Dear mayor and city councilors,

Thank you for your time & attention to this issue.

I remember the 1970s oil crisis, when oil prices spiked, we sat in cars in long lines for gas, and America had a sudden and profound interest in energy independence and clean energy. Even as a kid it was pretty obvious that pollution was bad, and that we had alternatives. I was excited about the future I would be growing up into when I read articles about electric cars, and saw that the president had put solar water heating panels up on the White House roof. (By this time, the fossil fuel companies had done research that convinced them that global warming was real, but they chose to keep that research private.)

I was very disappointed when the next president chose to take down those solar water heating panels. Why would he do that? Fossil fuel prices had come back down, and many people seemed okay with the increasing pollution that burning more fossil fuels brings.

By the end of the 1980s, I had graduated from college and was working at Technical Education Research Center, formatting and laying out climate science pilot curricula for middle and high school students. I and my co-workers watched James Hansen’s testimony to Congress on climate change with great interest. The data he presented was very concerning, and convincing, and we were glad to see there was bipartisan interest to take action. By 1992, George H. W. Bush signed the UN Convention on Climate Change and it appeared that major change would be coming soon.

People playing golf while the hillside behind them is engulfed in flames.

But rather than supporting and joining in any effort for change, fossil fuel companies chose propaganda. They hired the Heartland Institute, the same organization who had successfully produced confusion to delay action on tobacco smoking, to do the same for global warming. It worked. Another decade lost, as one party chose to go along with the lies and obfuscation. (By this time, fossil fuel companies had also chosen to actively prepare for how to continue their extraction and distribution in a future of significantly rising temperatures, which internally they were certain was coming.)

By the early 2000s, they had even convinced climate activists like Bill McKibben that natural gas was a good thing, a “bridge fuel” we could choose that was better than oil or coal. (I was fooled too!) While it is true that the methane in natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, it is also a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2. And there is so much leakage in systems of methane extraction, storage, and distribution that its warming effect on our climate is frequently found to be just as bad as coal. Fossil fuel companies could have been pro-active in responding to this, but instead they chose to continue lying, obfuscating, and dragging their feet, even as the evidence became clearer and clearer. (Remember BP’s expensive 2000 ad campaign rebranding themselves as “Beyond Petroleum,” while they continued to extract the stuff full speed?)

Given all of the choices that fossil fuel companies have made over the decades, I hope you will forgive me if I do not trust a thing they say which is not well supported by independent experts. If they had not made all of those choices to actively confuse the public, then publicly available, widely trusted information would by now have convinced the overwhelming majority of people to choose electricity for cooking & heating, and this legislation would have been unnecessary.

Instead we live in this world, where these companies have done nothing but sow confusion and doubt. It is entirely reasonable for you to have been pretty sure of your vote even before hearing the testimony and evidence of the past few months. Ending methane in new construction is not some radical new idea out of left field. Rather it is, along with all of the other work you have been doing to reduce greenhouse gases, decades overdue.

Thank you again for your time.

Life,
John Abbe
Ward 4
Eugene, Oregon

Advertisement

Until recently I occasionally would note that, “I never met a meta I didn’t like.” Going meta is such an important practice to me that I introduced it twice in our process of developing the Group Works deck, because the first time around it got renamed and then changed meaning beyond recognition under the new name — which is in a sense actually affirming of its power. The second time I introduced it, it stuck, even if the heart description does not fit my understanding perfectly. For me, it is very much centered on the shift “from content to process.”

== == ==

The metaverse of Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams, as in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, is not just a virtual 3-D world with believably-rendered faces. It is the 3-D world. Everyone just has to be in it, and land ownership in the novel was a very, very big deal. The company that owned the metaverse was bigger than any tech company in our world. This is what Zuckerberg wants — to capture part of the free market, become a rentier over some critical bottleneck of the World Wide Web, so that he and his company might have an endless profit stream.

We escaped that dystopian future when AOL, CompuServer et al joined the Internet one by one. Thank goodness! I laughed when I got what Stephenson was suggesting, because it was ridiculous to believe that it could happen. The Internet was already so multifarious in 1992 I couldn’t believe that we would let it happen.

