The Guardian‘s 50 People who could save the planet is an interesting mix. There are some that I’ve heard of and admire. Many that I’ve never heard of and now admire. And some who I’ve heard of and ‘admire’ is far from a word that I would use for them.
What was their guiding principle?
50 people most able to prevent the continuing destruction of the planet
The article provides a lengthy and interesting discussion of their process for selecting the 50. There are great and well-known names (anyone heard of Al Gore) and far less celebrated ones (Madhav Subrmanian … see below).
Some people made it to the final 50 not just because of their work but because – like the man who has found a simple way to save energy in a refrigerator, or the boy who collects impressive amounts of money for the protection of tigers – they represented a significant grassroots technological or social movement. And some got on the list because they were considered the driving forces behind the decision-makers.
Oh, yes, Madhav Subrmanian:
next generation’s face of conservation, a 12-year-old Indian boy who goes round Mumbai collecting money for tiger conservation. With his friends Kirat Singh, Sahir Doshi and Suraj Bishnoi, he set up Kids For Tigers which works in hundreds of schools. He writes poems, sings on the streets, sells merchandise and has collected Rs500,000 (£6,500) in two years. Conservation awareness is growing in middle-class India, largely through young activists like him.
The list is interesting, even if there are many that I would have liked to see on it, with many new names and faces to me that I will now explore. There is, on first blush, only one truly outrageous name there:
Bjørn Lomborg, Statistician
Bjørn Lomborg, 42, has become an essential check and balance to runaway environmental excitement. In 2004, the Dane made his name as a green contrarian with his bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist, and outraged scientists and green groups around the world by arguing that many claims about global warming, overpopulation, energy resources, deforestation, species loss and water shortages are not supported by analysis. He was accused of scientific dishonesty, but cleared his name. He doesn’t dispute the science of climate change, but questions the priority it is given. He may look increasingly out of step, but Lomborg is one of the few academics prepared to challenge the consensus with credible data.
Where do we start screaming. Yes, Lomborg was (massively) criticized (see here, here, here, here, and, well, all over: see Putting the Heat on Lomborg for a sampling). But, where and how did he “clear his name”? This is news to me. As to “credible data”, we really have to ask what is meant by “credible“:
credible, plausible: appearing to merit belief or acceptance; “a credible witness”; “a plausible story” capable of being believed; “completely credible testimony”; “credible information”
Yes, Lomborg does cite data that is “capable of being believed”, data that “appears to merit belief or acceptance”. Yes, “credible data” for those who are willing to accept it at face value, without questioning or analysis. Seeing Lomborg’s name on the list put a horrible taste in my mouth.
Yes, the Guardian has given us 49 people who might help save the planet with 1 who is helping destroy it.