14 Comments

MacKay's book was a life changing experience for me and I had no idea some other people also felt like that. It was the most remarkable experience of my 2008 travel to the UK. It is so sad he died so young.

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Nov 20, 2022Liked by Hannah Ritchie

Hannah, I'm highly inspired by the work that you do at Our World in Data. I used to work in the public sector and it was a little shocking to see how poorly research findings are communicated and it was also disheartening to see how little many of the available resources were used to get a bigger, more objective picture of what is going on in the world. I am currently trying to build up my data analysis skills so that I may be able to put them to use.

I wonder if I can trouble you for some advice; I am currently trying to learn and research at the same time but I feel that my approach (even after much research on the internet) is a bit disorganized. Would the correct order to go about this be ---> increase knowledge of statistics -----> learn a programming language -------> do loads of projects to build up skills? I am mainly interested in applying my skills to analyze remote sensing data.

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Thrilled to see you here at Substack. Hannah, I’d love to organize a Sustain What conversation with you soon. Long overdue.

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Hannah - how about a response to this thought provoking critique of 'neo land sparing'? https://adamcalo.substack.com/p/land-sparers-feel-their-oats

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Much has changed since MacKay’s book was written.

The fact that these plans include clean coal and nuclear are false solutions, especially for today’s generation that will be dealing with the best sustainable ways to live.

I would like to see the comparisons to Mark Z Jacobsen sustainable energy papers.

There are problems with NGOs and contributors in MacKay’s synopsis that are paid or imbedded with fossil fuel. When considering the creditably of the media and people in the media, they must stop giving air time to these supposedly sustainable solutions that are false solutions.

We, Common Ground Rising and 14 others EJ and NGOs of frontline communities in NM, live with the waste streams of fossil fuel and nuclear. The sacrifice zones are unacceptable here and throughout the entire systems and infrastructure.

The other energy source, a common killer, is PM2.5 PM 10 from wood burning which macKays plan endorses.

Wood burning for heating is embedded in cultural use. There is also wildfire, dust and sand, emissions, air pollution, etc.

We are interested in the communications around changes in behavior and steeped data on public health.

While we are evolving as the data presents itself, my hope is that we can communicate the pathways on which people can build a lifestyle based on targeted emissions drawdown.

One comment on COP27, damage and loss,

Without emissions drawdown plan linked to the health of humans and healthy environments there is no progress on the drivers to climate crisis.

I cannot normalize the data that shows premature deaths, public health pain and suffering from air pollution. We cannot continue to normalize climate crisis impacts.

The “hot air” is the false solutions that distract from what needs to be implemented quickly.

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You write, " Sustainability spans a range of environmental impacts: from climate and energy, to food, deforestation the oceans, and resource consumption."

Yes, sustainability has to be looked at holistically. Perhaps I could suggest adding another item to your list above, nuclear weapons. While nuclear weapons are typically not considered part of either the climate or energy topics, this conceptual division seems misguided. If nuclear weapons are not managed successfully, then all our dreams of a prosperous sustainable future can vanish in literally just minutes. Any factor which can defeat our efforts in just minutes seem relevant to sustainability.

I'm less clear on how data analysis can make a contribution to a focus on this element of sustainability. Perhaps you'll have some thoughts on that? Can data analysis shed a useful light on the culture of denial which lies at the heart of the nuclear weapons threat?

On my substack I shared a display which shows the impact of a nuclear detonation on each of America's 50 largest cities. That was an attempt to make cold hard facts a little more real and impactful. Graphs are still pretty abstract though, so I'm unsure of the impact they will have.

Anyway, this is just my one little vote. If nuclear weapons aren't in the mix somehow, we're not really talking about sustainability.

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Hello Hannah, my name is Perry Lindstrom. In December of 2021, I retired from the U.S. Energy Information Administration where I had been the lead subject matter expert for energy-related carbon dioxide for the last 20 years or so. I'm very interested in the topic as social media is full of grandiose statements as to what a certain technology can do--or doom and gloom that we can accomplish anything at all. I call these climate-clickbait. I look forward to interacting with you and the folks here. Cheers, Perry

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There have been so many times since his death when I have wanted to hear MacKay's incisive physics'n'arithmetic-based analysis of the sustainable energy issue du jour, which my school-level physics is woefully incapable of even beginning to tackle.

I'm sure he would have been heartened - and wish he could have known - that you would pick up and carry his torch of illuminating issues with arithmetic rather than rhetoric, and to do so in such an authoritative and accessible way as you do at Our World In Data.

It was good to re-read your blog piece about David again. I have collected it and many other tributes in a page about him on a website I've been tinkering with for a while when I've had time.

https://scienceforsustainability.org/wiki/David_MacKay

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If you're interested in the skills side of sustainability take a look at The Green Edge on https://greenedge.substack.com

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