, it seems, had as much to do with its lack of self-knowledge and coordination of efforts as with its actual performance. And that put it in good company — not just with other cities, but with thousands of companies that have good, green stories to tell, if only they knew about them. Sometimes, it’s the simple matter of finding the stories — along with good storytellers — that can begin a positive spiral of inspiration and innovation — leading, of course, to even more good stories.    (KLA)

Put another way: If only Houston knew what Houston knew. Now, increasingly, it does.    (KLB)

More thoughts:    (KLC)

  • Gore tells a moving story about how his father was a tobacco farmer (in addition to being a senator). His father had seen the evidence that tobacco was linked to cancer, but continued to grow it. What finally made him stop? When Gore’s sister — a smoker — died of lung cancer.    (KLD)
  • I enjoyed the presentation and the side bits, but I would have liked to have seen much more of the latter.    (KLE)
  • The movie ends on a note of hope. Gore says that we have what we need to solve the problem. He also says that we’ve solved complex world-wide problems before, and cites the hole in the ozone layer as one of them. I’d like to see other examples of this. I’m also a bit concerned about managing expectations. Wicked Problems are wicked because solutions generate more problems. The environmental problems we face today aren’t just caused by global warming, but also by environmental instability. Reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is another form of instability, and there will be consequences.    (KLF)
  • I was disappointed that things like buying local foods and Carbon Credits weren’t mentioned. For more on Carbon Credits, see Jamais Cascio‘s entry at Worldchanging and also Brad Templeton‘s thoughts (via Ping).    (KLG)
  • After the movie, I went to the web site’s Carbon Calculator to figure out my role in this crisis. It was disheartening, to say the least. My problem? I drive 20,000 miles a year. I’ve improved a bit since moving to San Francisco, as I take public transporatation more often, and I carpool when I can. I also drive a Honda Civic with great mileage. Nevertheless, I’ve got to figure out more ways to drive less.    (KLH)

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