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Green Shift

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 9 months ago


The Green Shift Project: Enhancing the Public Understanding of Energy and Environment

A proposal from the Silicon Valley Institute for Global Sustainability

Draft 14 September 2007

Comments to Max Henrion, Henrion@Lumina.com


“… reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions. … our democracy is in danger of being hollowed out. In order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum. We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. ”

Al Gore, The Assault on Reason, Penguin Press, 2007


To respond effectively to the threat of climate change, it is becoming clear that we must radically shift the way we produce and use energy. This shift must happen at an unprecedented speed to avoid reaching atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases that may trigger dramatic and possibly irreversible climate changes. Over the next decade or two, we in the industrialized world must transform the energy-environment-economy (E3) system as much as we did over the entire preceding century. Simultaneously, the developing world needs to find the means and encouragement to move onto a development path quite different from the fossil-fueled path followed by the first wave of industrialization.

Fortunately, scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs worldwide are picking up the pace of innovation to make the production and use of clean and renewable energy more practical and economic. Better and cheaper technology is essential; but, by itself it is not sufficient to achieve the transformation of the energy-environmental-economic systems fast enough . The critical barriers are psychological, social, and political: How rapidly can we as individuals and societies shift the ways we think, learn, and make decisions as consumers, voters, and political leaders?  How can we improve the democratic decision process so that our societies can change direction in time? How do we make slow but certain climate change as salient to the public as sudden and uncertain terrorism?

The purpose of the Green Shift Project is to do perform focused research on how public understanding and opinion evolves and learns about these issues, and develop practical tools — education, information, and debate — to accelerate this process.

Over the last year or so, public concern in the US about climate change seems to be reaching a tipping point — perhaps due to a combination of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, accumulating evidence of the effects of climate change, including attribution of hurricane Katrina, and a perhaps a wider disillusion with the current US administration. However, it remains unclear how fast this public concern will translate into the kinds of radical rethinking and new policies that are necessary. Some already discern signs of a backlash – even more likely if there is a recession. To succeed in making the necessary changes, there is need for sustained shifts of public opinion and public policy over decades, not just a year or two.  

An example: Economists have long advocated a carbon tax as a simple and economically efficient way to discourage consumption of carbon-based fossil fuels. Thomas Friedman has been especially articulate on this point.  Conventional political wisdom holds that the US public will never accept a tax on gasoline which would double its price — something that has been conventional on most other developed countries for decades (and despite the fact that gasoline prices have doubled since 2002 with no public unrest).  Indeed, a New York Times/CBS News poll in February 2006, found that 85% of the 1,018 adults polled opposed an increase in the federal gasoline tax. However, the same poll found that 55% would support a tax increase, if it reduced dependence on foreign oil. And 59% were in favor if the result was less gasoline consumption and less global warming.  Clearly context is key. Such results suggest that a courageous leader could gain substantial support for a well-explained policy. 

If the US did adopt a substantial gas tax, how effectively would it encourage consumers to buy more efficient automobiles?  Typically, consumers undervalue fuel costs relative to purchase price when buying a car. A feebate (proposed by Amory Lovins) addresses this problem by adding a fee to gas guzzlers balanced by a rebate for fuel efficient automobiles. A recent attempt in Canada to adopt such a feebate appears to have been prevented by the North American auto industry’s determination to continue selling larger vehicles. What would it take to shift public opinion and the political process to the point where we can make policy shifts that override business-as-usual?

To answer such questions, we need to know more about how the general public — not just experts — understand and think about these issues. How does new information changes their thinking? What forms of information and activities are most effective?  And how does this translate to changes in patterns of consumer choice and voting?

To address these critical questions, the Green Shift Project proposes to start with three activities over the coming year:

§         A Deliberative Poll to survey current opinions of US voters on key questions about energy policy and its environmental effects, and how their opinions shift with better information and a day of deliberation. A Deliberative Poll is a hybrid between a debate and an opinion poll. Its measures opinions that are both informed, by the opportunity to learn about and deliberate the issue with others, and representative of US voters, being based with a statistical sample of about 1000 people balanced by age, region, race, income, education, and politics. We will assemble a panel of experts to select the questions and write issue papers and points of view, from which we will prepare briefing materials edited for a general audience for the deliberation.

