Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Time to Eat the Experts

This appears to be the silly season for English environmentalists. One would think that the naivete and ineptitude of University of East Anglia climate scholars would have been enough to suggest the wisdom of sitting down and shutting up for a time, but no.

The English-born, New Zealand resident architects-cum-writers-cum-lifelong environmentalists-cum-self-promoters, Brenda and Robert Vale, appear to think that the aftermath of this disaster is a great time to revive the promotion of their latest work, Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.

This book has been out for a couple of months, but the initial press release got deservedly little play. Our authors have tried again, with identical information. This time, riding the Copenhagen coattails, they have gotten all the attention they could want.

Their assertions even have a gloss of respect, conveniently included in the press release: verification from a body that already agrees with them. (This is one of the hoarier tricks in academia. Verifications of hypotheses by your buddy list aren't worth the pixels they're printed on.)

The Vales' data may be correct and they have all the attention they could want, but does any of this give us any useful information about sustainable living? Of course not. True, the Vales have been promoted (by an obliging right-wing media) from professorial research fellows in architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, to “doctors” or “scientists.” The most rational criticism on that side of the aisle came (back in October) from the Web site of Investor's Business Daily, which concluded:

When everything from your bacon double cheeseburger to the family dog is said to cause climate change, it's easy to see why folks are skeptical as they tune up their snowblowers

If the Vales meant to persuade, rather than shock, they've failed. Over many years of trying to talk sense (professionally) into environmentalists and scientists, I've seen this sort of failure far more often than success. While they know how to get the cheap bit of attention, these people do not know how to convince the public. They neither know nor care how to influence public opinion favourably. Judging from the Web outcry, the Vales' snarkiness has done just the opposite. Instead, by drastically overstating their case in the most shocking manner possible, they have contributed to hardening attitudes. How much does it add to the carbon footprint when your obnoxiousness creates or confirms a few thousand more climate change deniers? It would have been far more productive to lead with their rational suggestions.

Time to Eat the Dog is the Vale's eighth book. The average hard-cover book, in an average first printing of 5000 copies, has a carbon footprint of around 12 metric tons (an SUV's annual footprint is around 9). Adding another 6-8 tonnes for each paperback edition and multiplying by 8, that's a carbon footprint of, say 133 metric tons for the Vales' oeuvre.

How many dogs is that?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home