Saturday, May 29, 2010

Energy and Environment

I find this incredibly irritating. Gallup runs its poll on environmental protection a few days ago at the height of public attention to BP's attempts to stop the spew of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The poll asks two questions regarding 1) whether environmental protection or energy production should be given higher priority; and 2) whether environmental protection or economic development should be given higher priority.

Gallup and the news announce that Americans favor environmental protection over energy production for the first time in the ten-year history of these poll questions. The overall finding:
In March, by 50% to 43%, Americans said it was more important to develop U.S. energy supplies than to protect the environment, continuing a trend in the direction of energy production seen since 2007. Now, the majority favor environmental protection, by 55% to 39% -- the second-largest percentage (behind the 58% in 2007) favoring the environment in the 10-year history of the question.
That's just really great. Except that it perpetuates the conceptual framework that dichotomizes environment on one side and energy and economy on the other. That is precisely the dualism we need to overcome and that is what the most innovative work on new technologies, new methods, and new policies is doing. This kind of conceptual framework in the Gallup poll is a restraint and it really doesn't help to ask Americans to keep thinking of the energy-environment-economy relationship in those terms.


MT said...

The fix was in on that one.

GliderMarty said...

Good point Helmut, and one I'd missed. The same issue came up when I was on a National Research Council Committee to study national cryptographic policy about 15 years ago. There had always been an assumption that there was a tradeoff between privacy (stronger encryption) versus national security and law enforcement needs (weak encryption so they can wiretap). The chair of the committee noted that the strong encryption also helped national security (protecting American business secrets, including some with national security implications) and law enforcement (the best law enforcement is crime prevention and weak encryption makes certain crimes easier). When we’re trying to figure out which of two possibilities is correct, my wife often puts this in terms of “the big AND” – maybe both have some truth.