§         A symposium with top leaders and thinkers in politics, media, business, science and policy to present and discuss the formation and development of public opinion on energy and environment. In particular, they will present and discuss the results of the deliberative poll, and make recommendations for the next US President, and Congress.

§         Green Shift Online: A state-of-the web site that will use the writing, questionnaires, results from the deliberative poll along with material and videos from the symposium to make them available for a much wider audience. Groups can use these to conduct their own deliberative polls.  Individual visitors will be able to learn issues, answer the questions, and compare their views with the full deliberative poll, and with well-known experts and political leaders. Participants can contribute discussion, links to further resources, and suggestions for what to do for those who want in terms of lifestyle or consumer choice, joining organizations, emailing political representatives and other actions. We use advanced techniques emerging from social networking sites to maintain a community multi-log. We aspire to become the Slashdot and Wikipedia of the climate change community. Over time we envision that these informed opinions from deliberative polls, invited experts, and volunteer contributors, will become a powerful voice in the public debate on these issues.

We view these three activities as start of a continuing project, with deliberative polls and symposiums held at regular intervals, and continuous extension of the Web site. We start this project with a focus on the US, partly so we can work with a planned US deliberative poll, and partly because the attitude to these issues of the next US president and administration selected by US voters in 2008 will have a critical impact on global progress on these issues.   Obviously, this issues are global, and we intend later to extend our research and tools to a global audience.

We describe each of these activities in more detail:

Deliberative Poll

The advantage of a deliberative poll over a traditional opinion poll is that it seeks informed opinion — from people who have had a chance to learn about and discuss the issues.  Those polled participate in a seminar, typically over one day, with a variety of experts giving background information and offering arguments supporting different positions. Participants have an opportunity to question the experts and discuss the issues among themselves in small groups of about 10, with a moderator. They report their opinions on key questions in an anonymous survey both before and after deliberation, providing a clear measure of how much the deliberation affected their views.

Its advantage over a conventional debate is that participants are chosen to be representative of the population of interest. Like modern opinion polls, the group is stratified to represent the distribution of age, race, income, political affiliation, and geographic among the population, and recruited to minimize sampling biases.  Arguably, a deliberative poll is a leading indicator of future public opinion, at least on issues in which we can expect the general population to become better informed over time.  For politicians and legislators, it shows what voters might come to think with appropriate information and leadership.

Over 22 deliberative polls have been conducted at local, national, and international levels around the world, including the US, Australia, Greece, and China. Eight Texas utilities conducted deliberative polls with the National Renewable Energy Lab to find public opinions on renewable energy. In 2004, a deliberative poll was conducted in Nova Scotia focused on “Future Energy Alternatives”. PBS (The News Hour with Jim Lehrer) has worked with Jim Fishkin, the originator of Deliberative Polling, in the By the People Program including a 1-hour PBS special hosted by Jim Lehrer. Most recently in 2004, PBS sponsored regional deliberative polls on topics related to the 2004 national elections. An EU-wide poll on “Tomorrow’s Europe” with representatives from all 27 EU countries is planned for Fall 2007.

Deliberative polls often create significant shifts of opinion, due to the face-to-face discussion between citizens of different backgrounds, as well as from the information from experts. A deliberative poll on US national issues by PBS in January 2003 included these results:

·         Support Increase spending on foreign aid (20% before to 53% after deliberation)

·         Require higher gas mileage for vehicles (65% to 81%)

·         Solve environmental problems through International agreements (70% to 87%)


Deliberative Polls were created and developed by Professor Jim Fishkin, now Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford (http://cdd.stanford.edu) The name Deliberative Polling© is copyrighted by James Fishkin, as part of an attempt to make sure that they follow a well-validated protocol.

The fact that the event will take place shortly before the 2008 US Presidential election, in which presumably energy and climate change will be major issues, should give it added punch — whether or not we obtain participation by candidates. Al Gore has already enthused about Deliberative Polls:

"I think it's a wonderful development. And if there is anybody in this group who wonders whether or not this is going anywhere or has accomplished anything, you should stop wondering because I think it has been a tremendous success. I think you have started something great here.”

Vice President Al Gore, January 21, 1996.

            (Video excerpt of from Gore’s participation in Deliberative Poll at National Issues Convention, Austin Texas, 1996, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvBkWHoRpY0

Format of deliberative poll

A typical deliberative poll is organized thus:

§         It recruits about 1000 participants to have sufficient statistical validity for estimates of public opinion (similar to standard telephone-based polls). They may use standard polling organizations to obtain balanced representation by gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, and region to represent US voters.

