Archive for the ‘Progress’ Category

Change in command

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The inauguration of Barack Obama signals change in many areas, and there are anticipated numerous policy and execution differences in the area of climate research, environmental policy, and primarily energy.

His speech used the word “planet” twice, once modified by “warming”, and once after “threaten” referencing our energy use strengthening our adversaries. “Science” will have “it’s rightful place.”

As significant as what was said, was what wasn’t said. Not once did the new President mention ‘oil’, coal or ‘environment’. He didn’t say ‘constitution’, but did mention “founding documents.”

Over the next few months, the debate about energy in particular will reference the science on climate. The economic ramifications (“economy” mentioned just three times) of these will bring out the vested interests of those who stand to lose something in reworking the energy infrastructure, and the money to muster forces both on ‘K’ Street and the halls of Congress.

“New” (mentioned eleven times) thinking will be called for. And that is no different here at Ceilings Unlimited. Starting shortly, the film will be available for download, purchase direct on DVD. We will be making the ideas embedded in the film identities on social networks, and seeking the communities most interested in the application of science and business thought to the climate issue.

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“Planet in peril”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Yesterday’s victory by Barack Obama has historical implications. But for the climate change story, not so much. Yes, a new administration will change the national policy on climate, and attack energy in a new way. But this was going to be true of a McCain administration too, albeit in a distinctly different way.

So it begs the question- how different? How far into the century of progress alluded to by Barack Obama will the next year take us? Will the now dominant Democratic party divide itself to its various factions and fight over old turf of regulation and entitlements or will it hew to the unification theme that was clearly resonating for voters?

One thing is clear, from a communication analysis. Only one phrase in the eighteen minutes of eloquence from the President elect referenced the climate issue, arguably by the scales measuring time and planetary space, the largest that face us. And it can be interpreted many ways that don’t reference the environment, nature or any other aspect of climate.

For the planet peril that clearly most dominates at the moment is not a construct of chemistry or physics, but of man. It is economics, and the toolbox of those who have succeeded in its ways, power. Will the forces that have done well in the current economic system be swept up and transformed by the army of hope? Will ‘yes we can’ be directed in ways that crack the walls of those who resist innovation, much less justice? The story of climate can be either the leading example of inclusive reinvention, or a casualty of those that cannot see beyond short term balance sheets.

The answers, of course are in the execution. And the optimism here is that the people that organized, built and ran a campaign that was capable of capturing the Presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet by a candidate that has numerous strikes against him ( black, broken home, middle name Hussien, etc. etc.) can bring that same vision discipline and execution to running a government.

From all indications, those in the climate change space in government are ready to do more, share more and help a proactive policy team go forward.

Calm in the face of the storm

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Sunday Stanley Fish published a report of the campaign that points out how this election, and others in the past, is being won by the person saying the least.
Last night I attended a presentation by Will Steger, polar explorer and climate change activist. Steger has witnessed ‘on the ground’ the extraordinary changes at either pole during the recent decade. He has before and after pictures with himself in the picture! Both during his presentation and the Q& A he repeatedly used a moderate voice and deflected questions of blame. He recommended ‘putting on a coat and in order to convince the most resistant.
Certainly since early in this century, we have been subjected to the politics of fear. Most of the existing productions on climate focus on the scary outcomes. It is hard to avoid, given that the scale of climate is so big- beyond the horizon of either our experience or lifetimes. When something the size of the Larsen Ice Shelf can collapse and dissipate in a short time, it definitely is sobering.
But the calm response, as evidenced by Obama in the presidential campaign, is what creates positive response. This was the creative choice made during the production.
We are now in the process of finding out whether those controlling the distribution channels will respond as the public has.

