Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A failure to communicate: Scientists, journalists, reality

A very nice explanation of why journalists - and scientists - have failed for so long to inform the public about global warming*, in Pants On Fire, part 1 over at Little Blog in the Big Woods - it's the very forseeable, and very unfortunate, outcome of their different cultural strictures and conventions, regarding communicating about reality:
...we [in our society] rely on scientific opinion, as reported; by reporters.
...[It is remarkably common] for humans to speak to each other, hold what passes for a conversation, and leave the conversation reasonably satisfied; but with no information having changed hands.
Scientists, journalists, "policy makers", and the general public, are doing this now, big time...[They] do not, in fact, speak the same languages; and they do not know it. We need interpreters, and have none...
[Consequence, re global warming:]
...The real equation, in 1988, was that 85% of the scientists who studied the problem were 85% sure we were heading for horrifyingly serious problems, and the majority of their opposition were known fools.
...[But] what [journalists] reported was: no one is sure, and Dr. Billy, a colorful contrarian, says "BULL!".

Not unrelated: xarker on Science and Media, and their practioners' respective failures to communicate and to adapt.
...a New Yorker cartoon of two aging scientists in a quiet, darkened lab office. One says to the other, "Well, at least we never stooped to popularizing science." There's a lot of dark humor implied in that subject, and it's not related solely to scientists.

And (Wed update) The Truth About Denial - Newsweek on the deniers' funding machine


SkiTheStars said...

Amazing but true. Even if the cliff is clearly visible, it seems the bulk of humanity only becomes aware about half way down to the ocean....

In 1952 or so an engineer proposed 1 way toll collecting on the bay bridges in the SF Bay Area. He was rediculed until about 20 years later when they decided to "give it a try" because things had gotten so bad. Now we're trying to get everybody on FastTrak, same problem of human inertia.....

Anonymous said...

As an activist with a small a, I am amazed by how many people contact me to make a fuss over something. They themselves would NEVER do it but me, well...and therein lies the problem. It's your problem! It's not someone else's problem--it's YOURS. No one is going to fix climate change FOR YOU. Everyone, including scientists, want to sit on their butts andlet someone else fix it all. Scientists somehow have decided it's ok to publish papers that the planet is dying and go home and forget about it. I blame scientists for part of our mess because these are the people who BELONG in politics. These are the people who NEED to be making the decisions for the public and how skewed that they people with the most information have created their own taboo against getting involved politically. So it goes to people like George Bush...I blame scientists for our crisis and their utter lack of courage.
We are going die because everyone was to busy watching their own butt while waiting for that proverbial someone else to come along and fix it all.

Reality (actually the proprietor) said...

> "It's not someone else's problem--it's YOURS. No one is going to fix climate change FOR YOU."

Someone told me recently that I might as well sit back now, I'd made my fuss over An Inconvenient Truth, and now everyone was much more aware.

Said person has, to my knowledge, made no lifestyle changes since seeing the movie; and to my knowledge neither have others in this person's social circle; and to my knowledge this person would never mention the moral imperative to make such lifestyle changes with their social circle.

Yo, this is reality speaking here - that film wasn't fiction.

dan said...

anna, how can i reach you by email re dot earth posts and polar cities?

danny b

Anna Haynes said...

Just for the record (and to backtrack on my comment above), my views on "the moral imperative to make such lifestyle changes" have changed - as Bill Rees (via Alex Steffen) says, "We're all on the same ship and what we do in our individual cabins is of almost no consequence in terms of the direction the ship is going."

Exhorting people to take voluntary action is, at this point, misguided.
(as it was when I made the above comment...)