§         It recruits about 100 participants near each of about 10 sites around the country, each site may be a university, library, or PBS affiliate station.

§         The poll consists of 30 to 50 survey questions.

§         Participants receive a briefing package, with a 12-20-page briefing document providing key information about the issues and varying points of view on each question, about 2 weeks before the deliberation day.

§         Participants meet at their local site for one day for deliberation, perhaps 9am to 5pm. The day includes sessions in which participants divide up into groups of about 10 (a “table”) with a moderator to discuss issues, and formulate questions for experts, plenary session(s) to ask the experts, and further deliberation by table.

§         Participants answer the survey questions anonymously twice: First shortly after they agree to participate and again at the end of the deliberation day. These two sets of answers let us examine the effects of the deliberation on opinions.

§         Participants are paid an honorarium of $50 to $100.

Collaboration with a deliberative poll project in formation

SVIGS is in discussion with Professor James Fishkin to collaborate  in the conduct of a national Deliberative Poll on energy and environment, for a national bipartisan organization of political leaders in conjunction with PBS and By the People, likely including a PBS Special television program hostd by Jim Lehrer. As described below, SVIGS is recruiting a panel of experts to help define the issues and survey questions, to create the briefing materials to be distributed to participants, and provide coordination and training for the moderators at the deliberation sites. Robert Cavalier, a member of the SVIGS team, is Co-Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy. The center has conducted deliberative polls for the City of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and soon the State of Pennsylvania. SVIGS may also provide additional funding for the sites to enable recruiting and training moderators and experts to answer questions at each site.

Expert panel

We are in the process of forming a panel of nationally known experts on the science, technology, and policy of energy use and climate change, including social scientists expert on the formation and assessment of public opinion. These experts will:

§         Help identify, prioritize, and select 7 to 10 topic areas to be addressed by the poll, using suggestions and criteria provided by clients and sponsors of the deliberative poll.

§         Select and define 3 to 5 survey questions within each topic area.

§         Write an issue paper for each topic area, providing key information useful in understanding the issues and questions.

§         Write brief position papers for each question each advocating a viewpoint or answer to each question.

The experts will also be invited to participate in and contribute to the symposium, including:

§         Panel discussions on the issues and questions addressed in the survey

§         Presentations or panels presenting research on the formation, changing, and measuring of public opinion on energy and environmental issues.

Briefing documents

The Carnegie Mellon East group will take the issue papers and position papers and synthesize them into the briefing document, edited and illustrated, to be easy and engaging to read for a general audience.

Topics for the deliberative poll

There are likely to be a lot more suggestions for topics than can easily fit into the 30 or so questions that can reasonably be addressed.  The panel of experts will refine and select the final set of topics and define the questions, with input from project sponsors and partners. Here is a sample of potential topics:  

A primary focus will be near and mid-term policies, at a US National level, including such topics as:

  • Emissions cap and trade and/or carbon tax or tax on imported oil.
  • Renewable portfolio standards vs. subsidies for renewables.
  • Taxes and other incentives for energy efficiency in buildings vs.. mandatory green building codes.
  • “Feebates” and other incentives for purchasing fuel-efficient automobiles.
  • Subsidies or tax breaks for renewables, such as installation of solar photovoltaics.
  • International policy with respect to Kyoto and post-Kyoto treaties. Inclusion of the developing nations. Global cap and trade or carbon taxes.
  • Should we encourage development of “clean” use of fossil fuels, such as combined cycle coal power with carbon sequestration?
  • Is nuclear power a viable and necessary approach to reducing carbon emissions?

A second set of topics concern personal or lifestyle questions, such as:

  • Are carbon offsets a good approach or do they simply assuage the conscience of polluters?
  • What kind of information do I need to help tradeoff between upfront costs and long-term costs?
  • What lifestyle changes might I be willing to make, such as carpooling, telecommuting, a smaller car or house?
  • Does my religious faith or spiritual belief call for environmental stewardship or “creation care”?


