Hal Harvey on 'Fear, Hope, and Climate,' at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Is it more useful to be a 'green consumer' or a 'green citizen'?
I mentioned while the Aspen Ideas Festival was underway that I'd found a session with Hal Harvey, of Energy Innovation, particularly enlightening. The full hour-long video has just gone online, and you can see it below. 

After a brief stage-business intro from me, the first 15 minutes or so are Harvey presenting an overview of how to think about carbon, coal, natural gas, electric grids, extreme weather, and other sources of problems and possibilities. The rest is our discussion, and questions from the audience. 

I encourage you to see the first part. In fact I hope you'll want to see the whole session -- but if pressed you could skip to, say, time 43:00 to hear why the Montreal Protocol  (to preserve the world's ozone later) worked and other efforts haven't, and the related point of why Moore's Law does not apply to energy problems. Just after that is a discussion is whether there is anything that individuals can usefully do if they are concerned about climate issues. He explains the concepts of the "green citizen" vs. the "green consumer," in a clarifying way. Starting around time 53:00 Harvey gives a very useful two-minute overview on the ups and downs of nuclear power. Elsewhere you'll hear him sizing up coal, natural gas, and biofuels.

I found the session worth participating in, and hope you will find it worth watching. Also, I mention around time 55:00 the amazing abundance of wind-power turbines you see in eastern Colorado, particularly noticeable since there are so many fewer in neighboring Nebraska. Here is a minor sample, from a few days before this talk with Harvey.


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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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