The Dinner Party

I was asked this by a friend recently, and it has been stuck in my head (even though the whole idea requires an egomaniacal suspension of disbelief) - "If you could sit down to dinner with the people you think see the world we're in most clearly and spend dinner working on how to change things and be ready for a crisis, who would you invite to eat with you?"  He added the caveat that I can have as many people as I want, and no, I don't have to cook and clean up ;-).

Actually, if I were going to do this, I would love to host.  I like nothing better than to be the one doing the cooking, although I won't complain if someone else helps with the dishes afterwards.  Honestly, I'm never happier than putting together dinner for a crowd, so let's call it 25 people (which is the sit-down limit in my dining room with two tables open).  Since this is my fantasy, my children are off visiting someone else for the evening, and so besides Eric and me (of course my husband, who has always been the most interesting person to me in any room since I met him is the first person I want) I get to invite 23 guests to make the plan to save the world.

That's a bit of a crowd, and I do have to recognize that since 25 people can't really all speak to one another over two tables easily, we might have to have dinner three or four times before we save the world.  That's ok.  I have lots of recipes, and I love having dinner guests.  I still think more is good - and the intersection of people who might not otherwise meet worth a lot in terms of opening up ideas.  And hey, if they all won't actually come to dinner, well, at least you can meet them here and see their work.

I have intentionally not emphasized political power players - the task was to come up with responses, not (yet) to implement them.  My observation from working with people in power is that they are (correctly) aware of current limits in ways that are probably not helpful - I agree those limits exist, but I also find that crises change limits in a moment - one day something is impossible, the next it is necessary.  My assumption is that the parameters that were set involve a response taken out of the box when you need it, not necessarily the (equally necessary, but you can't do everything at once) adaptation of the current zeitgeist to make change possible.

Because this is a dinner party, I've mixed people I already know and respect who are important thinkers, with a few more famous people that I'd like to meet, often people who might help get the message out.  I've tried to put in people I agree with, people I disagree with and a nice mix of different perspectives.  So here's my ideal dinner party.

- Jeffrey Brown, creator of the Export Land Model. The ELM is probably the most critical factor in how oil depletion will play out, and almost no one understands it.  I'm lucky enough to know Jeff personally, and serve with him on the ASPO-USA board (which isn't an accident, I drafted him ;-)), and I'm continually shocked by the fact that this incredibly important idea is so badly understood.

- Juliet Schor Her work on how we use time and money and resources is critical to understanding the possibilities of the future - and that we are not bound by our present paradigm.  I can't think of anyone else who intersects issues of real life, sociology and economics so brilliantly.  I don't know her, but boy I wish I did.

- Bill McKibben I assume pretty much everyone knows who Bill is, and his work on climate.  I don't always agree with his focus, but what's remarkable is his ability to put together functional activist organizations and to move on issues that are stagnating in other ways.  McKibben and I have corresponded before and he has kindly read  and blurbed my books, but he hasn't been to dinner.  But hey it isn't too long a ride, and we've got mutual friends as well!

- Naomi Davis is often the person in the room getting folks to grasp energy and environmental issues, particularly climate change.  Her organization, Blacks in Green and her work in Chicago neighborhoods as really made a critical difference in raising understanding.  I'm lucky to serve on the board of ASPO-USA with her as well, and what I'd really want is her advice on how to make inroads into conversations that don't yet include these issues.

- Andrew Sullivan of The Dish at the Daily Beast has done more than anyone I can think of to put his view of the world into the cultural mainstream - and it is a nuanced and complex viewpoint.  Sullivan's writing suggest he's aware of peak oil and certainly concerned with climate change - I'd love to get him connected to someone like Jeff Brown to make a clear explanation of exactly why you should be worried about oil issues.

- Aaron Newton and I wrote a book together, so he's an easy sell to me.  But since _A Nation of Farmers_ Aaron has created the role of Local Food Czar  (ok, that's not his official title, but county governments use dull language ;-)) for his county in North Carolina, focusing not just on local food production, but on the kinds of infrastructure building that allow the processing and expansion of lcoal food.  Aaron is a genius, and he's doing on the ground work - both small farming and supporting local food that needs to be duplicated all across America.

- Kurt Cobb It might seem strange that so many of my fellow board members at ASPO-USA are on this list, but let's just that knowing one another through our work on the board has made it obvious just how extraordinary my colleagues are and how lucky I am to work with them. Kurt simply writes the clearest, most sparkling, most accessible prose on energy and environmental issues out there - period, no debate.  If there's one person that could make the general public understand the complex issues of climate and energy despite mass scientific illiteracy, he's it.

Rod Dreher, of American Conservative Magazine believes in and understands peak oil, climate change and why growth may have to end, and in his book _Crunch Cons_ began to stake out a space for an environmentally conscious conservativism based on the preservation of the future.  His is a really critical voice in this discussion, because no one side of the political spectrum has the power to implement mass change alone.  Rod and I are long correspondents and friends, but we've never met in person, so this would be a good chance to get him to my house.  He's currently in France, so he can bring wine and political leaven ;-).

I'm going to allow myself one totally unbelievable dinner guest, for for that I'm going to ask for Ban Ki-Moon.  I know the UN Secretary General isn't coming to my house, but if I have to go for broke, I think I'd go there, and want to take a real shot at getting the UN to think seriously about energy depletion.  Without putting realistic geological estimates into their models the UN is flying blind talking about the future, and much could be done if they'd stop.

-Art Berman (yes, yet another ASPO colleague) presents a clearer picture of our energy situation than anyone I know - he is both articulate and entertaining in his presentation, and his work on why natural gas is not going to save us is something everyone needs to hear.  I'm seating him next to Mr. Ban.

- Nicole Foss  Getting Nic to come over for dinner from whereever she is lately (she's the original "Tuesday?  Belgium. woman these days, in huge demand worldwide as a lecturer) would be a challenge, of course, but worth it.  Wouldn't you work around her to get Juliet Schor and Nic Foss together?