Screening the public

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

With the election looming, and the two candidates both pitching some variation of rebuilding the US economy with green business, the crisis of confidence will be focusing on the how and what of reinventing how we live. With this in mind, we staged a screening of “Proof or Propaganda” for a large group. We gathered about 140 people in a room, showed them the production, and asked them to comment, rate, and discuss.
The result was that the presentation was graded highly, averaging an ‘8′ among those who filled out the questionnaire. To the question “would you recommend’ the average was 9.5, meaning that whatever reservation they had about the program, they thought their friends should see it. That strong endorsement is a great indicator.
Also, people liked the people on screen. They may not have registered just who the people were, but they got exactly what they know, and like how it was expressed. They found the scientists and business people likable, trustworthy and believable. While a certain small percentage thought there was too much ‘marketing’ from business people, far more were excited and encouraged to hear people speak optimistically about the challenges. By a wide margin, people found PG&E CEO Peter Darbee to be their favorite, even if they didn’t get what company he was from correct.
The negatives were around the narrative character, the only fictional person in the program, and the quality of the presentation.
The first requires some finessing of the part, both in writing and execution. The second is a matter of remastering the program in HD and using a delivery mechanism appropriate to the size of the screen and room we were in.

Meanwhile the film has been submitted to several festivals, especially those with markets associated. It is also in the process of being submitted to distribution channels of various sorts. More news when we have some!

Roller Coasters

Monday, June 16th, 2008

The last three weeks have been a very dense version of the unique mix of science, politics and production challenge that this particular production offers.
Three weeks ago I was at George Gilder’s Telecosm, a unique conference blending science, technology and economics that reflects the vision of Gilder. The opening evening talk was by the author of “The Deniers” Lawrence Solomon. I recommend Solomon’s book, as he carefully delineates the actual work of each of the scientists he profiles, and the fact that none identify themselves as deniers of climate change. He also candidly admits in his wrap up chapter that none of his sources convinced him that climate change isn’t happening or human caused.
What is most relevant about their stories is the personal and professional costs suffered by those who are so labeled- something that should be of great concern to all committed to the pursuit of knowledge, to say nothing of freedom of thought and speech.
In a subject as global as climate, and complicated, we should be expecting there to be thousands of conflicting data points, and indeed there are. We should also be committed to exploring as deeply as possible to further refine our understanding of the subject, and the interactions of life forms with it.
While Gilder himself is a contrarian ( and on more subjects than climate change) the conference featured and encouraged argument and independent thinking. Bob Metcalf, best known as co-inventor of Ethernet, who spoke on energy. Among his key insights- energy does not equal the environment. As he points out, solving either one does not solve the other. Citing Santayana on learning from history, he point by point applied the oft cited Internet phenomena being precedent for a clean energy revolution. My favorite was his point that conservation is never as successful as generating abundance. The internet had several episodes of limits constraining capacity, but each time some unexpected breakthrough proved the limit false. So he calls for people to start making “silver bullets” in spite of the common wisdom that there are no silver bullets. He also points both the need and danger of bubbles. You can see a similar presentation and get a great sense of Metcalf by watching this presentation he gave at Always On Venture Summit East.
My favorite quote of the conference was from co-sponsor and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, “Economics is turning scarcity into abundances.”
The following week, I had the good fortune to be invited to Sustainable Brands 08 where I was able to show about eight minutes of the project, and talk for about the same. As great as it was to get some audience response, and specific feedback, the information presented at this conference confirmed a number of ‘guesses’ made about the public state of mind on the issue of climate, who is buying ‘green’ and what it is they are buying. Like Telecosm, the tone was business terms, and the clear take away was that businesses based upon ethical and authentic efforts to be conscious in their commerce are already winning every bit of the market they enter.
So high off of these two weeks, returning to the production was a realization that no real progress had been made in the production. So this week has been dominated by getting that situation turned around.
The production has high goals, and at best independent cinema funding. The issue is huge, complex, and tainted by years of idealogical positioning and framing. There is also the problem of the subject being a moving target- each day brings news that impacts the overall story.
So all together, the story selection, the tone and approach, the guesses about the public discourse and attitudes, the production team’s choices are adding up to a relevant and timely piece with a ton of information that people welcome, as well as confident voices about how to respond to that information. It is exciting to not just be able to work with some of the world’s leaders in science and business, but to feel that in telling their stories, we are able to do justice to their excellence, leadership and wisdom.

