Science and values can’t be separated

Gavin Schmidt argues that once scientists enter a charged public debate, they will inevitably be perceived as advocating for one side or the other – whether or not that is their intention. And it fact…

it is almost always the case that a scientist speaking in public is in fact advocating for something—deeper public understanding of the science, more research funding, a more informed public discourse, awareness, and, yes, sometimes for specific policy action. Each of these examples is a reflection of both a scientific background and a set of values that, for instance, might prize an informed populace or continued research employment.

He recommends scientists recognise, and are explicit about their own values:

Responsible advocates are up-front about what is being advocated for and how the intersection of values and science led to that position. On the other hand, it is irresponsible to proclaim that there are no values involved, or to misrepresent what values are involved. Responsible advocacy must acknowledge that the same scientific conclusions may not lead everyone to the same policies (because values may differ). Assuming that one’s own personal values are universal, or that disagreement on policy can be solved by recourse to facts alone, is a common mistake.

Much of relevance here to anyone engaging in public debates of this kind, professional scientist or not.

via What should climate scientists advocate for?.

Save the hero, save the world?

Stories are powerful ways to communicate, indeed in my work I often encourage people to consider using ‘narrative’ to engage others more effectively.

But stories can be damaging and disempowering, especially ‘hero’ stories when essential elements of the original message are lost and forgotten:

The Jungian analysts, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, have summarised this problem within contemporary Western culture as our desperate reliance on heroes to solve our current crises.

These stories of heroism have been misinterpreted to not only create an interpassivity among some, as they wait for salvation, but also lead others into a language of war, in which humanity attacks, conquers and dominates the hostile natural world. Self-proclaimed heroes look to expand their dominion over the planet and exploit resources in the name of saving humanity.

more here: Save the hero, save the world | Positive News.

Even climate change experts and activists are in denial about climate change

Another month, another important U.N. climate change conference. However, even if a deal can be reached – despite the urgent need for it – there is no guarantee that global greenhouse gas emissions will actually be reduced significantly and that dangerous climate change can be averted. Psychoanalytic theory provides disturbing insight into why this may be so – and it is all to do with the split psychological makeup of those who work at the forefront of climate science, policy and activism.

Interesting article by Aanka Batta and Steffen Böhm in Washington Post.

Do you need a new bike? 7bn reasons why technology wont fix the environment

image source

Bikes are perhaps one of the most powerful icons of the green movement — low tech, low carbon, sociable and more. Along with wind turbines bikes frequently appear on book covers and illustrations of a future, better, more sustainable world.

the inevitable bike is top right (the book)

So, more bikes must be good? Continue reading “Do you need a new bike? 7bn reasons why technology wont fix the environment”

Never mind the bollards, cyclists need love

9313969-PastedGraphic-2Heard Troels Anderson, Chair of the Danish Cycling Embassy speaking at the Climate Change Fund Gathering on Saturday.

What’s happening in Odense, the cycling demonstration city, is enough to make UK cyclists weep with envy:

  • Along some routes little green bollards light up in sequence, creating a green wave. Cycle along next to the green wave and you’ll find you’ll go straight through every traffic light.
  • A Smart Car equipped with lasers drives along cycle lanes to ensure they are smooth enough, and repairs to cycle lanes are prioritised over roads – because cars can cope with bumps better than bikes.
  • When it snows, cycle lanes are prioritised and kept clear 24 hours a day – because people on night shift need to cycle home safely too.
  • 24 hr cycle parking areas with security, music, drinking fountains and electric pumps. There are also electric pumps along some bike routes.
  • On some commuter cycling routes, bikes always have right of way.
  • And many more exciting developments.

But what really struck me was the underlying principle – putting cyclists first and making them feel wanted and welcome.

How different from my experience of cycling in Edinburgh. I know there are some good people in the council working on cycling, and I do appreciate the facilities that do exist.

But I always feel that cyclists are not really welcomed in Edinburgh:

  • Those great forward stop lines are often ignored by drivers, and many of them are badly in need of repainting.
  • On-road cycle paths stop just when you need them most.
    • When roads are closed the diversions make sense for cars, but often better diversions are available, but unsigned, for cyclists.
    • There’s a real shortage of bike parking, and railings are too often covered in signs forbidding it!
    • I could keep going but it’s too depressing…

I know some of the Danish-style bike facilities, like bike lanes separated from cars and pedestrians by curbs, wont fit in many of Edinburgh’s narrow streets, but this is not (just) about technology and hard landscaping – fundamentally it’s about whether Edinburgh will love cyclists, or just tolerate them.

And by the way, the rates of return on investment in cycling that Troels quoted from Odense are incredible.