- Kathy Harrison might seem like an odd choice, given her focus on personal and domestic preparedness, but then again, I'm probably an odd choice to host for the same reasons.  Ultimately, I really want us to remember that the experiences we are talking about are not universal - ultimately, policy is policy, but what we really need comes down to solutions that work at the home, neighborhood and community level, and Kathy is right on there.  I want her there to bring the abstract down the human, and to remind us this has to work for real people.

- Jeff Rubin former CDC Chief Economist and advocate of the economics of relocalization would also be a guest, because I think it is critical that we have open discussion about multiple economic scenarios.  Are energy prices likely to rise and rise, making localization necessary, or will they tank the economy making oil at least temporarily cheap and many of the alternatives not economically competitive.  Foss and Rubin have a lot to say to one another (and they have said it kinda loudly in the past ;-)), but dinner parties need some lively debate (and in a house full of children, I can offer them water pistols at 20 paces if they must express their feelings more directly.  Seriously, both sides of this discussion need to be heard and discussed.

- I'd like them both to listen to Tom Princen who is the most important genius analyst of the limitations of economic concepts that you've probably never heard of.  His book _The Logic of Sufficiency_ is way more important than it sounds.  Like Jeff Brown, more folks need to hear him.

- If we're talking about authors of books you should have heard of but haven't, Maria Mies, co-author of a number of important books including _EcoFeminism_ with Vandana Shiva and most importantly _The Subsistence Perspective_ (co-written with Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen) would be my single first choice as a "the dinner guest everyone who comes has to read right now."  Yeah, I know, you don't think you want to read a book about feminism and ecology. YES YOU DO (read _The Subsistence Perspective_ - it is the more important book) - even translated from the German ;-).  Before Transition, before Rob Hopkins, before everything, Mies and her co-authors laid out a model for a new economy that we could actually live with.  She's coming, even if I have to personally fly her in from Germany.  And I don't fly.  And no, she doesn't know me from Adam.

- I'm also bringing in  H. Patricia Hynes, who I also don't know, but ranks up there in my top 50 people I wish I did.  She's the author of critical texts on subjects as diverse as urban agriculture, population and the military's role in environmental health.  Donella Meadows once wrote a remarkable essay about how astonishing hearing her speak on population was.

- I'm lucky enough to know Lt. Col. Danny Davis just a little bit, and to admire the hell out of him.  Besides his now-famed whistle blowing on Afghanistan (a tough role to take from inside the military), he's also been a staunch ally of ASPO-USA, helping strategize on bringing peak oil to critical eyes.  I'd be lucky to have someone as brave (in quite a number of ways) put in his thoughts.

As long as we're working on as many opinions as possible, let's bring in my friend Langhorne (Taury) Smith, New York State Geologist.  Taury got nailed for daring to say that he thought that natural gas from hydrofracking's benefits might outweigh the risks, based on his concerns about imminent oil depletion.  Whether you agree or disagree, smart people arguing honestly is worth a lot.  Plus, unless he's in Saudi Arabia again, I don't have to fly him in from anywhere, he's practically a neighbor ;-).

- If Kurt Cobb writes about peak oil better than anyone, Fred Pearce does the same for climate change, with that same clarity that can get through the scientific illiteracy of the general population.  Someone has to make climate make sense outside the purely partisan while they eat  stuffed peppers, right?

- Peter Rosset, one of the creators of the idea of food sovereignty would be high on my dinner party list as well. I don't know him, but if there is a single person whose work on food has most influenced me, he's probably it.  His work with Via Campesina and the international food soveriegnty movement would bring a much needed perspective.

- Let's get Rachel Lauden out to dinner. Her historical critique of the local food movement has merit, even if her assumptions and mine aren't the same - so we don't come to the same conclusion.  I don't find "Luddism" to be a dirty word, either, but she's smart and thoughtful, and if Jeff Rubin and Nic Foss or Taury Smith and Art Berman are going to get into it, well, I've got to have someone to argue with, right.

- You've never heard of my friend Alice Oldfather, but I'm not just inviting her for moral support and because she's a mean cook, but because I think she gets why we are having such a hard time getting our message out - and she can help change that.  The reality is that if such a crazy dinner party ever did produce a plan, we'd have to get it into the right hand at the right moment.

Last, but not at all least, I'd like to bring David Gushee who may have done more to de-partisan climate change than just about anyone else - his work to bring climate change to the fore in conservative Christian communities is a change that needs to happen - and potentially a gift to anyone who imagines us needing to mobilize whole communities.

Oh lordy, I'm going to have to have a lot of these dinner parties.  How did I leave out Dmitry Orlov?  Helena Norberg-Hodge?  Or Richard Douthwaite? Why, oh why did Chalmers Johnson and Joe Bageant have to die before I got to have them to dinner? Someone is going to yell at me for not including climate scientists (mostly because I think climate scientists have a much more public voice and forum than oil depletion scientists do).  And why don't I have the nerve to invite Wendell Berry or Stephen Colbert?  Will there be enough pears in grape syrup?  Oh, the dilemmas!

Who do you want to sit down with?





More like this

Interesting idea, interesting choices. Surprised how many I know (have heard of, that is).

23 is a lot - how would you ensure everybody has a fair chance to voice an opinion?

Sadly, you couldn't have invited Richard Douthwaite even if you had an extra chair - he died almost a year ago.

By Joe Public (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

"Bill McKibben I assume pretty much everyone knows who Bill is,"

Which says all you need to know.

Was there a single real scientist or engineer or anybodt creative in there?

No Olon Musk, Burt Rutan, Tim Berners-Lee or Bill Gates there - after all what would any of them know about changing the world?

