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Wed Aug 01, 2007 at 12:26 PM PDT

Seeking IRC/Chat Help

by Seth Baum

I'm helping the group Focus the Nation on its project to organize climate change teach-ins around the country on Jan. 31, 2008.  More on that later, but for now, I'm hoping you can help me help them.  In particular, I'm trying to set up an IRC or chat room to complement FtN's conference calls.  I've done the conference call + IRC thing once before (with, go figure, an organization connected to the Howard Dean campaign) and it worked fantastically: We could type thoughts without interrupting anyone, post url's, and even "raise our hand" when we wanted to speak.  (I got to play moderator which was particularly fun...)

At any rate, I haven't touched IRC since then and don't know what software/etc to use.  I need something simple and easy because our group is likely not full of techies.  I've done a bit of poking around already (see below), but I'm hoping someone(s) here can expedite the process.

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Tue Jul 31, 2007 at 08:57 PM PDT

In Defense of DailyKos

by Seth Baum

I take a nice, refreshing week or two off from DailyKos, and what do I come back to find?  Not only is some guy named O'Reilly equating this site with people who, by most measures, were among the worst human beings of the last 100 years, but "mainstream" news apparently says similar, if far less extreme and more civil, things.  Not that I haven't seen such things before, but for some reason, this evening I feel compelled to respond.

This post is not targeted to the regular DK community.  You all probably already know everything I have to say.  Instead, this is targeted to those many good people out there who don't know enough about DK to judge how sound it is or, more importantly, whether it's OK to use the site.  My message is simple: Come on in, if you'd like.  The water's fine.

Update: Several of the commenters are finding this to be a defense for O'Reilly.  While I am motivated in part by his words, I intend the defense for "those many good people" and not O'Reilly or anyone else in particular.

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The Human Extinction series continues.  Briefly, the threats to our very survival which we face over the next century or so are, according to those who have studied them and much to my horror, not very unlikely.  In HE4 I described why I find this issue the most one to work on:  Because the fate of life in the universe may be at stake.

That we may be able to play a role in such a huge matter is, as one commenter at HE1 wrote, "all so absurd".  However, if we're going to take sound steps to avoid it, we must overcome this feeling of absurdity.  Here, I'll draw on my own personal experience to try offering suggestions for how we can do so.

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Perhaps sacrilege to some here, but I'm just as interested in connecting with the other side of the isle- ultimately, I'm not a political partisan but have my views grounded in (philosophical) ethics.  Not that I'm blind to politics- to the contrary- hence I want to connect with political communities.  The more elected officials we can persuade to support good policies, the better.

Anyways, I'm looking for a broad, general interest community where issues can be discussed but also connects with campaigns/legislation/etc.  In short, a GOP counterpart to this here site.  Any suggestions?

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The Human Extinction series continues.  Briefly, the threats to our very survival which we face over the next century or so are, according to those who have studied them and much to my horror, not very unlikely.  This series is dedicated to helping us understand and hopefully avoid these threats.

The most basic reason why this is most important is that the fate of Earth-originating life is probably at stake here, as may be the fate of all life in existence.

This simply dwarfs other considerations from many- but not all- perspectives.  Here, we'll get a little (well, a lot) philosophical to explore some of these perspectives so we can strengthen our arguments and evaluate how we should respond.  There are two sections.  In the first, we look at a variety of political ideologies; in the second, more formal philosophical ethics.  Note that the views presented here are my own and that while I think they're good and you're welcome to them, there are others out there.  (Hence "One View".)  Just don't take any that recommend facilitating our extinction, OK?

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On July 4 I began a series of diaries on the prospects for human extinction.  To be catchy, I called it "saving the world".  However, since saving the world can mean different things, I'm renaming the series Human Extinction.  Much more clear to the point.  I'm focusing on the threats to our very survival over the next century or so.  (The scary part: these threats are not very unlikely.)

Here I'm going to review the other DailyKos diaries I could readily find on the topic.  I do this to examine how what appears to be the most important issue has already been covered here and to help us avoid repetition, as well as to highlight the DK discussion for my non-DK acquaintances.  The discussion here largely mirrors today's broader public discourse: lots on climate change, nuclear weapons, and pandemics, particularly H5N1/bird flu; little on AI and "insurance policies" (space colonization, etc).  Also, interesting cultural discussions.  I think we would be wise to discuss all of these further, especially the "what to do about it".