What do US voters understand about energy use, the environment, and climate change? How can better education, the media, and political leadership help them become more informed? How might this change their views and support for radical shifts in public policy? And how might it affect their decisions as consumers? This symposium will provide a unique forum for top leaders and thinkers from politics, the media, business, and academe to share their views on these questions

The centerpiece of the Symposium will be a presentation of the results of the Deliberative Poll, including the shift of views induced by the deliberation. We will compare these views from a representative sample of US citizens with the views of expert panel and other symposium speakers and participants on the same survey questions.  Speakers will be invited to discuss the implications of these results for ways to invigorate public debate and the democratic process — including their relevance to the forthcoming US Presidential election and recommendations for the next US administration.

The symposium will include sessions by leading social scientists and economists on their research findings on how people form and shift their understanding and opinions on issues of energy and the environment. These will be complemented by sessions by political leaders and journalists from print, broadcast, and internet media addressing the same issues. A key goal is to create an active dialog among researchers, educators, journalists, and political leaders on what we already know and what we would like to know. A major goal is to create an agenda for further research.

The symposium will take place over two days, with talks, panel discussions, probably over a weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Keynote speakers

We will seek the most effective and relevant speakers and leaders we can to focus attention, using our connections with the business, political, and academic community.

§         Vice President Al Gore: Pre-eminent not only for his book The World in the Balance, and the presentation, book, and Academy-Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, his most recent book, The Assault on Reason, calls for deeper thinking and debate to inform the democratic process  — precisely our theme.

§         Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: In just a couple of years, he has presided over California passing some of the most innovative energy and environmental policy in the US, including the “million solar homes initiative” (AB??), major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (AB??), and transition to renewable fuels for automobiles (AB??). He might appreciate the chance to talk about his leadership in this area. (There may be synergy or competition with the Governors Conference next year, also a likely sponsor of the Deliberative Poll.)

§         Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and author of The World is Flat, has been a longtime and articulate champion of moving away from imported oil to renewables as a key for national security — as he says, “Green is the new red, white, and blue.”

§         Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, catching up with Friedman for his columns on energy and environment. Recently said “I can’t help feeling that we in the news media are part of the reason that steps to battle climate change aren’t on top of the national agenda. We’re good at covering things that happen on any one day — like a tornado or hurricane — but weak at covering complex trends, like climate change. And we tend to cover disputes by having a dutiful quote from each side, without always explaining where the scientific consensus lies.” http://select.nytimes.com/2007/08/20/opinion/20kristof.html?th&emc=th

§         James Fishkin, best known for developing Deliberative Polling, Professor of International Communication at Stanford University and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy  , he is author of several books, most recently Deliberation Day (Yale Press, 2004).

§         M Granger Morgan, Lord Chair Professor of  Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, and Head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. He is chair of the EPA Science Advisory Board and chair of the Advisory Board to the Electric Power Research Institute. He has pioneered improved methods for communicating with the general public about technical risks. A recent report he coauthored for the Pew Center on Climate Change showed that the US can largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation over the next 50 years with just a 20 percent increase in the delivered price of electricity.

§         Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon, and Director of the Center for Integrated Study of Human Dimensions of Global Change. He is known for pioneering work on the psychology of risk perception and judgment and in developing mental models of how people understand complex issues. Among is books are Risk Communication: The Mental Models Approach (2001), coauthored with Granger Morgan.

§         Amory Lovins, cofounder and CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, has advised the energy and other industries for over 30 years, as well as the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense. His work in ~50 countries has been recognized by the "Alternative Nobel," Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Happold Medal, nine honorary doctorates, and the Heinz, Lindbergh, Hero for the Planet, and World Technology Awards. He advises industries and governments worldwide, including major oil companies, and has briefed 18 heads of state. He has published 29 books, most recently Natural Capitalism with Paul Hawken (www.natcap.org) and Small Is Profitable: The Hidden Economic Benefits of Making Electrical Resources the Right Size (www.smallisprofitable.org), and Winning the Oil End Game: Innovation for Jobs Profits, and Security, (www.oilendgame.org)

§         Stewart Brand:  A technology and utopian visionary, best known for creating the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL (perhaps, the first online intellectual community). He also started the Long Now Foundation. As a long-time environmentalist and contrarian, he has recently advocated high-density urban living and nuclear power.

§         Mike Eckhart, Founder and President of the American Council of Renewable Energy, the DC-based industry group for renewable energy. He is influential, and a dynamic speaker.

