It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Almost Cut My Hair

I have been pretty demoralized about blogging for about a week. I like the attention but I am trying to figure out what the point of it all is. It strikes me that most people are either indifferent or stubborn, and that a simplistic but wrong position is far more effective for motivating people than a complex and pragmatic approach. 

I still think that one needs to act toward the best possible outcome even if one is pessimistic about achieving it. And of course I find people who find what I write interesting, interesting. I'm wondering if all this conversation is just self-indulgence, though. 

I note the superficial approach being taken by the "We Can Solve It" people in particular. I suppose that's carefully thought out? 

I would rather they spent some of their resources on educating people. Unfortunately, if you use facts rather than polemics, soon enough the complexities of the problem come up, and you start fracturing on difficult technical issues. Unfortunately, getting support that is earnest but ill-informed is not actually going to get us through the hard choices that face us. Eventually there will have to be some triage, some conventionally green items sacrificed for some others.

The "what-me-worry" opposition hasn't got these problems. What a mess. If you don't need to make concessions to reality you don't have to find yourself arguing propositions that are intuitively unappealing to the demographic that is inclined to support you. It's just another way the deck is stacked against a good prognosis for civilization in this century.


I guess I'm sticking around for now but please be on notice that I am a bit demoralized and burnt out by the results of my blogging of late.  Having achieved a little bit of prominence (my audience did grow substantially over the past few weeks) I have succeeded in attracting the attention of more of the stubborn and confused people we are up against, which is not the kind of thing I find fun.

As a result of this effort I have a clearer idea of what I believe about this stuff at the cost of a firmer expectation that the world will not come around close enough to agreeing with me and the like-minded folk who read this blog. I wish I had some better idea of what to do about it besides ranting.

19 comments:

Dano said...

I guess I'm sticking around for now but please be on notice that I am a bit demoralized and burnt out by the results of my blogging of late. Having achieved a little bit of prominence (my audience did grow substantially over the past few weeks) I have succeeded in attracting the attention of more of the stubborn and confused people we are up against, which is not the kind of thing I find fun.

Yup.

Sheesh, the GF doesn't want to hear this stuff, she just wants to keep on doing what she's doing. Only a small segment of the population makes changes anyway, so you have to look at that group (not the preahing-to-the-choir types at, say, Daily Score, tho...) that is looking to make real, substantive changes.

They are out there, and they'll find you. You don't really want a wide audience:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

Hard to take, I know. Hang in there. Change doesn't come overnight.

Best,

D

thingsbreak said...

Michael- hang in there. I think that there is a realization dawning that straightforward and even aggressive addressing of (climate and other) science ignorance/skepticism/denial isn't sufficient (e.g. the RealClimate bet among others).

Your Correlations post on "breezy cool" vs. substantive cool gave me some thoughts that fit in with the larger conversation of "Framing" and the relative value of science blogging that I hope to finish writing on soon.

I appreciate your thoughtful commentary and would be disappointed to see you quit.

Anna said...

Must read - Ken Ward's Early warning signs at the Global Warming Cafe.

Maybe a blog isn't the best place for your energies and insights - but we do need you to keep applying them, where they'll make the most impact.

Anna said...

> succeeded in attracting the attention of more of the stubborn and confused people

There's no rule that you have to allow kindergarteners into the seminar. Your moderator's certificate can be found here.

zencarver said...

I wish I had some better idea of what to do about it besides ranting.

Rather selfishly, I wish you did, too. I could certainly use some ideas...

Anonymous said...

Been reading you blog for over a year now. It is one of the first two or three I check. Please don't give up.
Nosmo

David B. Benson said...

Last paragraph of what 'thingsbreak' said.

Michael Tobis said...

Hey, Nosmo, did you get your magic hat back? It might be under a theater seat in St. Louis.

gravityloss said...

Carbon capture and storage is something that's quite hard to find in-depth technical information on, on the net. At least has been for me. Even the basics like proposed pressures and temperatures for the CO2. So it's hard to make any kind of informed judgement, I just have to remain uninformed and quite sceptical.
Maybe you can link somewhere with a *technical* introduction to it.


But your blog as a whole has been very good. Your straight and bold thinking has taught me personally a lot.

In this world some scientific disciplines are hard. Take biology for example. Natural habitats are destroyed left and right. Quite many biologists make their theses about the whats and whys of a disappearing of species in a particular area or a certain environment's relation to global warming. I don't know if I had the strength to carry on coolly documenting the death and destruction, especially if laymen openly disapproved and disbelieved my work, calling me a greentard.


But this blog has been one way to make yourself heard with the right people. I know I have referred to you many times, and not only on climatology. Often those who agree can be silent to you. But still carry on your message on the other side of the world, in private discussions in unexpected places.

Your message on the carbon capture and storage has certainly been an important one.

Pantheist Mom said...

You're one of my favorite blogs,fFor what it's worth. I check in regularly a few times a week and usually learn a thing or two, and always come away with something to think about. (I'm an atmospheric chemist at a gov't agency out here on the east coast. Grew up in Texas, though...Graduated from A&M with a degree in meteorology before defecting off to the east for grad school).

I've been feeling similar to you lately, on a different scale since I have much less blog-time and internet-presence invested. (I don't devote my blog to science - it's a personal diary to stay in touch with friends).

I do float through the blogosphere and try to spark intelligent discussions on some of these anti-AGW blogs, though. What a depressing, time-consuming way to spend my precious time. I laughed until I cried when I saw the cartoon though. Can't wait to show my husband.

I'm quiet, but listening. Hope your burn-out doesn't last too long.

Dennis said...

http://survivalacres.com/wordpress/?p=1331 may apply.

Hank Roberts said...

The better the bridge you build, the more traffic you get, the bigger and more experienced the trolls that will aspire to live under it.

Rants feed them.

Hayden's got it right.

tidal said...

yeah, what those other people said!

Michael, I hope to write something further tomorrow, but for now - thanks for everything to date... and we need people like you... a lot...

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks, all. Your kindness and encouragement is much appreciated.

RM Reiss said...

"If you don't need to make concessions to reality you don't have to find yourself arguing propositions that are intuitively unappealing to the demographic that is inclined to support you. It's just another way the deck is stacked against a good prognosis for civilization in this century."

-- Michael, that is a great, concise analysis. However problems get solved, clarity of thought comes first.

Just to say thanks for your writing. I've sent people here more than once for an explanation or a point of view.

best regards,
RM Reiss

Simon Donner said...

mt - I know how you feel. The more exposure you get, the more time you spend battling brush fires rather than talking about the real problems. Perhaps it is a lot like modern politics?

Monado said...

Hey, you have me reading you now, so it's not useless.

One way in which people become ineffective at fighting global warming is doing things that look good but are poorly analyzed. I've been told that using a ceramic mug uses lots more energy than using paper of even Styrofoam because it gets washed. Basically, the only way to keep dishes energy-friendly is always to wash them in cold water, which doesn't clean them well. And I calculated when I was doing a bit of pottery that firing one coffee mug uses 75 cents worth of electricity to run the kiln. And that was about 30 years ago when energy was lots cheaper. Ceramics are fired at least twice. But everyone uses their coffee mug because they're "saving the environment." We need facts! Data, analyses, conclusion, priorities. Help!

Michael Tobis said...

Welcome Monado.

Including myself that makes at least five Canadians on this thread. Odd.

Jules said...

i only read this message now, but am reliefed to sea you didn't stop blogging.

it doesn't always show off, but the message is heared by a greater audience than you might think