OBAMA’S GREEN TEAM:
Barack Obama is bringing science back to Washington. After eight years in which science was ignored or censored by the Bush administration and right-wingers in Congress, Obama’s choices of environmental and energy aides promise a very different approach.
(tapped as energy secretary),
(White House science adviser) and
(head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are first-rate intellects who have long records of speaking out on behalf of the public good.
Chu, who won the
Nobel Prize for Physics
in 1997, has called energy “the single most important problem that science has to solve” and grasps basic points that have been absent from the Washington debate in recent years, such as the fact that energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to fight climate change and that burning more coal would be a disaster unless the carbon dioxide can be reliably captured and stored–a very big if.
Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard, has been advising Obama for months, which may account for the president-elect’s understanding–rare among US politicians–that climate change “is happening faster than even the most pessimistic scientists were anticipating a couple of years ago.” Lubchenco, a professor at Oregon State University who ranks among the most distinguished oceanographers in the world, has led efforts to restore ecological balance in the seas–a “Mutiny for the Bounty,” she calls it–which requires reversing climate change.
Getting the science right is no guarantee that good policies will follow, but it is a prerequisite. Obama recognizes that investing in the new green economy is a solution to many problems, and he couldn’t have chosen more capable and committed scientists to assist in that essential work. MARK HERTSGAARD
BLOGGERS UNDER FIRE:
According to a
Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) report released December 4, of the 125 media workers in prison–a list that includes
, a photographer held in US custody in Iraq–more of them published online than in any other medium.
The majority of online journalists behind bars come from China, the most high-profile of the many countries where
have been accused of complicity with human rights violations. CPJ cites the
Global Network Initiative
as one effort to address this. Developed by these companies in cooperation with investors, academics and human rights organizations, the initiative details a set of principles aimed at protecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. It’s difficult to tell whether the voluntary program will rein in the actions of the corporations.
“They’ve been named and shamed before, and their behavior has not really changed,” said
, author of The Blogging Revolution. Participants are asked to assess their impact in new markets and to maintain transparency, but they are not required to break local laws or pull out of offending countries.
Meanwhile, Loewenstein stressed his faith in the motives of, if not Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, then the human rights groups involved. “I’m skeptical only because I’ve seen these companies operating in China, and it’s really ugly,” he said. “I’m happy to be proven wrong.” SARAH ARNOLD