Hold the presses! Stop the action!

Hello all:

Well I’ve already gotten an e-mail asking how the show went, and the interview wasn’t even scheduled until tomorrow, so I guess I might as well get this over with: Interview was canceled.

I was literally about to load the van for the drive to DC when I picked up an e-mail from the guy who was to ask the questions on air. Although he’d been pretending to have previewed my book, it was obvious he’d finally actually gotten around to it. I’d been trying to alert him to the need to read it and the potential of getting into territory we probably didn’t want to go into with an audience like theirs for the better part of two weeks. Instead of driving to DC, I spent the morning trying to put out the fire and save the scheduled date, then 3.5 days off, while cooler heads had a chance to prevail.

It turns out the show is co-produced by three people, one of whom was the interviewer, whom I’ll refer to simply as KM. One of the others had seen and taped the Mars Society talk and had made the invite. Neither he nor his wife, the third producer, have read the book. The best I could do was to get a commitment from all three that they’d each review both the book and the tape of the talk and arrive at a decision amongst themselves afterward. I’ll be very surprised if KM actually views the tape. He doesn’t strike me as a particularly open minded individual. So I am now, at best, dubious that I will get the interview. And, if they do decide to re-invite me, the scheduling is likely to be too late.*

So. I’m still on Long Island. Pann and Lee have been great, but I’m definitely going to get out of their hair by Sunday morning. I think plan B has to be reversion to plan A. Difficulty is that plan A was never very highly developed before I got here, and the TV thing just took it over. Now the first month is gone.

The TV interview had seemed almost too good to be true, so I guess it ought not surprise me so much that it turned out that way. Wish to hell the guy had done his homework earlier though; it would have made recovery a lot easier.

More later:

George

*I think the e-mail exchange between KM and I is interesting and sheds some light on what really went on, so I’m going to post it as a comment to this entry (should give me some practice on how that all works anyway).

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One Response to Hold the presses! Stop the action!

  1. George says:

    *** August 25 3:29 pm
    Dear Dr. M:
    As you know, Donnie has arranged taping for next Saturday of an interview for the Around Space program. I am currently organizing my end. I assume you’ve had a chance to look at my book, In The Service of Gaia, The Call , which Donnie said she would be loaning you. As she probably told you, it was at the core of the presentation I gave to the Mars Society on August sixth.
    There are, however, a couple of nuances which probably need to be acknowledged before we actually sit and talk for the cameras. First of all, you may have already concluded that the book’s main target is the environmental community, not the space advocacy community.
    I do think the space advocacy community needs to hear much of what I have to say, and I am quite excited by the opportunity your show presents. In particular, the message that the prospects for extra-planetary exploration are very much in doubt deserves much more awareness than it currently seems to garner. Similarly, space advocates need to recognize the point that those prospects depend directly upon the success of the environmental movement in dealing with the immediate and mid-term threats on which Al Gore and many others have recently focused public attention.
    The latter point ought to motivate the space advocacy community to actively engage environmental issues. That was the main point of my presentation at the Mars Society, which was very well received.
    A related issue, which I touched upon but did not address as thoroughly as I had hoped to at the Society conference, is that space advocates should recognize the potential their expertise has for converting many environmentalists, the vast majority of whom are presently either neutral or even opposed to space exploration, to being supporters for terraforming Mars.
    Research from Mars has clearly established the fact that global environmental conditions are subject to extraordinarily drastic variation. That this research has not motivated serious and profound research into the potential of massive environmental changes on Earth is astounding. That our attention in response to global warming, for instance, has thus far been limited to such questions as sea level increases and micro-ecosystem migration to higher latitudes and elevations is really quite myopic in view of the fact that Mars clearly demonstrates that an atmosphere can dry up and disappear.
    Uniformitarianism, and the even more insidious prevalence of human-centric assumptions about the universe itself, may lull us into ignoring the potential implications of the facts from Mars for the future on Earth, but space advocates both miss an opportunity and do the public a grave disservice by not calling for thorough studies of any and all possible connections.
    The disservice is simple: What if the uniformity assumption proves to be irrelevant? My book’s discussion of catastrophe theory and autocatalytic processes addresses this question with what I hope is chilling effect.
    The opportunity missed is exemplified by my own experience: I would have virtually no interest in terraforming Mars had I not come to the conclusion years ago that we’re not going to make it here on Earth and that, therefore, our only chance is to get off this planet. There are numerous gradations of texture applicable to that statement–the most notable of which is the larger than normal meaning which I ascribe to the word “we”–that require a thorough reading of the book to fully explain.
    The point is that environmentalists are not apt to see the potential utility of terraforming Mars unless they are much more aware of the potential of actually not being able to “save the planet.”. If Al Gore is even half right, the only chance space advocates will have of being in the game when it starts to get really ugly is if they have already established themselves in the public mind as a potential part of the solution.
    Another point your audience may find intriguing is the observation that, even if Mars is successfully terraformed and human settlements begin to thrive there, the assumed dominance of our species on the model we think of as a natural extension of our dominance on Earth is, at best, highly speculative. You might be surprised at how many environmentalists actually find that idea comforting.
    I am perfectly happy to focus our discussion on these aspects of the book, or anything else you think your audience might find novel yet not beyond the pale. There are, however elements in the book of which I suspect your viewers might be quite skeptical. I doubt much justice can be done most of those without a thorough reading of the book. If you concur, I will go on the assumption that we will mostly avoid such topics and that will be my basis for preparation.
    A secondary nuance has to do with the state of the book as presented to you. Comb-bound and clearly self-published, the presence of an ISBN number may not, for some, seem to be sufficient to warrant recognition as “published.” I am, in fact, still seeking a traditional publisher, and that is one of the major goals of my tour of the east. Truth is, I ran out of time prior to leaving the west coast for the Mars Society talk to arrange a self-published, albeit more opaquely so because of the better look, paperback edition. I am inquiring this very day of a printer on Long Island to arrange a product with a more professional appearance. How important do you think having such in hand would be to the program’s success and my credibility?
    Sincerely,
    George Drake