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

Barbara Ehrenreich

@Neil Craig: if you don't think that this is a situation that we can engineer our way out of, then there might be a disincentive to invite engineers, as opposed to policymakers, communicators, and activists.

By Scott Martin (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

You know Sharon, you should just do it! I bet you would be surprised how many would come!

By Gary Rondeau (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

You'll never know who'll come if you done invite them.

Why only Americans?


I'd expect a preponderance of the OP's fellow nationals, but Maria Mies is German, Fred Pearce is English, Ban Ki-Moon is Korean (and Jeff Rubin is Canadian, although that does count as American in my view of the world).

@Neil Craig:

Great shout for Tim Berners-Lee.

I'd invite Linus Torvalds. And Bjorn Lomberg, if only to make him eat his words (along with his dinner).

By Joe Public (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

Cool list, but you forgot to invite people who are massively wealthy and powerful. One can discuss policy change with the best people in the world, but unless you have people who can push those strategies and policies at the highest levels. (Yes, yes, I know you say you didn't include them for a reason. I just disagree.) Say, a Richard Branson or a Warren Buffet. And if I thought it would work, I'd invite Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

If you want to include a technology luminary, Douglas Engelbart isn't a household name but has done more to revolutionize computing technology than any other person alive. And his current focus is on organizing information and processes to achieve the greatest results. He's be a great one to add to Team World Change.

Jim Lovelock, Janine Benyus, Bill Mollison. For starters. This is going to keep me up all night...

By Joe Public (not verified) on 23 Oct 2012 #permalink

A. Seconding the motion to actually just do it. If only to entertain yourself. And us, of course.
B. Please video it, so we can all enjoy it, too. Especially the water pistol duel.

Naomi Klein - These problems are difficult enough to solve if one pays attention to questions of politics/social justice but without doing so, they become utterly insoluble.

Powerful people meet for dinner all the time. Just as they do for lunch and, for that matter, for breakfast, sometimes.

The composition of the people at the table varies, of course, from time to time and place to place. After all, "the powerful" consist of varied and in some cases competing interests. What they have in common, however, is time, money, organization, and various forms of real influence which go along with those advantages.

They don't, by the way, necessarily "see the world we’re in most clearly." Rather, they often see the world that they want to see or that they want to make come about--in their own interests much of the time, of course.

Some of these people are very frankly what any fair observer would describe as "evil". But most, evil or not, think they're doing the "right things" for the world. Funny how that also happens to be what they see as in their own best interests, too. It's is extremely easy to fall into the most convenient self-delsuions so that one can go on merrily imagining that he is doing good in the world.

So, "bon appétit! You can have all the dinner parties in the world--while more than a billion (by current estimates of the UN food program) go either under-nourished or are starving for food and potable water. Until people in power find a social conscience and the courage to implement it --against their own selfish interests--things which manifestly they show little inclination to do, or, they are placed under stiffer pressure to yield up greater arrangements of social justice, the dinner parties will amount to maybe some nice food and conversation and no real differences in the way the world is managed.

Change requires a readiness to face many very unpleasant truths, for the pleasant truth doesn't serve the improvement of the world, only the unpleasant truth does that. But there isn't this readiness. On the contrary, everywhere one looks, there is the increasing determination to deny unpleasant truths and to censor those who would dare to bring them up.

There's your dinner-table problems set out for you. Ask, all around, what the smart-set guest think can be done about this and then please let us know their answers.

We can dream about those.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Nicole, you are welcome to have your own list. I've sat down with really rich people before, and honestly, I don't think it is all it is cracked up to be ;-). They are so used to people trying to place their money that I don't think dinner would be the way to do it.

Joe Public, I wouldn't. I'd trust that everyone can figure it out themselves - that's why it is dinner party, not a structured forum. The ones I know (and there are quite a few) didn't get where they are by being super-passive.

Naomi Klein would be a good choices, particularly since she sees peak oil as opposed to climate change.

Neil, why do you bother hanging out here if you haven't figured out that while I'm fine with climate denialists having their opinion, I'm not going to legitimize something that has no scientific legitimacy.

Promixity, actually, the billion number probably isn't currently accurate, but that doesn't change starvation - and in some measure you are right. On the other hand, since we're all going to eat sooner or later, maybe dinner and an attempt at shifting power balances might be worth doing.

I invite y'all to plan your own dinners, but I'm not going to apologize for working on my agenda, not someone else's.


BTW, the "powerful" does not mostly describe this group. Mr. Ban, sure. Maybe Andrew Sullivan. But most of the people on this list are not in any sense politically powerful, which is, of course, why this would be interesting. Because by and large, most people who are politically powerful are entrenched in a set of assumptions that no one has had any success at overturning. At the same time, at certain transitional moments, it becomes possible to change the parameters. It is the plan in place when no one else knows what to do that has the chance of changing the game, IMHO.



RE: "BTW, the “powerful” does not mostly describe this group."

True. Since mention of "the powerful" was essential to my post, allow me to explain: "the powerful" wasn't intended to refer to those types you had (or have) in mind to invite. I mentioned them instead to point up the fact that the people who really are powerful-- those in positions to make decisions that affect all of us--those people often meet for discussions: at offices, at conferences, at restaurants, in their luxurious homes, at resorts--they meet all the time and they discuss their power and how to keep it and enhance it. Again, they don't necessarily agree all the time nor do they necessarily have a particularly accurate view of our times. No matter, they have money, or access to it, and they have influence and organization.

All of that I mention because it is that set of circumstances which your group --those who'd make this a better world if they could just figure out how to do that-- is up against.

In both groups there is a large majority which is adamantly convinced it is intent on doing what is right, best, etc. for the world, that if only its ideas were heeded, implemented, the world would become a much better place. And in most cases, I dare say, these people, some of whom meet my definition of evil--are quite simply wrong in their conviction about how they're bent on doing wonderful things for the world.

