Monday, July 23, 2007


Sam Smith

1. Calculate the stakes as well as the odds.

2. The odds of something happening at any moment are not the same as the odds of something ever happening. In ecological calculations -- especially ones in which the downside could ruin your whole millennium -- it is the latter odds that are important.

3. When confronted with conflicting odds, ask what happens if each projection is wrong. Temporary job loss because of environmental restrictions may come and go, but the loss of the ozone layer is something you can have forever.

4. When confronted with conflicting odds, remember that you don't have to play the game. There are other things to do with your time -- or with the economy or with the environment -- that may produce better results. Thus, instead of playing poker you could be making love. Or instead of getting jobs from some air or water degrading activity, the same jobs could come from more benign industry such as retrofitting a whole city for solar energy.

5. Don't let anyone -- in industry, government, or the media -- define an "acceptable level of risk" for your own death or disease. They may not have the same vested interest in the right answer as you do.

6. If the stakes are too high, the game is not worth it. If you can't stand the pain, don't attempt the gain.


At July 23, 2007 4:27 PM, Mairead said...

Principles to reckon with, for sure.

I blame tv, myself. People are so used to seeing horrendous situations neatly resolved at the last cliff-hanging moment that they seem to have lost track of what's real and what's not.

They're all experiencing the changing climate with their very own bodies, but they can't seem to make the connection.

If they could do, every city council member and state legislator would be working overtime on the problem, with thousands of people, holding torches and pitchforks, "encouraging" them to work harder.

And 99% of the ruling class would already have emptied the till, done a runner to Paraguay, and changed their names.


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