Skip to main content

The Latitude that Fervency Allows

FerventOne thing about advocacy groups that can be admirable is their fervency about their causes. As long as it doesn’t tip into fanaticism or destructive behavior – and it usually doesn’t – then the passion expressed can be a highly effective recruiting tool. But how much latitude does fervency allow? How useful is it in directing policy?

Some, if truth also informs your passion.

I was reading a press release the other day about a group that wants to motivate its members take action to push renewable energy to the policy forefront. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the release had a lot of fervent writing that led it astray. For example:

More than eight out of 10 Americans (83 percent) – including 69 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats -- agree with the following statement: “The time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to realize a renewable energy future. Congress is debating large public investments in energy and we need to take action to ensure that our taxpayer dollars support renewable energy-- one that protects public health, promotes energy independence and the economic well being of all Americans.”

That’s a lot of Democrats! First, I doubt any pollster ever asked this question because, second, the statement has too many moving parts. You could easily agree with, oh, 75 percent of it, but how would a pollster score that? Third, it tries to shame a respondent into saying yes. Who doesn’t want to protect public health? 

Let’s try one more:

More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) – including 70 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats -- believe that “the energy industry's extensive and well-financed public relations, campaign contributions and lobbying machine is a major barrier to moving beyond business as usual when it comes to America’s energy policy.”

I’m sure AWEA (the wind energy association) and SEIA (ditto solar) will be amused to read this, not to mention all the energy concerns that have renewable energy in their portfolios. Their lobbying “machines” – and those of many environmental groups – certainly like to get their views in front of lawmakers’ eyes – and have considerable success in doing so.

It’s convenient to pretend that you’re not doing what your perceived opponents are doing – if you fervently believe in what you’re doing – but you risk sacrificing your claim to the high ground. If you are doing exactly the same thing and let the truth slide away from you, you’ve already ceded it.

There can be a considerable downside to fervency. In the advocacy sphere, it is an effusion of how strongly one feels about one’s own views – and that’s great – but when it guides policy, it can seem both naïve and overheated. And not very effective.

The pull-outs come from the Environmental Working Group, but I mean it as an example rather than any particular comment on their doings. You can read the whole thing here.

The Fervent Years is about the Group Theater, which produced a number of highly socially engaged plays during the 1930s and introduced a number of figures who would be key shapers of the American theatrical scene for decades afterward – Elia Kazan, Clifford Odets, Lee Strasburg and the author of the book, Harold Clurman. Highly recommended for fans of theater.


Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…