Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Planet Slayers and George "geologist" Bush

You're not convinced you endanger the planet with your lifestyle? Do a reality check on Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s Planet Slayer game, online at www.abc.net.au/science/planetslayer. Planet Slayer gets very specific, offering the age at which the player ought to have perished, for the good of the planet, after forcing them to reveal their expensive lifestyle choices in a quiz.

ABC chief executive officer Mark Scott had no choice. His colleague and employee Bernie Hobbs of the ABC science unit made him run the test out during the inauguration of the 5th World Conference on Science Journalists, in front of 500 or so reporters. At the end of the test, the result was that Mark should have been dead when he was 1.7 years old, with all the thousands of tons of carbon dioxide emitted as he flew around the globe and travelled in his car in Melbourne! (“I have teenage daughters” was his excuse.) As he (or you – try the game!) answered each question on lifestyle, a nice pink pig gets fatter or thinner in the picture, showing how you are contributing to global warming. Must say Mark took that with commendable composure. Must be an Australian egalitarian kind of thing. Neither Christina Scott (ex SABC) nor myself (ex Press Trust of India) can imagine our former bosses taking the grilling with such good humour. Or leaving us with a job at the end of it!

While on the topic of climate change, who can forget George W Bush Jr? But it turns out Bush spouted some accidental wisdom on the importance of good science information, according to US-based author and journalist Chris Mooney, from Seed magazine in the USA. When asked about the US preparedness with tsunami warning systems, at a press briefing on December 29, 2004, three days after the Asian tsunami, Bush meandered with his reply. But he did point out, “… I am not a geologist, as you know” . Mooney told a plenary session on biasing scientific information that science journalists need best available science information. Mooney talked about how the Republican administration under Bush interfered with reports on climate change, and science reports were increasingly edited by political people and often muzzled.

Incidentally Mooney’s next book, “Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics and the Battle Over Global Warming” will be out next June. This follows his best-seller “The Republican War on Science”, which has been floating around the World Conference of Science Journalists here in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. Lots of reporters, no sightings of koalas or kangaroos. Yet.

T V Padma, Science and Development Network, South Asia

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