I should not have been so sure. We have allowed social media and everything app companies to enclose far too much of our online activities. Fortunately, there are so many layers and options of independence — email and DNS come to mind — that even behemoths like Facebook and Google remain vulnerable, as the current rise of Mastodon and the fediverse suggest. The odds are looking okay to preserve what remains of and grow out the online commons — collectively ours, “if we can keep it.”

(Especially to the degree the ad markets are in a big bubble. Surely this is what Facebook fears, and why they’re placing big bets on finding another, more solid way of locking up future profits.)


Twitter has peaked. The shareholders got paid handsomely, showing yet again that in a ‘well-functioning’ capitalism – by many people’s definition – capitalists can benefit from the destruction of what they nominally are stewarding. (See too many owners of rented housing, and forest & mine land-owners.) In this case showing that public assembly spaces in particular ought not be entrusted to capitalists, even relatively benevolent ones such as the previous ownership which was certainly very imperfect, but did moderation better than FB, TikTok et al. They still sold out to make a buck.

Musk will reinvent it as something, no one knows what, or how ‘big’ it will be five or ten years from now. Maybe he’ll make a ton of money. Maybe Twitter will still be very influential in some circles. And many networks & communities who do not yet have a home elsewhere ought to be supported whatever that looks like. But a critical mass of technologists (including Tim Bray), activists (including a major upcoming instance for climate justice activists), academics, journalists (and journalists), maybe not yet businesses (fine with me so far), but some governments (and electeds), and cat lovers have already set up alternatives or are considering or preparing moves. Twitter is on a rapid track to being less central to the web, and I doubt there is anything that can turn that around. (Advertisers are pausing or pulling out. The head of Apple’s app store closed his Twitter account. If they drop the app, Twitter’s value and income instantly drop substantially.)

The independent web is buzzing as it has not for almost 20 years. I have heard this spontaneously in my own head multiple times, and have heard the same from many geeks I have not been in touch with in a while as we run into each other on Mastodon, formerly-quiet mailing lists, etc. I’m not sure what else Musk could have done that would have been more effective in achieving this outcome.

a Mastodon mascot (laughing while holding a phone)
A Mastodon mascot, by dopatwo.
Free software – more about rights

If Zuckerberg and the TikTok folks would do some of their more obviously evil things right about now that would be super-helpful (kidding not kidding). Tumblr is joining the Fediverse (the open system Mastodon is part of), Flickr is considering it, a better Mastodon plug-in is in development for WordPress (open software which runs ~40% of the web by some measures), and the for-profit WordPress.com which hosts many WordPress sites is Tumblr’s owner, so they are likely to join as well if Tumblr’s experiment works out. (They are also capitalists ultimately, but as part of the Fediverse if/when they go full evil it will be far less disruptive because people can copy their blogs elsewhere. Just like it’s hard to disrupt email – even if GMail went down, email would continue.)

The Mastodon commons is buzzing with technical considerations (scaling, security, interface challenges, inefficiencies as things stand, how federation really works, etc.) and substantial moderation issues, and there have been & will be many more missteps and outright fails ahead but I see enough positive developments I feel very hopeful. You will hear about many alternatives over the next while if you have not already. My hot takes (largely standing on the shoulders of the giants I follow): Post – ew, Hive Social – yuck!, CounterSocial – no, Cohost – okay that one actually may be interesting, and many others most of which are too different to be even be very relevant (e.g., Discord). But the way things are looking now, micro-blogging is sliding toward the Fediverse and Mastodon. The last time I felt this positive about technology might have been when I first found wiki.

Feel free to comment, would love to hear your perspective even if you are trying to change my view. :-)


Mastodon has been around for a few years now, so the timing was pretty good for it to handle the recent inflow of participants from Twitter. I think of the occasional outages as the flood comes in as a feature, it will help new users not to expect perfection. Sounds like info security folks and a lot of other techies have really moved on now, plus a critical mass of journalists (also see newsie.social ) and academics (still looking for good lists of academics, if you have any share ’em!). EDIT: list of lists of academics

And thank goodness, because the Fediverse – Mastodon and some other services – is an actual commons, owned collectively by everyone who runs a server. Public conversation there is real public conversation, it’s not happening in a mall and it is not distorted by profit-focused management or moderation. If people you’re following or who are following you on Twitter have accounts on Mastodon, you can easily find & follow all of them using Fedifinder or Debirdify.