Steve Jobs,for example, lionized as a hero, was an asshole and did IMMENSE harm in the world--along with whatever else he did-- before he left it. But that's one of those unpleasant truths I'm referring to, a major taboo to mention that.

And all those taboos shelter and propagate all the harm that plagues us; but most people would prefer to protect the taboos and suffer the harms they don't recognize as related than to dare to take the frightening step of facing what is very true true but very unpleasant.

I'd like a better world. But getting there won't be easy or agreeable. It'll be a bloody fight. It has never been otherwise.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Counting the Hungry:

Journée mondiale de l'alimentation : 870 millions d'affamés, 1,5 milliard de mal nourris

English transl. : "World Food Day: 870 million hungry people, 1.5 billion malnourished"

Le avec AFP | 16.10.2012 à 09h01 • Mis à jour le 16.10.2012 à 09h18…


By proximity1 (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Marvelous...another Joe Bageant reader. I had the pleasure of a very brief e-mail exchange with him a couple of years before he died...he wasn't too optimistic about whether I could have a positive effect trying to do a lot of what you do but he wished me well. His archived website is a nice place to go if one likes to read a blogger responding individually, almost like a conversation, to a reader's input. Now Klein and Bageant in the same room...that would have been a treat!

I like the idea of dinner parties...maybe 20 is a good maximum number for optimum interaction with all the diners. Just do more parties and let the lists overlap. That will keep you busy! This is sort of like the Salon concept that Ben Franklin used to his (and our) advantage to get funding for our fight against England.

And no, proximity, this is not your usual 'conference' except that the best conferences, in my experience, have a lot of hall and dinner table time where the real progress is made. That is where you begin to know the people you hope to work with.

By Luane Todd (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Interesting to be sure, but a bit disappointed that you picked 16 men and 9 women, though.

By Erik Buitenhuis (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Picking a 12/13 split would be arbitrary and still someone could say "I find it disappointing you picked...".

If you picked at random from the entire human race, you would expect out of 23 people chosen to have a male/female split somewhere around 12 +/- 5. Simple binomial counting statistics.

Frankly, I'm disappointed that you found it odd to have a split easily between this range...

I would like to make a party to work on food as an economic how about this combo... Ann Clark (from Canada...local food and assorted ag credentials, 'The Future is Organic but it is more than organic is a masterpiece in my mind), Ellen LeConte (Life Rules), your friends Kathy Harrison and Alica Oldfather and Maria Mies, you of course and me if I'm throwing the party. Then I would like to also have Woody Tasch (Slow Money) and David Orr (Oberlin Project) to pick their brains about how to organize people across barriers, Allan Savory ("A Global Strategy for Addressing Climate Change), Curt Meine (the Aldo Leopold Foundation), John Ikerd (tireless advocate for local economies in general), Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon and Fred Kirschenmann for their wisdom and humor. Then I would love to have Naomi Klein and John Michael Greer, just to liven things up and because they are so much younger than the rest of my guest list (and they are really good at what they do!).

By my count that is 18 altogether.evenly divided between the men and women. I know, that is not necessary but I am old school so we were taught to do this. Actually I think it would work quite well (Emily Post may have had a good point about balance).

Maybe I could summon the shades of Joe Bageant and Molly Ivins to round out the input. They are so irreverent and intelligent that I can conjure all sorts of issues being dissected. I can also see that this party might go on for more than a day.

What a delightful experiment...I wish I could make it happen.

By Luane Todd (not verified) on 24 Oct 2012 #permalink

Rob Hopkins of the Transition Towns Movement? Although I don't know how he would cross the Atlantic to get to you.

I left out one very important guest (I was having trouble remembering her name). Joan Dye Gussow would be a real must on my guest list. She has been talking about all the issues we discuss now , teaching them and actually doing them herself for longer than some of us have been on the planet. And she is so positive even in the face of all the problems she knows are there. I would love to sit in on a discussion she was part of. That also evens out the guest list!

By Luane Todd (not verified) on 25 Oct 2012 #permalink

"if you don’t think that this is a situation that we can engineer our way out of, then there might be a disincentive to invite engineers, as opposed to policymakers, communicators, and activists"

Translates as "what we want is talkers rather than doers or thinkers necause we don't ever want anything done or thought."

Sharon I'm doing it pro bono. I think it important that there be somebody somewhere on the "scienceblogs" site who respects scientists more than "communicators".

That would be respects Hawking more than PT Barnum. Clearly a concept you are do not understand.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 25 Oct 2012 #permalink

Neil, you seem to have the idea that only engineers or scientists 'do' things or 'have' worthwhile, useful thoughts.
Then you have the temerity to suggest that one group of professionals is more valuable than another.
You are being just as elitist as you accuse Sharon of being (and by implication, anyone who is not a credentialed scientist).

I have put up with 'scientists' like you seem to be for 40 years. You folks do not know everything and many times you are totally useless in the practical applications of what you do know.

Respect is a two way street...when you disrespect people's contributions you should not be surprised to be excluded from a social event designed to foster free flowing conversation.

Sounds like you are a pro-bono troll.

By Luane Todd (not verified) on 25 Oct 2012 #permalink

Remember, to Neil, only geologists and scientists who DENY the evidence for AGW are "real" scientists. Everyone else is a nazi...

I have put up with ‘scientists’ like you seem to be for 40 years.

Neil is not a scientist, he is a science denier.

Sounds like you are a pro-bono troll.

You nailed him there.

Hey Sharon. I'll bring dessert if you'll really do it. And thanks for the virtual invite. I'd be honored.

By kathy harrison (not verified) on 26 Oct 2012 #permalink

I'm not sure how Heinberg wasn't squeezed into the list. He's surely one of the best all-round analysts and communicators of the myriad problems we face. And he should know what's sustainable, having penned Five Axioms of Sustainability, drawn from various sources. Without doubt, any plan needs to pass the sustainability test (or at least include a clear path to sustainability).

