The first two pieces of this series were largely comic pieces. This one is more serious. I have said this before, but I’ll repeat it – I came to science blogs for one reason, and one only – because there was no one else talking about facing up to our material limits on this kind of site, with this kind of audience. I didn’t come for the money (you may or may not believe me on this one, but as I keep saying, it isn’t that I probably don’t have a price, it is just that it isn’t a few hundred bucks a month) – I’ve donated everything I’ve ever earned here (well less than 1K, given that they rarely actually pay us) to the Heifer fund.
But the reality is that in order to find most of my old writings, you had to know what peak oil was, and why you should concerned about its intersection with climate change or food or whatever. And that’s fine – I got a lot of readers that way, and it is a great site. But that doesn’t change the fact that until energy depletion and the full scope of our material limits are fully part of the mainstream conversation, you miss a lot of people. And the more people who understand what’s going on, the more effective our response can be.
And that’s why I stayed after Pepsigate – other people have other reasons and other issues – for example, some people objected strongly to not getting paid regularly. I totally understand this, but for me, the money wasn’t the point, so I only object mildly to that. I knew I was being turned into SEED’s cash cow (a little one…moo), but I honestly didn’t care that much – that was the trade off, and there’s no life without trade offs. I knew other people were pissed at the crappy tech support, the lack of communication, the sense that SEED is three steps from bankruptcy. These all seem reasonable, but since I have the worst tech skills on the planet, I’m used to living with tech problems (we’ve had one on this blog that affects traffic since the beginning of the blog in December, with no sign of it being fixed), and I was willing to wait and see whether SEED could pull it together. All of this was one trade off for me – the chance to talk to an audience who hasn’t heard this story before – a critical and thoughtful audience that might also bring home the reality of what has to be done to their neighborhoods.
But here’s the thing – we’ve lost three more blogs in the last 24 hours. The stuff I don’t care that much about *is* legitimate – people deserve to get paid, they deserve not to have to beg for basic tech support (SEED did give us a sort-of-new tech guy 3 days a week, who promptly went on vaction – to be fair, the guy had planned it before, but well…), and they deserve to know what the state of the company is. None of these things have really been forthcoming, or forthcoming quickly. And the blogs that went – Speakeasy Science. PALMD and most of all A Blog Around the Clock, which was a model of collegiality and community building, well, they mattered.
So now the question becomes central – can science blogs still do what I’m interested in? How long before the traffic drops off? How many good blogs can it lose before it becomes a “turn off the lights on your way out” scenario for the rest of us. Bora, in his final manifesto observed both the value of science blogs, but also argued that they were fundamentally unnecessary, that the technology was changing fast enough that science blogs can be replicated. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I do know that I find the upheaval here distracting from my central project, and that’s not good. I think Speakeasy Science’s departure blog was a good way of describing the degree to which this is unsettling.
Right before this happened, I turned down a-probably-even-higher-traffic blog position at a magazine blog, because I didn’t want to move my blog twice in a year – it is a huge pain. That option is now closed to me, and I’m left with the question – do I stay? I know some of you are rooting for me to leave, others to stay. I’ve got several other options, good ones, including, of course, ye olde blogge. And again, the question is this – how do I get this story to the most people who haven’t full heard it, or haven’t heard enough of it to believe it? If scienceblogs helps, great. If they don’t – I need to find a new way to do it.
That’s always been what mattered to me – that more people know. Every person who understands that our world is headed towards a crisis that can be offset in some measure (that’s not the same as magically fixed) by human action makes this better in some way. Every action we take in advance while there’s still time makes a difference – every renewable energy system we build, every local farm we support, every walkable infrastructure we create, every community garden we make, every time people stop their infighting and actually work together, the future gets better for me, for you, for posterity.
The thing is, I have a great deal of faith in big tents – not in the idea that we’ll all just stop arguing and love each other, but in the idea that people with wildly disparate backgrounds and experiences and beliefs can actually work together when confronted with something that’s serious enough. I actually think one of the interesting results of all of this has been that the sciencebloggers have demonstrated exactly that working with one another – unfortunately, against their management. In a way, I find this heartening. I’m just not sure how best to make this happen in the wide, wide world.
Decision forthcoming, when I get around to it.