§         Vinod Khosla, a key visionary for clean-tech in the Silicon Valley venture community, formerly a cofounder of Sun Microsystems and a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins, he founded the venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, focusing on alternative energy, biofuels, and other sustainable technologies.

·         Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, known for its Ecomagination initiative.

§         Peter Darbee, Chairman and CEO, Pacific Gas & Electric.

§         Bjorn Lomborg, Danish scientist, author of the Skeptical Environmentalist and more recently Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming , director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which advocates focusing  more on problems of poverty, on malaria, clean drinking water, AIDS, and malnutrition, instead of spending a lot of resources on global climate change.

§         Jim Lehrer, news anchor of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, moderator of many presidential debates, most recently between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction on politics and history, awarded the National Humanities Medal in 1999. McNeil/Lehrer Productions has helped found and collaborates with BythePeople.org “A national conversation about America in the World”, which has sponsored a series of national deliberative polls, in collaboration with Jim Fishkin. Lehrer has hosted PBS specials on these Deliberative Polls.

Talks and panels

Participants in the expert panel that creates the background materials for the DP will also be invited to participate in talks or panels in the symposium, on issues addressed by the Deliberative Poll and on what research tells us about how people form and shift their views. Here are some ideas for topics for talks and panels:

Survey research, public opinion, and deliberative polls: What do past surveys tell us about public opinions on energy and the environment in the US and elsewhere? How does one design a reliable poll questions? What are the value and limitations of such polls? How are Deliberative Polls different? What can we learn from them?

Public opinion and public policy: How much attention do politicians and other policy makers pay to public opinion, from polls, constituents, community discussions, emails, blogs, and lobbying, and other sources? What makes such information more or less useful and influential?

Are we irrational consumers of energy? Economists point to ways in which individuals and companies use more energy than they need and leave money on the table (as well generate unnecessary environmental emissions) by failing to use cost-effective efficiency measures. A recognized example is buying incandescent lights where fluorescents use a third of the energy, last four times longe, and cost much less in the long run, just because they cost  a bit less upfront. How much is because of irrationally high discount rates? How much the effort in calculating or lack of up to date information? Maybe we believe that fluorescents flicker, buzz, and have unflattering light — as they used to. Or do we have good reasons?

Mental models of energy and the environment: Researchers, such as Baruch Fischhoff and Granger Morgan at Carnegie Mellon, have developed “cognitive interviews” to create detailed mental models of how people think about such issues. They have used these to help design better educational materials. What can we learn from such models? What do they tell us about the best ways to help people develop a better understanding and make more informed decisions?

How can we design around our cognitive limitations?  Power companies and public policy can formulate programs that help us make better decisions. For example, subsidies for energy-efficient appliances reduce their upfront cost. An automobile “feebate” would add fees (or increased sales tax) for gas-guzzling automobiles and rebates for gas-sippers that are overall revenue neutral, and so provide a strong upfront price signal to car buyers who might otherwise ignore long-term fuel costs.

What can the US learn from the rest of the World?  Many other nations have adopted policies that have seemed impractical in the US. Most OECD countries have long imposed gasoline taxes that more than double US gasoline prices. The EU has a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions up and running. After decades of R&D, Canada is now rapidly exploiting its vast reserves of oil sands (comparable to the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia), where the US largely abandoned its efforts in the 1970s to extract oil from its reserves of oil shale. Delhi converted all public vehicles and taxis to clean compressed natural gas, resulting in great improvement in air quality. Brazil’s production of ethanol from sugar cane has reduced its gasoline consumption by about half. Germany has fostered a massive deployment of photovoltaic power by steep subsidies.  Australia has recently banned incandescent lights. What technical, political, or sociological differences from the US have made such initiatives feasible in other countries? What would it take to make comparably innovative policies practical here?

After Kyoto:  The US signed but failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto has been criticized for the modesty of its cuts and for ignoring the developing world. China and India are rapidly expanding their CO2 emissions, with China soon to overtake the US as the World’s biggest source. The Bush administration refused binding limits on emissions at the recent G8 Summit, and is now working to organize international support for purely voluntary limits. Should the next US administration participate in the post-Kyoto negotiations? Should it push for binding reductions in emissions? How might the developed nations reward the developing world for adopting a low-carbon development path quite different from what they followed?