By Tony Weddle (not verified) on 27 Oct 2012 #permalink

With a phrase, you subsume and you then by-pass a host of implications--that is, the premeses---on which your intitial question ( “If you could sit down to dinner with the people you think see the world we’re in most clearly and spend dinner working on how to change things and be ready for a crisis, who would you invite to eat with you?” ) is based.

Your trouble-avoiding phrase is:
"...not necessarily the (equally necessary, but you can’t do everything at once) adaptation of the current zeitgeist to make change possible."

So, right away, we're invited to set aside the current zeitgeist ("spirit of the times") in order to consider who to invite for dinner and a discussion of the problems which plague our times---with the implied idea that those guests are going to present and discuss their suggested solution(s).

What I want to ask you to set out for us are the premeses given in your idea that there's no particular harm in leaving the matter of the amenability of the current zeitgeist for later while first you focus on the guest-list and the menu---because, for me, as a critical reader, critical thinker, the first-priority issue is the one that you pefer to put off by pleading that, "You can't do everything at once." The point, however, is that this conveniently swerves around the matter of whether and what might be done at all, never mind done "all at once". You see?

Since the Devil is in the details, you skip them.

This is, I suppose, so that you can proceed with what then is more readily recognizable as a fantasy notion. There won't really be a dinner or these wish-listed guests because the whole project from the start is premised on ignoring the hard parts in order to deal first (and, I suggest, only) with the "fun" parts: dinner with various notable, interesting people.

I'd ask, rather, " If you could sit down to dinner with the people you think see the world we’re in most clearly and spend dinner working on how to change things and be ready for a crisis, what would our dinner idea's premeses be as concerns what is both necessary and possible in the general public's role for any envisioned program of social change and improvement?----and, without such a potential on that general public's part, what would be the point in convening the dinner in the first place?

One person you wouldn't get a "yes" from--even though I'd be flatly against inviting him in any case--is former-president Bill Clinton. He attended so many international pie-in-the-sky conferences to fix the world that, at last, he determined that he would refuse to attend any such event unless its organizers could demonstrate that they'd given consideration to at the very least some specific preliminary goals and the realistic means of achieving these being a reasonable possibility, not a utopian dream.

Our societies' problems have real, identifiable, roots--- roots that can be enumerated and discussed. But that is tedious work and it presupposes a level of informed awareness and reasoning abilities which are not only lacking very widely but which lack in and of itself is at the heart of what is and has been for so long so terribly wrong. And it is that lacking and the very realistic and reasonable awareness of it as an intractable problem that leads you, as I see it, anyway, to prefer to skip straight to dinner's menu and guest-list issues. We start with what is a basically hopeless view of our general average fellow-citizens--then know and care little about their own society's most urgent problems and the potential for addressing them. Instead, these fellow-citizens are basically targets of mass-market advertising and sales efforts designed to earn money while keeping the general public distracted and occupied with ridiculous trivialities.

A few knowledgable and concerned experts can meet for dinner and discuss how to reform society. But, at some point, reality has to intervene and the real general public's place and role in the social reforms has to come into the picture. But it generally doesn't. We don't discuss such things here and by all indications, we won't and that is because, at bottom, there is a very deep-seated pessimism prevailing about the actual potential for any desirable change getting past the assumed deficiencies on the part of the general public as it is imagined to be.

Any interesting discussion of reform, let alone the actual implementation of it, presumes a number of things both from the reading/participating public and from this medium ---social network blogs---which simply don't exist, and aren't "available."

Why these don't exist and aren't available is, I think, an interesting question.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 27 Oct 2012 #permalink

spelling correction: "premises" rather than "premeses".

By proximity1 (not verified) on 27 Oct 2012 #permalink

Examples of the Medium's failings:

When I refer to the (patent) limitations of this medium for any really meaningful and effective discussion, here is an example of what I mean and why---

So the Poor are People…Really?
(Posted by Sharon Astyk ) began on October 21, 2012; it garnered 31 comments over three days. Then it's on to the next topic.


The present thread--
The Dinner Party

if the term "present" is still applicable to it.

It began on October 23, 2012 and, over four days of "life", (prior to my additions of today), it had garnered 29 posts. Interesting--isn't it?-- that at around 29 to 30 posts, the discussion "falls off a cliff."

Then it's on to the next topic. Next topic?

"US Set to Become “New Middle East” for Discord and (Hopefully) Oil" ( Posted by Sharon Astyk ) on October 25, 2012. So far, that thread has garnered six comments over two days.

What we really need is an informed and aware and concerned public. But that set presupposes something that is either dying or simply dead in its once-meaningful sense: a reading public--people who read books, books which have heft both physically and intellectually. We need a public of book-readers but not readers of just any books. Both the books and their readers have to possess something of intellectual life-giving and life-sustaining substabce. But the numbers of such books and of such readers has now dwindled to insignificant numbers.

The decline is so general in scope, encompassing all segments of society including the so-called "elites"--the segment which are opinion-makers and opinion-leaders--that now everyone is drfiting in a sea of relative intellectual mediocrity, driven by a very high-powered and sophisticated cultural apparatus that is centered on digital, networked, or network-able mass-media, and the creative center of which is, both literally and figuratively "Hollywood" 's film industry and its related mass-media games, music, videos, and associated amusement products.

Against such forces which embody as driving principles of mental life "triviality," emphemerality" and "superficiality", the sort of intellectual society which we once had, which we now desperately need and which we manifestly don't have, that kind of society, very simply, doesn't stand a chance.

And, because deep down those of us who still spend some time trying to read and think about things outside the realm of "Hollywood" 's manufacture mass-media-trivia deep down we know this about our debased society, the most we allow ourselves to ponder is fantasy dinners with celebrities of intellectual merit talking about the prospects for reform, prospects the realization of which we know, by looking around at our shallow society, to be just about nil.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 27 Oct 2012 #permalink


Yes, the prospects are just about nil but don't equate a comment response level with the importance readers attach to a subject. Some posts are easier to comment on than others and with some posts maybe not much more needs to be added in comments.