In the comments, please tell me:  Are my critiques fair?  Am I missing anything?

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Yesterday I posted an actually-serious diary How To Save The World, where by "saving the world" I meant "preventing humanity's extinction".  Briefly, there I reviewed the threats to our very survival which we face over the next century or so.  (The scary part: these threats are not very unlikely.)

Here, I want to go back over what I suspect are the main threats (biological pandemics, AI, nuclear winter, climate change) in order to discuss what government response might help, including both legislation and action on the Executive Branch side.  I'm interested in how we as citizens can positively and productively engage our government to make a difference, and I'm hoping yinz can help me learn of what's out there or what could be out there, since I imagine yinz know more about this than I do.

Note: This is an ongoing project.  Drop me a line if you would like to try to help and we'll see how we can collaborate.

Update: Changing title from "Saving The World" to "Human Extinction".  More clear, to the point. -July 7, 2007

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What does it mean to save the world?  Here, we'll say that it means saving the existence of those who enjoy it, namely humanity and maybe some other animals.

A few years back, a minor motion picture linked July 4th to humanity's survival.  Now, 11 years later, we'll revisit this topic, except this time, it's not a movie.

Those who have studied the matter put the odds of humanity surviving the 21st Century somewhere between 50 and 75 percent- unless we do something about it.

So, how can we save the world?  How can we prevent humanity from going extinct?

Update: Changing title from "How To Save The World" to "Human Extinction 1: How To Prevent It" to fit the ongoing series. -July 7, 2007

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Reading about nuclear waste repositories around the world (eg Yucca Mountain), I stumbled on a 2005 proposal to have Australia store the entire planet's nuclear waste.  At a glance, this actually looks like a great idea, since it seems to have the best physical and social conditions for long-term waste storage.  It does look better than Yucca, and Yucca seems better than, say, the sites in Europe.  The rest of the world would pay it to store the waste, so Australia would probably come out ahead.

As with the US nuclear storage issue, local politics (read: NIMBYism)  appears to be the crucial barrier.  However, the plan did receive some support Down Under.  Perhaps we could help out with some international political nudging?

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Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 06:54 AM PDT

Can science take stands on issues?

by Seth Baum

This is a more abstract, theoretical post.

The opening words to the Preface of the National Science Teachers Association's new book Resources for Environmental Literacy: Five Teaching Modules for Middle and High School Teachers (which at a glance looks like an excellent text) read:

The primary responsibility of teachers of science is to teach science, not to inform their students on environmental issues—and certainly not to influence the stand students may take on those issues. Fostering student understanding of the scientific view of the natural world and how science goes about its work is the first order of business in the teaching of science.

This touches on a question that hits close to home for me: Can science take stands on issues?  I'm inclined to say no: To take stands, we also need ethics, which appears to be a separate line of thinking.

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A glitch in our present system is the disconnect between those who are good at solving our problems (e.g. engineers) and those who are good at drawing attention to their solutions (e.g. celebrities).  Case in point: Sheryl Crow, who appears to have nothing but good intentions here, has made headline news (albeit in the entertainment section, but it's still headline news) calling for a reduction in toilet paper consumption as a means of mitigating climate change.  I suppose this action would help somewhat, but upon closer inspection, it's not a top priority.  Below, I've got details of the story plus an analysis of both her proposal and a counter-proposal.  Ms. Crow, if you're listening, I'd be glad to work with you on this, but there are much better folks than me out there, such as the good people at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Update: From comments, I learn that Ms. Crow was joking with her TP comments.  Still, several media outlets made the same mistake I did in taking her words seriously.

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Wed Mar 14, 2007 at 06:58 AM PDT

UK takes lead: Aims to cut CO2 60%

by Seth Baum

Published yestarday.  Would be the world's first legally required carbon emission cuts:

The Labour Government says it will set targets for Britain to cut its carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, and 60 per cent by the year 2050, and it says those targets will be legally binding.link

Environmental groups are hoping for required cuts of 3% per year making for 75-80% reduction by 2050.  Instead, there are reviews every 5 years, with legal ramifications for governments missing targets.  Personally, I think cuts should err on the side of being ambitious, but I commend this first step in the right direction.
Related: See Felicifia for an ongoing discussion of climate economics.

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