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)

Precinct Walking in Mountain View

November is just around the corner, and like many folks who care about the upcoming election, I spent this gorgeous day campaigning… for my friend, Stephanie Schaaf. Steph is running for city council in Mountain View. She’s very active politically, especially about environmental issues, and will make a great city council person. She’s also running a very tight ship with her campaign, and has a large, well-organized team of active volunteers.    (22Z)

This was my first experience precinct walking, and it brought back mixed memories of selling candy and gift wrap door-to-door for elementary school fundraisers. Each of us had a list of registered voters broken down by street. The goal was to visit as many of these voters as humanly possible, and to tell them about Steph and give them literature. It was hard and slow work. I’m in decent shape, and my recent travels left me conditioned to the heat (about 90 degrees today, with low humidity), but even so, I only managed to tackle 95 houses in about three hours. There are about 35,000 registered voters in Mountain View. The lesson? You can’t visit them all.    (230)

I enjoyed the experience more than I expected. It was great exploring the neighborhoods and interacting with the residents, even if most of those conversations were thirty seconds at most. The few blocks that I walked were diverse ethnically and economically, which was nice to see. My day broke down as follows:    (231)

  • Visited 95 homes.    (232)
  • 39 people were home.    (233)
  • 6 people refused to talk to me.    (234)
  • 2 people asked questions.    (235)

These numbers made me wonder how much of an impact I made. Both Steph and her boyfriend, Rafael Reyes, who’s also quite active politically, insisted that precinct walking is extremely important in local elections, and that the face-to-face interaction — brief as it is — leaves strong impressions on voters. The nice thing about elections is that the precinct breakdowns will quantitatively show the impact that we had.    (236)

Cool Friends, Cool Work

I have several friends who do very cool things, but have a fairly small presence on the Internet. So, I’m going to do my part to make their presence a bit larger by promoting some of their recent activities here.    (1A9)

I’ve mentioned John Ly’s Canine Cliques before, the premier source of luxury items for your dog. John recently added a new feature that allows you to create personal Web pages for your very special pooch.    (1AA)

Greg Corbett — my roommate for all four years of college and living proof that honest lawyers do exist — recently coauthored an article for Legal Times entitled, “Patent and Antitrust, Happy Together?”.    (1AB)

Finally, Stephanie Schaaf is running for Mountain View City Council. Mountain View residents, check out her platform and vote for her in November!    (1AC)