Up Next: ‘Conscious Computing:

From Energy Consumption to the Ethics of Data Viz’

(11am MDT, Fri. May 4th)

Great to take part in #REAP2018 conference and Agri-tech Week earlier this month, showcasing the innovative agritech and crop protection research taking place at @UniofHerts! Find out more about tapping into our research offering: https://t.co/MA6fOYnzA0 @AgriTechEast #ATW2018

Thanks to everyone that came to our 'Soil Health Circular Economy' event, part of of AgriTech Week. A perfect finale to #ATW2018! Until next year...


Agri-Tech Week - our blog looks back on a week of data management and robot launching and soils health and precision spraying.....well, you can read it for yourself - https://t.co/J3ziXNInqB. Thanks to @Laura_AgriTech for #ATW2018 inspiration and insights too.

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  1. Howard Nye on May 1, 2018 at 1:33 pm Reply

    Responses to various participants re. growth from the chat. The earth will not fail to support life for another 7.5 billion years. We have massive responsibilities to the enormous numbers of sentient beings who will inhabit it throughout that time. Also contemporary biological humans will most likely case to exist via giving rise to descendant species and / or artificial intelligent systems. Either way what we do now will definitely affect what they do.
    What do you mean when you say ‘capitalism’? I really have no idea. If you just mean an economy where most productive assets are privately owned and the economy functions through markets, then here is no alternative to it. If you think we have to wait to address climate change until your commie revolution (which is desired by no one but a few academics) comes, that’s a death sentence for huge numbers of humans and non-human animals.
    Sure; I certainly agree that we should care about non-human animals in economic growth, but getting others to share this view is a long term project. It is also best facilitated by as Tobias Leenaert would put it, making compassion easier, by e.g. developing affordable lab-grown animal products. But given that climate change is a short run project, I think that advocacy has to be willing to work against a backdrop of moral assumptions by most of one’s audience that are far from perfect.
    I’m afraid that speculatively imagining away privately owned assets and market economies (to which there really are no workable alternatives) is a radical waste of time, especially if we are to address the very short-term problem of climate change.

  2. Howard Nye on May 1, 2018 at 2:32 pm Reply

    I hope that this is obvious but perhaps I should still clarify: the most progressive economies in north Europe and the policies proposed by individuals like Bernie Sanders all very much involve a market economy where most assets are privately owned. Even functioning economies in countries that are nominally communist, like China, are market-based and involve private share ownership (North Korea, on the other hand, is what a centrally planned economy looks like). Progressive redistribution and pro-environmental regulation are entirely consistent with market economies and privately owned assets; moreover there may well be beneficial interactions between progressive economic policies (like those of northern Europe and proposed by Sanders) and pro-environmental policies, and both of these may well be politically feasible. But economically illiterate speculation about something other than markets and private shares in firms, regardless of the degree of progressive redistribution and pro-environmental regulation, is simply not helpful in the context of short to medium term policy discussions. Much worse, loud pronouncements of being against growth and against markets & private assets, with no proposed alternatives – leading one’s audience to suspect that one can only be in favour of the sort of state control that involves gulags and bread lines, seems to me to be extremely ineffective environmental advocacy. You do realize that this is on the internet and any ordinary individual who is not a fully indoctrinated academic Marxist can come across it and be really put off by it, don’t you? I think that the more we associate environmental advocacy with fringe economic ideas, the more we encourage members of the general public to become climate deniers and to elect right-wing politicians who thwart our attempts to mitigate environmental damage.

  3. Shelby Carleton on May 2, 2018 at 11:00 am Reply

    LINK: Want to learn more about Petra Dolata’s work on Energy in Society? Check it out here http://energyinsociety.strikingly.com/

  4. Mark Simpson on May 2, 2018 at 11:23 am Reply

    Petra: A fascinating discussion of the history of sustainability! Your account of the connections between crisis and sustainability is especially compelling. If sustainability is historically normative, is crisis likewise a normative concept in modernity?

  5. Mark Simpson on May 2, 2018 at 11:52 am Reply

    Howard: a really engaging presentation! What for you is the best mechanism to turn how people should reason into how people actually do reason?

  6. Howard Nye on May 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm Reply

    Correction at 29:42 (https://youtu.be/g6r3__91oWw?t=1796): the 1,840 metric tons of C02 equivalent is Nolt’s estimate for the LIFETIME emissions of an average US citizen, not the ANNUAL emissions of the average US citizen. This does not affect anything further of substance that I say.

  7. Shelby Carleton on May 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm Reply

    Ken Hiltner has recently been exploring ways of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of academic conferences. Check out the link to see more of his work: http://hiltner.english.ucsb.edu/

  8. Oliver Rossier on May 3, 2018 at 4:12 pm Reply

    The UCSB sustainability study that Ken Hiltner referred to is located at:

  9. Oliver Rossier on May 3, 2018 at 4:16 pm Reply

    Here is a link to Peter Kalmus’ book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution:

  10. Shelby Carleton on May 3, 2018 at 4:19 pm Reply

    LINK: Andrew Glover is interested in implementing sustainability both on and off campus, particularly in air travel, conferencing, remote presence, and digital engagement. Check out his work on “The Unsustainability of Academic Aeromobility in Australian Universities” here: https://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/g/glover-dr-andrew

  11. Geoffrey Rockwell on May 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm Reply

    I love the idea of the conference robot, but it looks fragile. Are there versions that could be set on a table in a lecture hall that can pan around and don’t have to worry about rolling around?