Multiperson games for environmental education: We invite authors of games and simulations intended to help people learn about environment, energy, and global issues to discuss what aspects of games help players become more informed and engaged. We may also make selected games available to symposium participants.

Personal emissions calculators: There are wide range of calculators on the web that enable individuals to estimate the emissions of greenhouse gases from their personal activities, at home, work, and traveling. Some help you identify and evaluate ways to reduce emissions. How reliable are they? How effective are they in helping learn more and reduce their environmental footprints?

The Blogosphere: A panel of environmental bloggers. Who are the most influential blogs on the environment? Who pays attention, and what influence do they have?

Environmental writing: A panel of authors and journalists will discuss what they’ve learned about how to bring a deeper understanding of environmental issues to a broader audience. [Propose your favorite authors and journalists.]

Environmental film: Education or propaganda? A panel of environmental scientists, film critics, and filmmakers discuss recent films, such as An Inconvenient Truth, The Day After Tomorrow, Who Killed the Electric Car, and The 11th Hour (documentary recently released, narrated by Leonardo di Caprio) . How accurate are they? What rhetorical devices do they use? Are they good films? Do they educate or mislead?  (We might show these films in a separate auditorium, running in parallel with the main session on the first day and evening.)

Religion, spirituality, and the environment: Some leading fundamentalist Christians have supported policies that might damage the environment in the belief that we are near the end of days, and the faithful may not have need of the Earth much longer. More recently, others have interpreted Genesis as calling on humankind to practice environmental stewardship or Creation Care. Caring for the Earth is also important for other religious traditions, Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, and others.

Green Shift Online


Green Shift Online will provide a compelling and engaging web resource for people to learn about the issues, record their opinions, and compare them with others. It will make all the writings, survey results, symposium papers and discussion as video, and transcripts easily accessible to a wider audience — expanding its reach and value beyond the original participants in the deliberative poll and symposium.

It will enable individuals answer the poll survey – before and after they read through the material. It will also offer the materials for groups to conduct their own deliberative poll, online or offline, with moderators available for a fee. After giving your answers, an individual or group can compare them with results from the full deliberative poll, from a community of experts, from comparable groups (other college-educated residents), and with selected personalities, experts or politicians.

Much of the site will be organized around the topics and survey questions. For each, it topic or question it will include:

  • Background:  A summary of to the essentials to develop an informed view on this issue.
  • Pros and cons: Two or more brief essays written by well-known experts, writers, scientists, and politicians, advocating different positions, as prepared for the deliberative poll.
  • The World: A summary of how relevant policies are addressed or ignored in nations around the World.
  • What’s new? Latest news about the issue including new evidence, actions, opinion polls, prospective or actual legal rulings or votes by legislature or citizens.
  • For more: List of additional resources, online and offline, to learn more about the issue.
  • Who cares? Invited recommendations or endorsements pro or con by well-known individuals or organizations, each with a brief statement.
  • Discussion: An online debate with contributions by registered visitors.
  • What do I think? The opportunity for visitors to vote their own opinion on each question. Once you’ve registered, you can compare your views with other participants, including the original Deliberative Poll. 
  • What to do? Suggestions of what you can do once you have made up your mind:
    • Lists of organizations for which to volunteer time or donate funds or commit to,
    • Lifestyle or consumer choices you can make relating to this issue, e.g. to reduce environmental impact, purchase from some companies, but not others, or avoid health risks.
    • How to make your voice heard by decision makers, , ranging from voicing opinions to political representatives or other decision makers, The site makes it easy to identify political representatives, to send them direct email or FAXes, and to donate funds to relevant organizations
    • Details on upcoming ballot measures voting in upcoming elections,

Invited and Community Content

At launch, timed to coincide with the symposium, the site will consist in large part of the information prepared for the deliberative poll, and online survey to take the poll. It will also enable registered visitors to make their own contributions. The high quality and expertise of the invited expert contributors, along with editing and information design will make this a remarkable resource.  Over time it will be expanded by community contributions: The categories listed above (except Background and Pros and Cons) will consist of items contributed by participants. The quality and value of contributions will be maintained by the use of ratings by participants, perhaps assisted by invited moderators, so that the most interesting and valuable items rise to the top.

“Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. … It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason.


The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment. Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people — as Lincoln put it, "even we here" — are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.”

Al Gore, The Assault on Reason, Penguin Press, 2007




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