Showing posts with label yucca. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yucca. Show all posts

Friday, January 5

Polarizing The Issues

Jonathan Adler's The Volokh Conspiracy recently noted the New York Times article pointing out that there is much more to the climate change than "believers" and "heretics" in the debate about global warming. After presenting what he calls a great step toward the "middle ground," the post spirals away into 90 comments that are largely polarized on this issue once again. It's a shame because polarization is non-communication and it's all too common in the United States.

Regardless of the issue, any time two sides become too firmly entrenched in their views and opinions, screaming that they are right and all dissenters are wrong, any potential action on this becomes paralyzed. And unless things change, the debate is already pointless because nobody is listening anyway.

It's the same same in any group environment, whether individual, political, or commercial. If an argument becomes a battle of wills in the household, community, business, or industry, then the debate is already over. And, once labels are attached to the opposing sides, there is hardly ever any room for the middle ground.

Although what author Andrew Revkin calls a "third stance" emerging that "challenges both poles of the debate" hardly seems like a third view to me (suggesting that since we're unwilling to fix the problem we may as well invest in disaster preparedness), a more tangible third view is unlikely to surface as long as the polar views are willing to drown out new voices. As I said, non-communication.

Perhaps with a hint of sarcasm, I blame Al Gore. He had an opportunity to share facts in “An Inconvenient Truth" and mostly he did, with exception to several moments of political bitterness. One would think, after running for president, he would have learned by now to stay on message. If it was about global warming, then maybe that would be enough.

The American media could use a shot in the arm on this issue and others too. Do we always need two talking heads taking the polar position on each and every view? Sure, I appreciate "controversy" is one of a dozen or so definitions of news, but I dare say the public is becoming addicted to rubbernecking accident scenes. Based on blog searches alone, controversies seem to rule the day.

Meanwhile, as we play polarization in the United States, the British government announced a 100 million pound fund to help the National Health Service in the battle to beat the global warming crisis. The fund is intended to help hospitals and other health sector buildings cut carbon dioxide emissions, increase energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

"Whilst there is much more we need to understand - both in science and economics - we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risks, the time-scale for action and how to act effectively," Sir Nicholas said, who recently released a review that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20 percent.

It's a global review that is gaining traction elsewhere in the world, even if it is not so in the United States. The only reason it is over there and not here, in my opinion, is because the the British, although they too disagree, seem less addicted to polarization to such a degree that politicians will actually switch positions on an issue once they learn it is embraced by an opponent or opposite party. Sure, contrast messages work in politics, but not so much when they are fabricated for the sake of contrast.

From a communication observation that can be applied anywhere, keep in mind that polarization is non-communication. Whether it is a small issue like "should blogs allow anonymous comments or not" to very big issues like "should we store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain" or not.

In conclusion, on the issue of global warming, the debate is over. Everybody lost. Now that it is over, can we please get to the business of saving people from global warming, because it seems to me that people will need more saving than the planet.

Sunday, April 3

Making A Mountain Of Lies

It was no surprise to me to learn that scientists on the nuclear waste project in Nevada fabricated their quality assurance reports. As a junior in college, majoring in journalism, I wrote an article about the Yucca Mountain project in 1990. It was prompted by a comment made by one of the presenters at the first public forum held in Reno, Nev.

The presenter stated to a group of 50 residents that spent nuclear pellets were ''safe enough to hold in your hand.'' It was a lie, the first of what would later become a 15-year mountain of deception from the U. S. Department of Energy, an agency with a long track record of lies.

The newest batch of fabrications and cover-up tactics were recently released in a 90-page collection of e-mails uncovered by a subcommittee headed by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev. One e-mail highlighted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal states: ''I've made up the dates and names. ... If they need more proof I will be happy to make up more stuff.''

It's scary stuff to think people entrusted with the transportation and storage of deadly nuclear waste would lie. And it's equally scary to me that we continue to see a growing number of people — public figures and politicians — who seem grossly ignorant of how to remedy their own dishonesty. They should take the time to know. After all, it seems to me that most severe credibility damage is never the initial fabrication but in how truth is handled when it finally comes to light.

More often than not, modern liars will attempt to cover up the lie or somehow attempt to minimize it with invalid justifications. This flawed tactic leads to more lies, half-truths, or demands of privacy (usually to protect other lies that have yet to be uncovered), which inevitably leads to complete self-destruction. They eventually lose everything instead of simply taking responsibility for what is sometimes a much lighter infraction. The motivation, of course, is fear. Someone caught in a lie is afraid of the consequences so they will do anything and everything to cover it up, which only makes it worse.

The best remedy to prevent such a catastrophe is to make it a point to never lie. Ethics 101. Professional communicators engage in truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding. The ''spin'' factor does not apply.

However, since we all know people are human and are often tempted to do the wrong thing, it might be helpful to know the only strategy that truly succeeds at remedying the wrong done to others by perpetuating lies. First and foremost, stop it. At some point, the lies have to stop or they and any cover up will consume your life until you won't even know who you are anymore.

Second, admit the mistake and the lie(s), recognizing your wrongdoing, and promptly correct any erroneous communication for which you are responsible. This is your one and only opportunity to come clean by providing full disclosure of any related misdeeds and lies. The smallest details matter. If you don't move to voluntary offer full disclosure, you risk losing even more credibility when related lies are uncovered (they always are) or in demanding partial secrecy (as the person asking for a second chance, you must give up your right to make demands).

Third, make a real effort to undo any damage caused. It is not enough to admit the mistake, demonstrate remorse, and promise to never do it again. Inevitably, when someone lies, people suffer. And even if no amount of positive action may ever truly heal the damage caused, it remains the burden of the liar to do everything possible to remedy or minimize the damage done to the people they hurt.

Fourth, volunteer to be transparent, forgoing secrets or privacy for some undefined period of time, which is usually dependent on the severity of the misdeed and the number of lies that followed. Open and honest communication is the only way to restore credibility and trust. If you make continued demands for privacy, it only reinforces the idea that you have more to hide from the people who suffered. In time, you may be trusted again.

Fifth, promise to never lie again (not only to the people you lied to, but to yourself), exonerate the victims (most lies and cover ups involve discrediting the victims), and always guide others to making better life choices. In short, let your example, provided it does not hurt or embarrass someone, help other people avoid making the same mistake.

It is almost never the error, but in how we handle the error that defines our character and public perception. So in the months ahead, it will be no surprise to me if some proponents of Yucca Mountain attempt to do exactly the opposite of what I outlined above. Most will be too afraid to attempt such a remedy. After all, they weren't brave enough to face the truth to begin with, which is exactly why they resorted to one lie, and then a mountain of them.

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