By Tony Weddle (not verified) on 28 Oct 2012 #permalink

Of course, if wow or dean or even Sharon were in any slightest way interested in science or indeed opposed to fascism, or even honest, they would long ago have either produced the evidence that we are experiencing CAGW or acknowledged that it doesn't exist..

Obviously the claim that we are experiencing such warming or the promised 20ft sea level rise is not in any slightest way truthful and is supported only by corrupt fascists witgh no trace of personal honesty. And that is why all decent people denounce them. As every decent person here, who has no evidence of the 20 ft sea level rise, has.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 29 Oct 2012 #permalink

Unlike those with a fetish for facism, Whiner-Boy, neither myself nor Sharon spend every post writing about how facism is bad.

Meanwhile YOU see facism everywhere where someone doesn't agree with your Politics of Hate.

Which is a damn sight more facist than Sharon's dinner party.

"or the promised 20ft sea level rise"

When was it promised, you lying twat?

20ft is roughly the sort of sea level rise you'd get if both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets both melted completely. It is not, of course, anywhere near any of the actual scientific predictions for sea level rise over the next century or so (which tend to be of the order of 0.5 to 2 meters by 2100), but you'd never know that if you get your "understanding" of climate science from the headlines in the Daily Telegraph, and pay no attention to the qualifications and timescales mentioned in the accompanying articles.

The earliest I've seen anybody who actually knows anything about the subject propose for that sort of SLR is 2600 - i.e. in nearly 500 years time.

Hey, Neil:

I don't think this is the right forum for a meta-analysis of the GCC literature, but fortunately one already exists and you can check it out for yourself! Not sure if you've heard of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) or not, but reading through their most recent assessment report may provide you with some description and explanation of the ACTUAL, near-term predictions scientists are making regarding GCC (note that these predictions will vary based on the "scenario" -- or underlying assumptions -- used). The IPCC also provides info regarding the plethora of scientific research upon which their reports are based.

Let's also remember that upwards of 95% of scientists affirm the significance of anthropogenic GHG releases as contributing to GCC and that one of the most noted skeptics regarding anthropogenic GCC (Richard Muller) recently completed a meta-analysis of numerous climate change studies (funded by the KOCH BROTHERS, for Pete's sake!) and ended up changing his mind regarding GCC -- he now believes that humans are a significant driver of GCC (google his NY Times Op-Ed)... Are all of these folks delusional or lying?


By Kate Rowbot (not verified) on 29 Oct 2012 #permalink

Kate, I guess you must be new here... Neil thinks all of those people (and indeed anybody else who doesn't instantly agree with him about everything) are not only delusional and / or lying, but that they "obscene child murdering Nazi animals" (actual quote), hellbent on the immiseration and / or extermination of the whole of mankind for absolutely no reason.

Oh, and he thinks Richard Muller was a deep cover "black flag" operative (his term, not mine - it should of course be "false flag") who was never an AGW "sceptic", but only pretended to be one in order to discredit the cause. His basis for this claim is that Muller once acknowledged that Al Gore was quite effective at persuading people, and that anybody that ever said anything good about Gore cannot possibly be a "sceptic".

Have a look at his blog if you want to see raving paranoid lunacy in full technicolour glory. Or have a search through some of his previous comments on SB... As far as I know, this is the only blog on the network that hasn't banned him yet.

RE: Tony Weddle @ October 28, 2012


I ask, again, "What are the unstated assumptions which underlie the proposition that it's an interesting or useful exercise to arrange such a dinner?"

If anyone explored those unstated assumptions it could help us shed some light on the situation in which we find ourselves because it could highlight whether or not such an exercise was in fact reasonably grounded, and, if it wasn't, it might suggest why not.

By holding such a dinner, one apparently presupposes that the kind of guests described could and would have something useful to say not only about what has and is still going (right or) wrong with this (or indeed any other) society, but, also, what might be done about it.

But then one must take into account the present condition of all sorts of segments of the general public and pose some practical questions about these various groups.

One also needs some working hypothesis about what is now wrong or most importantly wrong with our social arrangements and at least a little about how they came to be that way. Without such a basic working hypothesis, what is it that has informed the idea of holding a dinner in the first place? It would have helped us--the readers here--to have been told this either from the start or soon afterward. Thus, Sharon should, in that case, have set out something like, "Here are the major presuppositions I start from in thinking that there could be some merit in the dinner idea---& etc.

Such as, "I assume that the discussion could open paths to as yet unexplored avenues for heightening public awareness (in general or specifically about ...)"

... and that is because I further assume ... about the public, or our mass-media, or our social or political structure, or etc. ....

But, what are those assumptions? Has Sharon thought about them or, as would be both common and understandable, since it is the habit by which most of us approach such matters--unless we've been exposed to critiques which have made us wary of not taking some time for an examination of them--and so I'd understand that she had not.

In short, really, what hasn't been set out and what should be set out very clearly are the main views about the social structure, its key elements and how they operate either conflictually or cooperatively, or both, and who the main identifiable groups are. But there are a number of various views --and, to be brief, they've been the topic of much of the most treated work by sociologists over the 20th century.

So, which of them or, what other, if not one of them does Sharon view as most apt in its characterization of our present society and its predicaments?

That is what I'd like to know in order to have a prayer of a useful treatment of the subject of "what would some very smart and informed people say about our current problems and how to tackle them?"

To give you my personal view, it's set out in the work and views of C. Wright Mills, the sociologist who did such fundamental work in the 1950s and whose insights are readily applicable to our time and circumstances.