    *** August 27 5:23 am
    Dear George,
    Pardon my delay in responding. I wanted to finish reading your
    book, so that I could say something useful.

    Format. We tape 28 min. segments. One minute is split between
    introducing the topic and guest, and wrapping the show. This leaves 27
    min. which we can allocated to your various talking points.

    Audience. Fairfax Public Access / Channel 10 airs in Fairfax
    County, which has a somewhat unusual demographic. The population here
    has, on the one hand, a high proportion of upper income and highly
    educated, professional, civil service, and military families; and, on the
    other hand, a growing population that is ethnically hispanic and asian.
    Northern Virginia has a sizable population that works in the IT industry.
    The greater DC area has for generations been imbued with a particularpolitical culture that may take some getting used to.

    Pre-interview. Before going on air, we will sit together for
    about one hour to draw up a list of talking points, and a time budget for
    each (adding up to 27 min. as mentioned above). Also we will work out how
    to introduce the topic and the guest. Please feel free to propose such a
    schedule and introduction.

    Talking Points. Space buffs are, as you pointed out, already
    enthusiastic about space settlement. They are already sold on the virtues
    of having a two-planet civilization. We are preaching to the converted;
    and they would love to hear more. Perhaps we could focus on these:
    1) Settlement. Alternative settlement concepts, what would be
    required to achieve self-sufficiency and independance from Earth, time
    frame, population, transportation.
    2) Terraforming. You will be the first guest to discuss
    terraforming on Around Space. Alternative concepts, time, cost, benefits.
    How to make a denser atmosphere if the solar wind can continue scouring
    away the Martian atmosphere (since Mars has no liquid core, and hence no
    protective magnetic field). One can also mention that “paraterraforming”
    (building ever more transparent pressurized domes as the population grows)
    can proceed in parallel.
    3) Life. Exo-biology, the forward- and backward- contamination
    issue, how will plants and animals adapt to 1/3 gravity, what are the
    show-stoppers (dust, radiation).

