Thursday, December 20, 2007

"I oscillate between hope and despair"

Those were the words of the international energy policy expert I spoke to this morning, when I asked if he was hopeful about sustainable development and a solution to global warming.

Most scientists I speak to, when they respond to my now-standard "hope" question, force out something about reluctant optimism. But energy policy people are more realistic. They're mired in the bureaucracy, whether they like it or not. They know how it works within the system - where all their research and recommendations end up and are ignored. A couple of weeks ago, I talked to a guy at Yale who studied energy supply systems in Africa. He said, "It's hard to be optimistic about the whole process. It's a little bit depressing."

Energy sends me into a tizzy. Energy is the root of all the issues I've reported on which I find myself caring too much about to be objective: Ethanol, drilling for oil in the ice-free Arctic, energy poverty and energy development.

So when I realized what today's energy guy was saying (he had a bit of an accent, so it took a second) I was stunned, and affirmed, at the same time.

And then I saw this: "E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules"

Essentially, California was setting more rigorous emission standards, and the recently-signed energy bill allowed the Bush administration to say, "No. Stop what you're doing. We're going to make you pollute just as much as the rest of us. And hey, climate? Fuck you."

Reading this, I was flung deep onto the side of despair. Hope oscillated on its own a long way from where I ended up. I put my head down on my desk for a while, and then wrote a comment on Andrew Revkin's blog. That helped me calm down.

But, why? why why why why why why why.

(Is "why" a word of hope or despair?)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't ask the optimist, he's probably dumb

Or unhealthy - so says one of those useless studies. Apparently, optimism means you think of things in long-term progress, not attaining specific goals. And that means you're more likely to justify short-term failures. Or something. The whole thing doesn't make much sense.

“For example, when [a] workout is framed as progress toward the goal of being healthy, going to the gym elicits the perception of partial goal attainment and suggests that it is justified to enjoy a tasty but fatty cake,” the researchers explain. “In contrast, when [a] workout is framed as commitment to the goal of being healthy, going to the gym signals being healthy is important and thus suggests that one should refrain from the tasty but fatty cake to ensure the final goal can be attained.”

Unfortunately, this study will probably picked up and deciphered by the media in time for New Year's Resolutions. I was talking about resolutions with my co-worker today. Last year, he resolved to do yoga every day. He didn't. I said that I prefer to keep my resolutions internal - like changing a behavior - to keep concrete feelings of failure or success out of it. Who can tell if I'm being nicer to people this year than I was last year? Or if I put slightly more energy and creativity into my work? All it takes for me to feel like a success story is a shift in how I view my own reality.

Meanwhile, hand me that tasty but fatty cake.