There are more good resources at https://fedi.tips/ and I may post more here, certainly will toot on Mastodon itself (And tweet on the birdsite!) I am @SlowEnough@mastodon.social and will likely add another account or two soonish. This is one of Mastodon’s strengths is that you can participate from multiple servers!

This is all very promising but it’s important to remember that most people and groups are not moving over quickly en masse, and this is one of the reasons for at least some of us who are setting up on Mastodon to stick around and support people around the world and in various subcultures who will be on Twitter for a while. The for-profit service is still a critical pseudo-public forum right now, and even if it deteriorates “quickly” it is likely to remain an important social space for years. Ethan Zuckerman made this point well in this thread. (via the ever-wonderful Nancy White@nancywhite). Zuckerman also pointed to crossposter.masto.donte.com.br and moa.party, two tools which you can set up and they will pass tweets & toots back and forth between your accounts.


My introduction to Buddhism was Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught. The part that stuck with me the most, about both Buddhism and religion in general is that it does not have to be dogmatic, there does not have to be anything which is “taken as gospel.” I know that is often not how things are in practice in Buddhist circles, but it stuck in my head that Buddha talked about trying what he said out and seeing for ourselves.

Love these whimsical dwarves. And no, I don’t believe Buddha went to Kelaniya. copyright 2015 Denish C

Despite never yet finding a full sangam, I personally have gotten a lot from the little I understand & practice of Buddhism. I see how imperfect Buddhist (and most) institutions are, how destructive many of them can be. I think it helps to have a healthy skepticism of any powers that be. (I’ve likewise gotten a lot from devotees of nonviolence, although it as well can fail when it becomes naive or dogmatic. Fortunately it has devotees who are neither. The nonviolent resistance in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia has been inspiring. On the flip side I do not begrudge anyone keeping an eye on excesses from “my” side – I live in the USA.)

The best critics of Buddhism I’m aware of are from within Buddhism itself, which has had countless reform movements. I don’t recall enough to say where to start, I got a ~half-hour overview of the religion’s mainline reform movements across South Asia through history from a monk long ago. Each region and tradition has its critics.

Vajra Chandrasekara is an author in Sri Lanka who has both read deeply on Buddhism in general, and is familiar with Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy and institutions. He’s also pointed me to others’ helpful critiques. Here’s a thread of his on being unbuddhist. EDIT: Honestly, he seems far more concerned about the damage from Buddhist violence than Buddhist pacifism.

Someone asked on r/Buddhism about critics of pacifism, I wrote this and decided I wanted it here as well.


A blizzard of scarcities and plentitudes of confession, of contrition, of defiance, denial, anger, guilt, sorrow, despair, rage anxiety impatience silent & noisy desperation, and, exhaustion.

And then, somehow, Contact:

A moment’s peace,
a dynamic peace,
a peace of many wholes and
a whole of many pieces
in play,
dancing.

It’s just that sometimes I forget that I love you.

Overlooking the reminders surrounding me,
or missing their meaning (as I was taught),
I sit as if alone.

As if gravity itself is insufficient evidence of our bonds.


We are all drawn together.


These were my mom’s.

…there is love.

cropped from Luke Hayfield’s photo, copyright 2010

I need to fall in love.


We’re learning about climate on Mars from a webcam (installed to send us pictures of a now lost lander), which is now being used to reveal more about this long cloud which sometimes persists on the planet:

A Mars Express image of Arsia Mons on Mars and its strange long cloud, taken on July 19, 2020. (Image credit: ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao)
ESO/Y.Beletsky – ESO

And it looks like the zodiacal light one can see from any place with dark skies comes from dust also associated with Mars(!), and we’ve been able to learn this because the Juno spacecraft’s huge solar panels turned out to be accidental dust detectors and it looped round the solar system a few times on its way to Jupiter.

The more you look around, the more you find things that you weren’t even looking for.




Blog Stats

  • 767 hits
February 2023
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  
This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been a real life you would not have been told where to go and what to do.