By reading The Sociological Imagination (an appendix to which is called “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” --17 pages which offer an idea of why reading the whole brief book is worth anyone’s time and trouble) and a number of the essays contained in Power, Politics and People: The Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills you'd find a full and clear presentation of all the main points from which I start.

In my own view, the starting point should include such aspects as that e live in a society characterized by classes which have different and conflicting interests; these classes are divided between a dominant group which now has near-complete financial and political control over the way society approaches public issues of all sorts—and which can so far still quite effectively manage and manipulate how such issues are seen, thought about and discussed in all of the important mass-media. The electoral system is now essentially a sham and a slave to the prerogatives of this predominant class while, as for the middle class, (and all lower sectors of society), to the extent that it still exists, is left with less and less a meaningful role even as it has turned away from an active role in a public discourse about the choices to be taken in the present and future course of society; this class has lost its former faith and trust in the idea of its part out of a disaffection from continuously being thwarted. Former efforts by a significant segment of the middle class to remain aware and interested in keeping an effective role in the determination of social issues, a role it once had or, at least reasonably in the view of many, seemed to have once had, have been so abused that now a disaffection has set in from continuously being thwarted in those efforts .

This loss of faith is a kind defeat that means that society's former supposed democratically based institutions--the democratic infrastructure--has been debased and made useless except as a foil and cover for what is otherwise simply direct control by a plutocracy. All of this true in Mills' time and he described it and commented on it. That is why his work remains so valuable to us today.


By proximity1 (not verified) on 30 Oct 2012 #permalink

Thanks for the heads-up, Dunc. I think differing points of view can enrich discussion, but not when the people holding those points of view refuse to take an honest look at their implicit assumptions and/or consult the data/evidence others reference and respond to it thoughtfully. I guess I'll stop wasting my breath on someone who isn't interested in civil dialog. :)

By Kate Rowbot (not verified) on 30 Oct 2012 #permalink


October 29, 2012 “or the promised 20ft sea level rise”

When was it promised, you lying twat?"

In Al "got the science mostly right" Gore's propaganda film as you well know you obscene child murdering Nazi whore Wow.

Stil waiting for that apology you thieving animal.

"Let’s also remember that upwards of 95% of scientists affirm the significance of anthropogenic GHG releases as contributing to GCC"

Kate since at least 60% of the world's scientists don't work for the state if you really believe that to be remotely true you will be able to say wherer several million independent scientists have said so. My strong betting is that you cannot name even one (1) independent scientist anywhere in the world who supports the catastrophic warming scam.

My second bet is that being unable to find even 1 will in no way reduce your commitment to the scam.

If #2 turns out right my next guess would be that you, like virtually everybody else pushing this fraud, are feeding out of the government trough.. This is the normal position in "scienceblogs" even though, as regulars here know, contributors are encouraged to lie about it.

Kate Sharon will, if honest, assure you that i am interested in "civil dialogue" (*unlike Wow here whom I assume you meant). She originally said she also did until sich time as animals like Wow strated with their insults and obscenities. & she changed her policy.

I would much prefer reasoned dialogue, & wish Sharon would reeturn to her original proclaimed policy, but until then I do not think I am under any obligation not to match insult with insult, though I make a point of sticking to factually proven ones, unlike the child murdering Nazi scum.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 02 Nov 2012 #permalink

so when is dinner?


October 29, 2012 “or the promised 20ft sea level rise”

When was it promised, you lying twat?”

In Al “got the science mostly right” Gore’s propaganda film"

No, you lying childfucker, it wasn't.

Go on, show us where in his movie he said as you describe.

Go on.

Where does he say that by (SOME DATE BEFORE OCT 29 2012) there would be a 20ft sea level rise.

You can't because you're an empty headed idiot rightly scorned by a public far better informed than you when you attempt to grab some power over those far FAR more capable than you (the general public).

If Jimmy Saville were alive today, he'd be embarrassed about the photo with him and Neil Craig.

" I would much prefer reasoned dialogue, & wish Sharon would reeturn to her original proclaimed policy, but until then I do not think I am under any obligation not to match insult with insult, though I make a point of sticking to factually proven ones, unlike the child murdering Nazi scum."

Thank you for those Wow.

Clearly nobody with any slightest trace of honesty can ever deny that , by comparison with obscene filth such as Wow I am a model of politeness and many tens of millions of times more honest that those who engage in what passes for factual debate among "sciencebloggers" & ecofascists.

Doubtless all those commenting here with the slightest trace of honesty will, by definition, now confirm they accept this. Out of politeness I will not speculate on how many might turn out to have such a trace.

Sharon you really might consider reimposing that policy of common politeness.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 03 Nov 2012 #permalink

Neil, politeness doesn't include labeling people who aren't Nazis Nazis, or murdering obscene filth, or murderers, simply because they have a habit of pointing out that you (you, specifically) are wrong and lying.

Are you going to answer Wow's question? Are you going to explain why you don't believe smoking is harmful? How about pointing out where anyone on these blogs has used al gore as a reference, or referred to him as an expert, as defense of climate change? The only ones I see doing it are people running off with hyperbole, repeating the (false) assertion used by denialists that gore's movie is the only source of information on climate change.

Here is another chance for you to make a legitimate point.
Explain what training you have in any of these areas
* climatology
* statistics
* physics
* computer modeling

or any other advanced topic, which would indicate why anyone should take remotely seriously what you have to say about climate change.

"Clearly nobody with any slightest trace of honesty can ever deny that..."

You have been shown YET AGAIN to have been lying your National Front Pigfucker arse off.

Al Gore's movie DOES NOT state that there would have been by now 20ft of sea level rise.


|I note that SDharon has gone so far from her claimed civility policy that she considers "pigfu7cker" to be acceptable discourse.

I note that every single person on this site who has the remotest trace of human dwecency has told Wow off for that & for being the obscene lyingt Nazi animal he is.

That would be me alone then.