    • Peter Kalmus on May 3, 2018 at 5:32 pm Reply

      Replying to Howard Nye: I’m not sure I disagree with you (I will definitely check out your talk). My point was simply that, in my experience at least, leading with a smile and demonstrating what’s genuinely satisfying about the change seems more effective than shaming. I’ve seen individuals shame other individuals in real time, and how this alienates, entrenches, and fractures communities.

      That said, I’d suggest that perhaps shaming *institutions* (i.e. appealing to their appeals to morality) could be effective. But I’m also not sure what I said that you’re disagreeing with. Clarify perhaps?

    • Andrew Glover on May 3, 2018 at 7:46 pm Reply

      There are versions that are stationary, and there are also 360 degree cameras that allow people to move their field of vision around to whoever is speaking. The robots I’ve used are relatively stable, some have self balancing features. But regardless of how stable the devices are, I still think some kind of ‘chaperone’ is needed in case you lose the wifi signal, or run out of battery.

  12. Howard Nye on May 3, 2018 at 5:01 pm Reply

    Re. especially Hiltner’s idea about losing face-to-face interaction: would not the optimal combination be one where we combine (i) live interaction on-line with (ii) opportunities for non-live text interaction? We’re doing that a bit with this conference – both among the participants (e.g. Petra in Calgary & me in Edmonton) and with the audience able to ask questions live, while we’ve also had opportunity for non-live text interaction. Could some conferences not also involve arrangements between particular panels to meet live at a time that works for them, which would be available non-live to those who aren’t able to make it to the live stream?

  13. Howard Nye on May 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Re. Kalmius on puritans: I agree that guilt and shame aren’t typically effective rhetorical strategies for motivating change, but I think that it is important not to conflate that correct idea with what I take to be the false idea that reducing one’s own emissions can’t make a morally relevant difference to the lives of others even independent of one’s role-modelling the change to others. I gave an extended argument to this effect in my talk yesterday.

  14. Peter Kalmus on May 3, 2018 at 5:21 pm Reply

    If you’re interested in flying less, please join us at https://noflyclimatesci.org. -Peter Kalmus

  15. Kathleen on May 3, 2018 at 5:25 pm Reply

    Re: digital conference alternatives.
    Would setting up a chat room (Slack or Discord) offer more chance for folks to ‘spontaneously’ make connections & network? Ideally, a larger chat room with smaller rooms dedicated to topics if the conference attendance is large. Benefits include: instigating private chat with a person of interest; options for voice conversation in addition to text; informal & immediate conversation with peers.

  16. Oliver Rossier on May 3, 2018 at 5:51 pm Reply

    Here is a link to Maryella Hatfield’s website on the The Future Makers film:

  17. Howard Nye on May 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm Reply

    Re. the idea that “it’s all over” mentioned by the Sidney panel: that could only be true if there was only one threshold of GHG emissions that triggers all climate harm, any minute amount beneath which no harm would occur, and any amount above which no additional harm would occur. That is manifestly not the case; as the sources I cited in my talk indicate, one has a chance of tripping many different triggers with one’s emissions – Broome actually argues that it is virtually certain that one’s emissions will trip some triggers that wouldn’t have been tripped had one not made the emissions.

  18. Oliver Rossier on May 3, 2018 at 5:58 pm Reply

    I also really appreciate Peter Kalmus’ guide to making our own pie [chart]:

  19. Howard Nye on May 3, 2018 at 5:59 pm Reply

    I’m having trouble with the reply feature – when I click the reply button and type my reply, I try to hit the submit button but nothing happens.

  20. Howard Nye on May 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm Reply

    Replying to Peter Kalmus (sorry, I can’t get the actual reply feature to work). Sorry for the lack of clarity – I agree with you 100% about what constitutes effective messaging. What I was disagreeing about was what I took to be your suggestion that our individual acts of reducing our emissions are not an important way of addressing climate change independent of their role-modelling effects on others. In my talk yesterday I defended the idea (supported by quite a few other ethicists too) that our individual emissions actually have a chance of inflicting morally relevant harm on others, and that the risk of our emissions doing so is a powerful moral reason to reduce our emissions – quite independent of whether our reducing our emissions has role-modelling effects on others. Of course the fact that reducing our emissions can have role-modelling effects on others increases the extent to which such reductions decrease the risk of climate-related harm to others reduce and this further strengthens the moral reasons to reduce them. But as I argue the fact that our individual emissions have a risk of inflicting harm on others is already a very powerful and often decisive moral reason to reduce them, quite independently of whether these role-modelling effects are present.

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