Landmarks- data

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

As the months go by, more and more signs appear on the horizon that the market is coming to the project, and it is time to get it in circulation, regardless of where it is in its own evolution.
And each day, I see items across the spectrum that show that fundamentally, people, wherever they stand on the issue of climate change, don’t have a good understanding of science, how it works, or how scientists have brought us to the state of knowledge that we have.
So let me get out in words as best I can those fundamental things.
First and foremost, is data. That objective repeatedly observable stuff that is part of the physical world. As Stephen Schneider says in the film, “there is no such thing as a democratic flood or a republican drought.” Data just is. Depending on how it is observed, there is variations, and there can be a great deal of variation in how it is interpreted, but the first task of science is to produce really good data.
Second, there are multiple data sets. In an area of interest such as climate, these are almost infinite. The climate is a very complex set of systems and sub systems that interact and have both visible and nearly invisible phenomena. So it is to be expected that there will always be some sub set of contradictory data points.
In order to have any deeper understanding, scientists come up with theories. A theory is an attempt to describe the situation in a way that makes it possible for us to understand and have the power to anticipate and use that understanding to our advantage.
For example, until Newton described gravity, it just was, but his theory gave us an understanding that made it possible to understand why things fell. Nobody argued with it, although there was plenty of work to be done on the subject of gravity. Newton’s theory wasn’t a good enough description of gravity to send a rocket to the moon for instance. Others came along and added and refined and now average people can’t even get a good grip on physics.
Today in climate, there is only one theory that adequately describes the totality of the data. That there are contradictory details does not invalidate or make this tool useless. Those who present this data do not have an alternative theory that has stood up to the standard tests of observation and repeatability. That is why they don’t get space in scientific journals.
The person who can present an alternative would be the most famous scientist of our times. And thousands of very smart people are working on that right now. But they keep coming up with stuff that is ultimately very neatly explained by humans having burned fossil fuels for the last century and a half. That explanation stands up when sliced and diced by methods of analysis that reveal the flaws in famous past errors in science.

On the social side of the issue, let me share with you something you probably don’t see in the midst of all the go green consumption promotion, or the ‘its over’ conclusions (due to this year’s winter having been cold enough): The current issue of CFO magazine has this article “How to Run Supply Chains on Less Oil”. Packed full of such advanced thinking as “pack smarter, ( meaning the trucks that ship your goods ) and “streamline the fleet” CFO’s are also advised to rethink just in time production, and localizing warehouses. There really isn’t a green word in the article. It isn’t about the environment, but rather efficiency.
How remarkable that the very thing that radical environmentalists have been calling for for years, and something of keen interest to capitalists since before Adam Smith, are now worthy of application. There are many benefits to the choices that are appropriate responses to what we know and don’t know about climate. And it begs the question of why we haven’t been taking advantage of them.

Affluent Insecurity

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

From the beginning, this project has been challenging. The subject is immense- beyond our lifetimes, and horizons; complicated- it is truly global and part of every aspect of our lives ( you never live without weather and the climate defines so much of what we create in the built world) ; and probably most of all- beyond our control.

We will never control the forces of nature. We may be able to have influence, and mitigate what damage and havoc they can impose on our way of organizing our lives, but controlling weather and climate the way we harness physics and chemistry to our purposes? Not likely.

Because of this, I have had a problem coming to terms with the apocalyptic aspect of every climate related program I see (with the exception of “Dimming The Sun”). It is as if we cannot imagine a positive outcome to a story without end. Probably due to my own experience in theater going, I have resisted this approach. Sending an audience out the door scared and depressed just doesn’t fit my idea of creating value. At least it isn’t the value I want to create.

That is why I was turned by the scientists I interviewed to look at the efforts of the private sector to respond to climate change with capitalistic applications of self interest. It was intuitive.

Well, this weekend I have been voraciously reading “Breakthrough”. While a bit wonkish, and politics oriented, it has supplied me with intelligent analysis that explains my aversion to the end of the world theme of other climate related programs, and more importantly explains the underlying social and psychological reasons that these programs have failed to move us.

