Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Everyone Believing in Climate Change Might be Really Bad for Climate Change

It’s hard to cut through the layers. A news report links to an NGO briefing. Links to a report. Links to another report. And at the center? Not a solid core, but instead an amorphous collection of scientific uncertainty.

The clamour rises nonetheless.

Meanwhile, scientists have stepped sheepishly aside, not lying so much as omitting the truth. Why should they, when the public concern they’ve been begging for is amplified by each new heat wave and multiplied by every flood.

That question was so rhetorical that I didn’t even bother to end it with a question mark, but I’m going to answer it anyway. Because whether or not one believes the end justifies the means, we’re headed down a road that could really come back to bite the scientific community.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Greening Higher Places

Population pressure and environmental concerns are pushing cities around the world to embrace the concept of green roofs. As climate change distorts natural systems, the environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits of green roofs are set to create a new norm in city management.

See the full article:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hockey and Climate Change: Canada’s Game in a Warming World

It seems to me that all this talk about the potential impact of climate change on Canadian food production is missing the point. Has food production ever won us Olympic gold over the Americans? Has food production ever filled an arena in Winnipeg? Do you reminisce about where you were during the famous food production series of ’72?


Well then let's dispense of all this non-essential talk and get down to what really matters: what does climate change mean for hockey? More specifically, what does the possibility of all that melting ice mean for Canada’s place in hockey?

Friday, September 16, 2011

One of us is an Idiot: Persuasion and Climate Change

As a hockey referee, I would often find myself entertaining unsolicited advice from coaches.

“You are an idiot,” they would helpfully suggest. This tended to result in more penalties for the team in question, at which point the coach would, rethinking his strategy, attempt to deepen it (“You are a giant idiot”) reframe it (“Have you considered the possibility that you are an idiot?”) or broaden it (“You are an idiot and a moron”). I have to confess that none of these strategies was particularly effective in altering my decisions. Indeed, owing to my years of experience, I am prepared to categorically state that telling someone they are an idiot is a singularly ineffective way to influence human behaviour.

But at least the coaches were open and honest about it. It’s one thing to be called an idiot, but quite another to be treated like one. The latter tends to be even less effective in influencing behaviour, which is why I am surprised that environmentalists continually resort to it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summarization: She ain't gonna happen, man

My Philippines experience continues to struggle, push back and otherwise resist my efforts to bundle it up into a tidy little blog. There are strings of environmental non-sequiturs going everywhere, giant pieces of cultural misunderstandings that I can't squish down and dangerous bits of corruption and intrigue that just won't allow themselves to be nicely summarized with a bow on top.

What has surprised me most is how quickly and easily I've slipped back into Western ways of eating, talking, washing, travelling, watching hockey, eating lobsters, etc.

To be fair, it took a minute or so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Branding Your Hippopotamus: The Asia-Pacific Cities Summit

It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to present an elaborate hippopotamus metaphor at an international conference, and so I felt it would be remiss (not to mention intellectually irresponsible) of me not to work everyone’s favorite semi-aquatic mammal into my talk on “Green Cities” at the 2011 Asia-Pacific Cities Summit in Brisbane.

The summit, attended by nearly a thousand civic and business leaders, culminated in the signing of the “Brisbane Accord” by more than 40 city mayor’s from around the region. City mayors turn out to be curious animals in their own right, alternating been the signing of serious accords and the formation of enormous conga lines. The latter activity was fuelled by only a relatively small percentage of the truly impressive quantities of free booze on offer throughout the conference.

Of course, the whole kit and caboodle was designed to impress people who are far more difficult to impress than I am. In fact, they may have inadvertently overdone it: I needed to watch only 2 seconds of this act before deciding that sustainability is for chumps. I’m going to be Laser Man when I grow up.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"My friend, where are you going?"

“My friend, where are you going?”

The question is a fair and reasonable one, since I am a young, white man towering, somewhat confusedly, over a sea of Filipinos.

However, months of experience have taught me that an honest answer to this particular inquiry is not likely to yield much in the way of directions or impartial touristic advice. An admonition to buy some unidentified meat is much more likely. Now I happen to be a big fan of unidentified meat – some of my best friends are unidentified meat – but if I stopped every time I was called I wouldn’t get very far in this city.

It was never going to be possible for me to blend in here, no matter how much Ilokano I learned. Figuring out all the ins and outs of any new culture is hard; it’s just much more obvious when you look so different as well.

Still, the market seems to have been specially designed to thwart my vegetable-purchasing aspirations, which brings us back to the question: “where am I going?”