This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist and policy wonk, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process
The Department of Energy has released a new series of public service announcements designed to motivate the public to save energy. They’re calling it a consumer education campaign and running with the slogan:
“Save Money By Saving Energy”
The campaign currently features two videos that “educate” the public on the obvious point that saving energy puts money in your pocket. While I applaud the effort, I wonder if they’ve chosen the best approach. It is logical to assume that saving money, especially during these difficult economic times, might be a motivator for behavioral change. However, I’m not sure that an appeal to logic is the most effective strategy.
A common theme here at The Intersection is the greater effect that emotional appeals will have on voters and consumers. Granted the campaign was created pro bono by Texas-based advertising agency GSD&M, but that seems all the more reason they could have chosen a different, more scientifically-informed tact.
The videos are informative as you can see here:
But, will it effect behavioral changes? Read More
On first reading, this argument–from the right wing American Thinker–is actually kind of clever:
In fact, if the left truly cares about preserving the environment, reducing carbon emissions, saving the planet, and all that glop, then it should wholeheartedly embrace conservative social values. Consider stable and traditional marriage. According to the Census Bureau, 96.6 million Americans over age 18 are unmarried and 31.7 million Americans (27% of the all households) live alone. This trend towards Americans living alone or out of wedlock is rapidly accelerating — and it is destroying the environment.
A stable married couple lives in a single home, has only one set of utilities, illuminates the home with a single lighting system, and economizes on overhead in many other ways. Adult Americans who live alone or in unstable relationships dramatically increase the need for dwelling space, electrical power, heating and cooling systems, streets and city maintenance systems, and also cars on those city streets.
Moreover, in traditional marriages which reach a level of economic affluence, it is more likely that only one member of the family needs to work, reducing traffic congestion and all the myriad environmental problems of a large and commuting metropolitan population. If Americans married and stayed married, the impact on all those problems which leftists pretend to worry about would dramatically diminish.
There’s more along those lines, too. But two can play at this game. By the same logic, it’s time for the American Thinker and social conservatives to embrace gay marriage–due to the vast environmental benefits.
I’m sure that concession will be coming shortly.
One of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in past years was the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative meeting. It’s a unique environment where heads of state, government and business leaders, scholars, and NGO directors come together “to analyze pressing global challenges, discuss the most effective solutions, and build lasting partnerships that enable them to create positive social change.” Members at last years meeting made close to 300 new commitments on issues involving economic empowerment, energy and the environment, education, global health, and more. Since launching CGI, they have put $63 billion toward improving nearly 300 million lives in over 170 countries. In other words, CGI demonstrates that we are truly becoming a global community.
Today President Clinton announced the Fourth Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting, which will take place at the UC San Diego from April 1-3. Approximately 1,000 students will come together from all over the world to meet with non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs, and celebrities engaged in efforts to create positive change. Each student will make a Commitment to Action – a detailed plan for improving lives within one of CGI U’s focus areas: education, environment & climate change, peace & human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. Since 2008, this university event has brought together more than 2,500 students from 575 schools in 99 countries. As Clinton explains:
“Their work has improved the lives of thousands of people around the world. I am looking forward to convening the next generation of global leaders once again, so they can learn from each other and gain practical skills that will help them turn their ideas into real change.”
What comes out of CGI U? Read More
A surprising number of people contacted me during the past week about the recent mass wildlife deaths reported all over the world and posted across the internet. Some say it’s a sign of “End Times” (although apparently Kirk Cameron disagrees) and others wonder what’s changed in the environment.
John Roach has got the full story, including an interview with conservation biologist Stuart Pimm about the real reason we should all be concerned: Although such events are relatively routine (just not typically reported), one in six bird species is threatened with extinction.
That’s a pretty big deal. In fact, it’s just the kind of crisis that should be making headlines. So if you work at a newspaper, write a blog, or choose content for other media, please consider reporting the real story here….
Over at The Star:
U.S. Representative John Shimkus, possible future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and its attendant environmental concerns, believes that climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.
Shimkus already serves on the committee. During a hearing in 2009, he dismissed the dangers of climate change and the warnings of the scientific community by quoting the Bible.
First, he noted God’s post-Flood promise to Noah in Genesis 8:21-22.
“The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood,” Shimkus asserted. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”
On Tuesday, Shimkus sent a letter to his colleagues burnishing his credentials by saying he is “uniquely qualified among a group of talented contenders to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee.”