I won’t try to summarize the breadth and depth of the authors’ analysis here. What I do want to offer is one concept that I find applicable across a wide variety of issues in our nation- affluent insecurity. That we find ourselves today more comfortable materially, and yet insecure about so many aspects of our lives explains a number of strange seemingly irrational situations. How is it that being poor, which used to mean that you didn’t have enough to eat, now is an indicator for obesity? Why is it that as rich and affluent as we are, we report that we are less confident about the future?

All of the real progress towards self creation that our system of democracy and capitalism has enabled has occurred during periods when our sense of security has been high. So despite the amazing thriving of humans on the planet, the real suffering and violence continues. The fact that there is enough food for all, doesn’t result in no hunger. The fact that we could live in harmony with the rules of physics and chemistry, or even build upon them, does not get us to stop poisoning ourselves.

That is why this production will not be apocalyptic. It will not be simply a rational discussion of the facts. It will be a story of how people are working right now to overcome, to rise above, and to reinvent our economy, and our world so that we are both affluent and secure enough to address these challenges.

Death motivates

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

My attendance at the Keeling memorial was facilitated by my own father’s health requiring my presence in San Diego. That series of events culminated in his death on December 4, and accounts for a good deal of the time that has passed without mention on this site.
Death has become a theme in the discussions of this project. Seems that one of the criteria for consideration of what constitutes compelling television is “who dies this hour?” Programmers seem to think that it is only death that galvinzes the public’s attention, and it needs to be impending death at that. They have good reason to think this way.
Climate presents a pretty interesting challenge in this regard, as it is weather events that wreck havoc and leave souless bodies behind. Climate, being something that takes place over vast areas and significant parts of lifetimes, is a bit more difficult to make ominous. So while it is easy to answer the question in terms of geologic time (”well then we all do”) for the sake of drama, we are busy converting every climatic impact into something that demands immediate attention.
Let’s just share a couple of examples. There is of course the top of mind mother of recent woe hurricanes. Hurricanes provide us with a number of very interesting opportunities. Driven by the interactions of wind and water, and dramatically altered by the temperature of the water they pass over, and thus currenlty unpredicatable to us because we have yet to generate a sufficient network of temperature sensors at depth, hurricanes build up tremendous force by driving the sea before them. The winds produce spectacular flying debri and the ever present weather reporter leaning into the wind, but it is the surge of the storm that tears apart buildings, ports and produces the flooding that ultimately casues the most destruction, and death.
Another example would be fires. Where the rain falls and how often determines the most likely places to burn, how intensely and for what range. As climate changes occur, these areas ebb and grow. Where and how we build, how we provide for adequate water supply for the growing population, which is attracted to both dry and warm climes, are critical matters of risk, compounded by human activity both in advance planning, and in sparking the blaze. Again, destruction and death are the outcomes that result, and compell the viewing public to turn to the live news channels.
Ultimately it seems that it is death that also gets us to bring our focus to these longer range issues that our daily lives do not. As New Orleans and Katrina portray so clearly, the challenges are not in the knowing. Whether or not the hurricane intensity is related to climate change ( and all the science we see says that it is not) the fact is that we knew that New Orleans was at risk and there was a probability that a disaster would occur.
Who among us would not have spent the relative few billions to build up the wetlands and or dikes to prepare instead of the estimated several hundred billion now required to rebuild an area of economic and cultural significance? What was missing? Do we really need the living to die to be motivated?
For us, developing this show, the question is can we make enough stories in which someone might die this hour? Or can we find a distribution partner that trusts a public understands that enough real people have already died and wants to know what they can do to prevent more disasters?

One down…

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Ok, we’ve processed our first interview into Wiki-ready content and sent it off to review and clearance. It’s fascinating to see the structure emerge from the conversations we’ve had. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves once it is actually in the Wiki.

-Joe

Wiki Wiki Wiki

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

Today I started assimilating our interviews into a pre-wiki document so we can get clearance from our sources. It’s a surprising amount of work. The good news is that reoganizing the transcript really shows the core elements that we have to work with for the story. Good stuff. Hopefully the pace will pick up once we get into the groove.

-Joe