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Posts Tagged ‘media challenge’

How To Weigh Fairly the Health Risks of Nuclear Energy?

by May 5, 2011

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Photo credit, Sakucae

In her recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Unsafe at Any Dose,” physician Helen Caldicott presents a compelling health-based argument against nuclear energy. Specifically, she argues that the long-term consequences of nuclear plant disasters, like at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, are often understated. She argues that medical doctors should be consulted more frequently about cancer risks, rather than policymakers and others relying on evidence provided by physicists. She feels this is particularly true in relation to the risk of cancer from radioactive material that is ingested, such as would happen when foods are contaminated.

As I pointed out in this earlier post (Having A Rational Discussion in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster), weighing the costs and benefits of nuclear energy will obviously have to take into account health risks from radiation following inevitable malfunctions. Caldicott’s piece certainly gives me pause, because of the challenge to get our arms around some of the long-term risks that she cites. (more…)

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What A Mouthful: Eating Through the U.S. Energy Mix In 60 Seconds

by April 26, 2011

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Energy sources in order from 12 o'clock as shown in Uncle Sam's Dinner video: natural gas, biomass, coal, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, and oil.

A recent post by David Roberts on Grist.org demonstrated the value of explaining a rather simple concept about our energy system: the mix of our energy sources. In Robert’s post, he pulled out data from Black & Veatch’s Energy Market Perspective analysis on the energy sources for U.S. electricity generation, comparing the mix in 2011 to that projected for 2035.

This post made me want to take another look at the video, Uncle Sam’s Dinner, from our just-completed video contest. Specifically, I wanted to check how closely the creator, Henry Reich, had come to representing the various energy sources that make up the overall U.S. sector—not just for electricity generation. Comparing the pie chart below with the stop watch captured above, it is clear that the video is extremely accurate. See this post for the full background material on the U.S. energy sector provided to creators for this contest. (more…)

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Science Magazine’s Insights of the Decade: What Happens When Science Becomes Politicized

by April 25, 2011

f1-mediumFew would argue that topic of global warming (or the more general topic, climate change) is hugely polarizing. Richard Kerr and Eli Kintisch chronicle the past decade of research on the topic of climate change in the 17 December 2010 issue of Science. They also layer on a summary of the dynamics of the international political scene. As a scientist, I find it saddening that climate scientists have often become the target of very personal attacks. Perhaps the nadir of the decade occurred in the wake of the publication by hackers of private emails between climate scientists. Kerr and Kintisch’s synopsis will undoubtedly prove to be true: “the event may have profoundly damaged public views of climate science, with political repercussions yet to unfold.”

In terms of my personal experiences, I’m reminded of the inaugural public event for the new Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute at the University of Minnesota earlier this year. I had the occasion to meet a delightful older couple. Immediately after being introduced to them as being affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, the woman asked what I thought about Al Gore. Soon I realized: people do not tend to ask your opinion of this iconic figure in the global warming debate if they are a fan of his. My realization came after explaining that my feelings are mixed—his science is largely sound, yet I believe his politics have, unfortunately, increased the polarized nature of the debate in our country. I was left wondering if she discounted the science because of the icon, although that would be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Polarization is the norm, yet it is rather paralyzing. Does it need to be the norm? I believe the answer is a resounding no. That is why I am so passionate about launching Dialogue Earth (for more see this post and my recent op-ed in the Pioneer Press). Can we cut through the polarization on a topic like global warming? I am certain we can, although it will be no easy task.

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A New Data Point for Homeowners Considering Installation of Solar Photovoltaic Panels

by April 25, 2011

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Photo credit: http://www.solardave.com

As discussed by a number of media outlets, including the NY Times’ Green blog, a report just released by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (link to download page here) provides one more data point for homeowners weighing the costs and benefits of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their home.

Making decisions about installing solar systems is very complex, and this type of information is sure to be helpful to the decision making of homeowners. As we tackle issues like solar energy as part of our forthcoming Media Challenge, we will work with a broad network of experts to distill information such as this study. We will then work with great storytellers to bring these points to life, like in our recently-released videos that discuss energy in general terms. (more…)

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What are the top 10 energy topics that the general public should understand?

by April 22, 2011

quora-pictureGetting a handle on the priority issues that should be included in Dialogue Earth’s upcoming Media Challenge is no small task, plus it needs to be done transparently and in an inclusive manner that ultimately builds trust.

Ten years ago there were fewer options for answering a tough question like this (refer to our History section for a description of the lengthy process used in an effort to identify 100 indicators to describe the condition and use of U.S. Ecosystems). Today, there are some powerful platforms that hold considerable promise for helping to expedite this process (see discussion in this recent post).