    Post Production. After the taping, Donnie will edit the program.
    Usually, she leaves the sound-track alone, and adds in lots of graphics.
    Please bring any charts or artist renderings that you would like to use.
    I think this show has the potential to be graphics rich.

    Book Printing. Last year I had a guest who published his book
    with an outfit that specializes in low volume print-to-order runs using
    “Perfect” binding. If you do not have a printer lined up, it should be
    enough to say that you expect the book to be in print by end of the year.

    I look forward to meeting you.

    Sincerely Yours,
    K.
    *** August 28 6:04 pm
    Dear K:
    Thanks for the invitation to make scheduling and talking point suggestions. I’m responding now so you can get a better idea of some of my views before we meet. I have some interesting perspectives on the terraforming issues you’ve suggested, and I’m not sure whether being the first guest to directly discuss the topic will be a plus or a minus. Often my opinions are going to surprise many of your viewers.
    The expectation that Earth will survive forever is very deeply ingrained in our psyches. Most of your viewers have rarely, if ever, thought of the future on Mars as being bereft of a support base and population on Earth. The idea is so alien to them, I suspect, that we might be well advised to work into it slowly, possibly even minimizing the potential at first.
    For instance, if we start by talking about settlements and paraterraforming and solar mirrors, my expectations will seem unduely negative. Besides, these are not the areas of my expertese, nor the main focus of my book.
    The main messages of the book are that:
    1) Because we are failing so miserably to protect Earth’s environment, complete collapse of the Earth’s biosphere is likely and imminent.
    and 2) Security, therefore, lies only in successfully terraforming Mars.
    These ideas, in their simplest forms, are not particularly novel. However, my take on them most certainly is:
    To start with, consider the concept of “complete collapse of the Earth’s biosphere.” I see that in a way most do not. Most think of a return of the human condition to the stone age, or, if they are truly pessimistic about the future, perhaps of an eradication of mammals roughly equivalent to the passing of the dinosaurs.
    I think of changes on the order of magnitude that Mars has undergone–from a planet with a much denser atmosphere and surface water to one without either–except I see the possibility of such a transformation taking a number of centuries, not necessarily many eons.
    Then consider the idea of successfully terraforming Mars:
    Virtually all of your viewers anticipate a star trek future.
    I think we’ll be lucky if we have time before Earth’s collapse to morph Mars into something close enough to Earth’s environment to support even “lower” life forms. Humans will be very fortunate, indeed, if they have any kind of a future on Mars. And if they don’t, they’ll have no future at all, for space ships and colonies are not viable without the home base.
    My book recognizes the extreme nature of these ideas, and spends a great deal of time addressing their rationality. A few of the points which I think will lend themselves nicely to being discussed on your show are these:
    1 )The prospects for extra-planetary exploration are very much in doubt.
    2) Space advocates need to recognize the point that those prospects depend directly upon the success of the environmental movement in dealing with the immediate and mid-term threats
    3) Space advocates, therefore, have a vested interest in actively utilizing knowledge gleaned from space exploration to solve Earth-based problems.
    4) Space advocates should recognize the potential their field has for converting many environmentalists to being supporters for terraforming Mars. Currently the vast majority are either neutral or even opposed to space exploration.
    Mars clearly demonstrates that an atmosphere can dry up and disappear. This fact can motivate environmentalists like few others and, at the least, should stimulate serious and profound investigation into the potential of massive environmental changes on Earth.
    Uniformitarianism, and the even more insidious prevalence of human-centric assumptions about the universe itself, have lulled us into complacency, but space advocates both miss an opportunity and do the public a grave disservice by not calling for thorough studies of any and all possible connections between global disaster on Mars and the potential threats on Earth.
    Another point your audience may find interesting: even if Mars is successfully terraformed and human settlements begin to thrive there, the assumed dominance of our species on the model we think of as a natural extension of our dominance on Earth is, at best, highly speculative. Your viewers may be surprised at how many environmentalists actually find that idea comforting.
    I believe I will have in hand a small number of sample paperbacks which I’m hoping will make good visuals. The samples will actually only be tape bound, but the cover and form will be substantially the same as in the final product. Other than that, I have few graphics, charts, futuristic drawings, etc. that would be helpful. I do have an interesting prop which I will bring that might help illustrate why I am such a skeptic of the uniformitarian insistance that gradual change is the geological rule. I’ll bring it and we can discuss whether you think it appropriate during the hour before taping.
    Sincerely Yours,
    George
    *** August 30 1:51 am
    Dear George,
    I think it best to cancel the interview. Around Space is not a
    good match for the topic of your book. There may be other shows at
    Fairfax Public Access / Channel-10 that are more suitable.