We have, of course, long established that Sharon's site is the "scienceblogs" site with the single best claim not be be run by obscene lying Nazi filth. That obviopusly remains the case.

Dean since you have established yourself as a wholly corrupt holocaust denier on the latest thread perhaps yopu would explain in what way calling people here obscene lying Nazi filth falls in any way short of simply factual.

Kate having made a point of falsely telling me off for impoliteness you will, of course, wish either to tell off Wow for his language or explain that "pigfucker" is a common term of endearment in your circle.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 08 Nov 2012 #permalink

Go on, you lying little toerag.

Show us where Al Gore said there would be 20ft of sea level rise by now.

You can't, can you.

Because you're a sad little sack of anry pus.

Obviously Whiner here is a NAZI sympathiser and idolises not just Hitler but Goebbels. He certainly ascribes to "the big lie" that that tiresome little shite professed. And for much the same reason.

Neil, what I did was point out that, according to the world health organization, and other organizations, your repeated assertion s that there was a world wide ban on DDT and that 85 million people had died from malaria because of the ban were both false.

That you continue to deny reality, and label those who deal with facts as "lying Nazi scum" speaks volumes about you.

I am curious, however, why you have not explained your belief that smoking is harmless, or stated where, exactly, Gore"s movie predicted 20 feet of sea level rise by now, or given any indication of your scientific (or other) credentials to indicate why your opinions should be given any consideration. Until you do these things you will be considered simply a blowhard.

His science credentials are "Owns a Science Fiction book store in Glasgow".

Ron L Hubbard et al.

Obnviously every single person on "scienceblogs" with the remotest trace of human decency has dissociated themselves from the practice of using obscenity as an alternative to intellectual debate as Sharon encourages Wow to so.

There are no circumstances where "pig-fucker" can be introduced to debate, in a non-factual way, by any decent guman being.

Nor are there any circumstances wherer any remotely decent human being could fail to dissociate themsleves from such obscenmities.

That is why, by definiotion, every single commenter on "scienceblogs" who is not personally a lying Mazi obscenity has publicly dissociated themsleves from it here.

The fact that that means there is nobody on "scienceblogs" (obviously including Dean) who is not an obscene, corrupt, lying, Nazi animal, does not affect the correctness of the chain of logic.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 29 Nov 2012 #permalink

Whine whine whine.

The polite quotient goes down every time and everywhere you go, you nazi-obsessed troll.

Neil, simply answer some questions:
1) Why do you say there is no danger from smoking?
2) What are your scientific (or statistical) credentials?

Is asking for information currently an insult?

To whiner it's an insult that you exist.

It is an insult to him he's being asked questions.

It's an insult to him that he's a lonely sad little man who everybody has abandoned.

Therefore he hurls insults out to share the pain.

And it's probably really really quiet in his shop. He probably calls everyone who dares ask him "do you have..." a nazi baby killer.

Which reduces the trade somewhat.

But to his distorted mind, this is merely proof that they are Nazi baby killers because otherwise they'd have come back to disprove the claim.

Still the obscene Nazi animals represent the pinnacle of honesty and humann decency to which pseudo-environmentalists aspire.

Dean you obscene filth you know I have answered questions far more timesc than you disgusting child murderers have. Answer mine

1 Why are you, unwilling to dissociate yourself from the other obscene lying Nazi animals here?

2 What are your scientific credentials & if they exist has your employer recognised being a disgusting lying totalitarian piece of filth as part of your reason for employment.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 03 Dec 2012 #permalink

Neil, you have never disclosed anything about your education, so that part of your persona is an unknown.
You have not explained on what reason you proclaim smoking poses no health threat - indeed, you have given no substance for your assertions on any science-related issue; you've simply asserted what seem to be your opinions.

I did not restrict my questions to science background, since many issues on which you comment have large statistical studies in their support, I also asked whether you have any statistical support for your comments.
I take it from your latest comment here you do not.

I have a Ph.D. in statistics, with 25+ years teaching and research in that area.

You, on the other hand, seem to have an unhealthy fixation with Nazis. Should we take it that your typical daily attire revolves around what goes well with a brown shirt?

Still the hitler-obsessed nutcase, whiner-boy?

"You have not explained on what reason you proclaim smoking poses no health threat "

I have never said that. Either prove I ever said that or apolgise for being an obscene Lyinmg whore..

Then apologise that supporting the obscene lyinmg Nazi Wow represents the pinnacle of deceny to which you ever aspire liar.

"I have a Ph.D. in statistics, with 25+ years teaching and research in that area."

Yeah right. And Greg is the sole climate scientist in the world who supports alarmism and isn't paid too, rather than the assitant antropolgy teacher he actually is. Prove you aspire to be more than 10,000 times more honest that "sciencebloggers" are expected to be. You obscene lying Nazi.

Then prove it properly by apologising for supporting the obscene Wow.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 07 Dec 2012 #permalink

"“You have not explained on what reason you proclaim smoking poses no health threat ”

I have never said that."

You would have thought someone running a bookshop would have learned to read by now.



Well nc, you did. Apparently your memory is as lacking as your understanding of science.

I did not expect you to believe my background, even though it is true, but since your history shows you to be immune to facts. Your repeated lies about Greg Laden prove that (and prove you haven't gotten over getting your asinine positions destroyed during your short time time at his blog. It was great fun to watch.)

While accepting your claim of what you caim I said as representing the very highest stanmdard of honesty you ever aspire to Dean, if it were in any way truthful you would, as requested, have produced the link as evidence

I accept your claim that you have a Phd, or indeed a cycling profficieny medal and that Greg hasn't been proven a wholly corrupt fraud who nobody involved with "scienceblogs" or indeed real science could associate with, as equally dishonest.

By Neil Craig (not verified) on 10 Dec 2012 #permalink

And we accept that despite all rumours to the contrary, you do not bang little boys, whiner.