Today, we have launched an experiment using one of the prime Q&A platforms, Quora, to explore the viability of exploring answers to this question in an open and transparent manner. If you have an opinion, please jump over to Quora and make your voice heard. You can enter answers directly, and you can vote on answers provided by others. Here is the background material that I added to the question on Quora: (more…)

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Bringing Trustworthy Energy Information to the Table

by April 20, 2011

This opinion piece authored by Kent Cavender-Bares was published in the Pioneer Press on April 20, 2011.

‘We need all of our energy options on the table!’ So say those advocating for the removal of the legal barrier preventing new nuclear plants in Minnesota. I completely agree with the sentiment and would go a step further: We need to understand all of our energy options so we can make informed decisions about them.

Does this mean entering a cycle of unending study? No. Expert studies certainly have their important role. But they are not the weak link. Rather, what is missing is an adequate transfer of knowledge from the expert community to the rest of us regarding the multiple, unequal options available. We need translators to bring technical key points to life in a way that furthers our understanding while remaining faithful to the underlying science and technology.

The challenge in making that happen with complex, controversial topics such as nuclear energy is twofold.

First, it means traversing the gap between the language of those who understand a technology like nuclear energy and the rest of us. That is where great communicators come into the picture.

Second, it means separating trustworthy information from hyperbole. We need to be able to identify and then clearly communicate a knowledge base that is widely shared by experts drawn from across society — experts from corporations like GE and Xcel as well as academics and experts from various advocacy groups and government agencies. (more…)

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Dialogue Earth’s Strategy for Building A Brand That Diverse Audiences Will Grow to Trust

by April 20, 2011

Today’s issue of the Pioneer Press carries an op-ed of mine introducing Dialogue Earth to the Twin Cities (see a re-posting on our blog here). I am very grateful for having the opportunity to get our story out in this forum.

Here’s a brief video I just recorded to explain two key elements of our strategy for building a trustworthy brand: engaging experts drawn from across society and not telling people what they should do with the information we are providing (a.k.a. non-advocacy). We believe this is at the heart of a successful formula for creating a brand that large, diverse audience will seek out to answer questions on topics that are often quite polarized.

If you are coming from Twincities.com, you might be interested in this recent piece on energy security and this one on safety related to nuclear energy. In addition, you may be interested to view the videos from our just-completed contest designed to introduce the topic of energy to general audiences as part of our forthcoming Dialogue Earth Media Challenge. We welcome your feedback!

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So, Why Energy?? — The Rationale Behind Choosing Energy For Our Media Challenge

by April 19, 2011

For our upcoming, yearlong Media Challenge, we at Dialogue Earth wanted to choose a topic that is both of importance to our collective future and that is consistently on people’s minds.

Energy was a topic that fit very well with these considerations.

Through its varying forms, energy is a topic that most people think about and must make important decisions about on a daily basis. Whether strategizing about what day of the week you should fill up your gas tank — and if you should fill up all the way, for that matter — or remembering to turn off your lights in an unoccupied room to save money on that monthly electric bill. (more…)

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Coming This Summer: The Dialogue Earth Media Challenge

by March 28, 2011

Dialogue Earth Media Challenge - homepage At Dialogue Earth, our mission is to increase public understanding on key societal topics. Since we launched a little over a year ago, we’ve spent every day trying to figure out how we make that happen.

Months of strategy meetings and pilot tests have culminated in the creation of a new event.

The inaugural Dialogue Earth Media Challenge™ will be a year-long series of 10 video contests focused on energy topics. Beginning in July 2011, creative people from across the U.S. and beyond will compete to produce compelling, short videos on a range of topics—including the basics of various energy sources, energy efficiency, hybrids, and smart grid.

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The Energy Challenge Series – Our First Concept Phase

by March 15, 2011

dialogue-earth-energy-promo-imageThrough our trials, we have found that it is best while administering our video production contests through Tongal to start out with a concept phase.  By starting the contests in this way, it gives us more opportunity to give feedback and a little bit more quality control as opposed to just allowing the producer contestants to create videos based on their interpretations of our instructions.

Also by allowing for the concept phase, we can involve the best storywriters within the creative community, many of whom do not have the resources to produce videos.  This increases overall participation, seeds our project with great concepts, and plays towards the collaborative spirit of our crowdsourcing endeavor.

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Background Information on Energy Video Pilot

by February 28, 2011

This post supports a new video contest that we are launching with partner Tongal this week on the subject of energy. This is to be the introductory contest for the forthcoming Dialogue Earth Energy Challenge, in which we expect to tackle 10 topics related to energy in 10 video contests spread out over as many months.

In that this is meant to be an introductory video, we realize it cannot do everything—especially because we are asking storytellers to limit their pieces to 90 seconds. Yet, we believe that the larger Energy Challenge needs a gateway video. It should draw people in, eventually inspiring them to click on another video or two to learn more about the details of a particular energy source, etc.

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