A little less than twenty-four hours ago, I sent the letter below to Dr. Peter Gleick. While his admitting to what is almost certainly criminal fraud was a start, it is my contention that every day he postpones owning the rest of what has come to be known as Fakegate the more damage he does to the people he was supposedly trying to help. Gleick’s brother, James, wrote Chaos, a book that had profound effect on me as a new college graduate in the late 1980s. I would even go so far as to say that I might never have written my own book on science, had it not been for the Gleick family. There is every possibility that the suppositions in my letter are mistaken. If they are, I don’t believe that writing the letter will have done any harm. As Dr. Gleick has no doubt received volumes of e-mail from strangers, there is every chance that he has not seen my own. There is also every chance that he has seen it, and does not know how to proceed. Here is what I sent:
Dear Dr. Gleick:
I am an environmentalist. By this, I mean a few things:
1. I abhor particulate pollution
2. I love to spend time in nature and do regularly and have all my life and hope to all my life
3. I have used my hands to pick up trash more than some people
4. A clear sky just after the rain clouds depart means something to me
I could go on, but you likely know what I’m talking about.
My views, during the last 5 years or so, have shifted. I am now in the camp of those who maintain that conventional economic development of the Third World and retention of conventional sources of power in the First World are both good things, on the whole, and for the environment specifically. I’m sure you’ve seen the arguments. Basically, the premise regarding the Third World is that nothing is more wasteful and polluting than poverty and that people in industrialized nations discouraging development in the Third World is morally ugly. As for the First World, environmentalism is the fruit of development. Half a century ago, American rivers were on fire and extraordinarily toxic. A high standard of living coupled with education and rising awareness have led to the magnificent cleanup of our water ways that is still under way. We would not and could not have gotten here without developing to the extent that we did, in my view and that of many serious people who see the world differently from yourself.
Anyway, while we will probably have to disagree with everything I’ve written in the paragraph above, we can perhaps agree that you have done the environmental movement a disservice by committing fraud and other crimes last month. While some have risen to your defense, I am quite sure that in your heart of hearts you remain anguished over your own actions. I am also sure that you are even more anguished about the actions for which you have yet to take responsibility.
I want for you to reflect for a moment on how your delaying your final confession is doing much more, perhaps unimaginably much more, harm to your side in the debate about climate change. This is not blowing over. And the truth will out. Every day you wait, the impact of the eventual revelation augments. You know this in your heart as well, which is why you keep putting it off, I suspect. You recognize full well that had you admitted everything a fortnight ago, that, yes, things would be starting to calm down by now. Instead, the storm clouds continue to gather — and they are clouds that you have literally created on your own and cannot dissipate with anything other than and less than the truth.
I propose that you make your admission on my blog. Take some time to reflect about what I’ve said here, and then just get this off your chest. You will feel better than you have in a long time, and you will be doing the greatest service for your side that you can.