Representative Shimkus may be unique, but he’s certainly not uniquely qualified to lead the nation’s Energy and Commerce Committee. Climate change isn’t simply about balmier temperatures, but a changing environment. The nation–and world–need to prepare for the myriad of ways it will impact food production, water, health, national security, immigration, and so much more. Shimkus clearly fails to understand what’s at stake.
You may remember a recent article that Michael Webber and I composed for New Scientist regarding the energy we lose embedded in food waste. Turns out that Michael’s related interview as well as our piece inspired Neil Wagner‘s latest Science Friday comic strip!
Earlier this week I wrote about Jonathan Bloom’s new book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Of Its Food (and what we can do about it). On a related note, this afternoon my wonderful and brilliant colleague Michael Webber will be on Science Friday to discuss the energy lost in the food we waste (yes, the very same topic we wrote about in New Scientist). Today’s episode is broadly entitled “Healthy Eating:”
Only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day, according to a recent report from the CDC. At the same time, the USDA estimates that Americans waste 27% of their food — the energy equivalent of ~350 million barrels of oil a year. In this segment, we’ll look at our eating habits, and why they can be hard to change.
Walter Willett, Chairman of the Nutrition Department at Harvard’s School of Public Health will be on as well.
I’ve not previously posted about my husband’s research, but he’s got an amazing new paper out in PLoS Biology being covered by other bloggers too! David Lowry’s work demonstrates through experimentation–for the first time in nature–that a chromosomal inversion contributes to adaptation and, in turn, reproductive isolation. In other words, when a section of chromosome flips over it traps adapted genes. By holding these adapted genes prisoner, the reversed chromosomal section then has the fuel it needs to spread across the land. The consequence of its spread is reproductive isolation and potentially a new species.
David’s an evolutionary plant geneticist interested in speciation–the environmental and geographic reasons that organisms become two separate species as well as the genetic basis of this process. Why does this matter? When scientists are able to understand adaptive genetic variation within a species, they will be able to do a better job predicting its response to shifting environmental conditions. (Pretty important, given the challenges of limited resources and a changing climate).
David’s research over much of the past decade has looked at the heterogeneity of California’s Mediterranean ecosystems. He focused on two ecotypes of the yellow monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus. One is a coastal perennial (pictured left) version while the other is an annual (pictured right) that’s found in inland habitats. David looked at how adaptation to environmental stresses such as drought and salt tolerance leads to reproductive isolating barriers between these annual and perennial types.
And here’s the cool part: David has discovered regions of the genome that contribute traits like flowering time, salt tolerance, anthocyanin production, and nutrient uptake between the coastal and inland ecotypes. He spent years crossing numerous individual plants to conduct an experiment that reversed the genetic information for these traits in both lines and then planted them back into coastal and inland habitats in California to test the effects of these gene differences in nature. In this way, he was able to show that the chromosome inversion polymorphism (i.e. reversed chunk of chromosome), which is spread widely over North America, actually causes adaptation and reproductive isolation in nature. While he does not know yet what piece of the inversion is responsible for this pattern, he speculates a number of the over 350 genes stuck in the inversion are involved.
Having watched David toil away in the field and laboratory for years, I am so excited to see this awesome comprehensive article published!
At the Clinton Global Initiative, members made close to 300 new commitments on issues involving economic empowerment, energy and the environment, education, global health, and more. In fact, since the launch of CGI, they have put $63 billion toward improving nearly 300 million lives in over 170 countries. In other words, CGI demonstrates that we are truly becoming a global community.
The session that moved me most took place last Wednesday when Queen Rania of Jordan, Katie Couric, President Sirleaf of Liberia, and Muhtar Kent joined Hillary Clinton in a plenary session to discuss empowering women and girls around the world. We watched the world premiere of The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking:
Given the chance 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries can unleash the world’s greatest untapped solution to poverty. This is the Girl Effect. If we can release girls living in poverty, they will do the rest. You can be part of that change. In fact without you it won’t happen. Join the conversation and let the world know what the Girl Effect is capable of.
The panel also discussed a new CGI commitment to create a global market for clean cookstoves by the U.S. State Department, the U.N. Foundation, the World Food Program, Royal Dutch Shell, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other public and private partners. They will help 100 million households adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. As former President Bill Clinton explained:
“This initiative exemplifies what’s possible when business, governments, and civil society come together to address a pressing global issue. With an estimated 1.9 million people – most of them children under five years old – dying every year from exposure to hazardous stove smoke, this initiative has the potential to save countless lives, and I’m proud CGI members could build this important public-private partnership.”