    1) Positive. Around Space would be the right place to discuss
    planetary science, settlement, terraforming, life science, and space
    policy. Most of the statements made on our show are “positive” (how the
    world is) rather than “normative” (how the world should be). Many of our
    guests are scientists, astronauts, policy wonks, government officials, and
    others who, in order to protect their credibility, must be careful about
    what and whom they become associated with.

    2) Normative. Around Space is less well suited for the topic of
    your book “In the Service of Gaia: The Call.” There are many statements
    in the book that we (the show, our guests, the host) should avoid becomingassociated with. For example, “Life on Earth will not survive. The
    Lifeforce will die. It will do so soon–on the order of hundreds of
    years.” [2-9] “Two years after the Vision, I was given a magical
    sacrament, Trumpeting” [5-89] “I call upon you to join me in forming …
    an eco-religion” [5-99] “The Lifeforce itself is our God. … Our prayers
    are … to Gaia. Trumpeting is the meditative form our prayers take.”

    3) Alternative. There are other shows produced at Fairfax Public
    Access / Channel-10 that may be more suitable for debueing [sic] your book.
    One show that comes to mind is “Telepathic TV,” which is also produced by
    Donnie Lowther. For a complete list, please refer to
    < http://www.fcac.org/channel%2010/ch10programs.htm>. Please contact
    Donnie for her recommendation.

    Sincerely Yours,
    K:
    *** August 30 8:04 am
    Dear K:
    I’m glad to see that you’ve had a chance to read my book. Perhaps we can now revisit the previous discussion I was hoping to initiate with my earlier e-mails. I am in complete agreement that the book’s main target audience is not yours. However, I still maintain that your audience would appreciate and benefit from a number of points I address therein. The points I’m alluding to were summarized in my last e-mail:
    “1 )The prospects for extra-planetary exploration are very much in doubt.”
    Money is always the problem. Public support is essential to assure its continued flow. Your viewers are very aware of this difficulty, but have few ways of responding to the complaint that space exploration can be done more cheaply via robots. My position is that that argument has, at its core, the assumption that our position on Earth is forever sustainable. That needs to be acknowledged and moved up on the list of reasons for a manned space program. This observation has support from no less a luminary than Stephen Hawking.
    Space junk is also a well-known issue. The potential of war vastly complicating that problem in a matter of days is an idea seldom discussed, but one to which I speak emphatically.
    “2) Space advocates need to recognize the point that those prospects depend directly upon the success of the environmental movement in dealing with the immediate and mid-term threats.”
    If Al Gore is even half-way correct, the stresses of environmental crises will deflate public support for “throwing money away” on outer space to zero in a matter of decades. The space community must do some early preparation if it hopes to deal with the competition these crises will present.
    “3) Space advocates, therefore, have a vested interest in actively utilizing knowledge gleaned from space exploration to solve Earth-based problems.”
    Exploration of outer space offers some unique opportunities for expanding our understanding of environmental problems here on Earth, and space advocates should be stressing these aspects in their public profile.
    “4) Space advocates should recognize the potential their field has for converting many environmentalists to being supporters for terraforming Mars. Currently the vast majority are either neutral or even opposed to space exploration.
    “Mars clearly demonstrates that an atmosphere can dry up and disappear. This fact can motivate environmentalists like few others and, at the least, should stimulate serious and profound investigation into the potential of massive environmental changes on Earth.
    “Uniformitarianism, and the even more insidious prevalence of human-centric assumptions about the universe itself, have lulled us into complacency, but space advocates both miss an opportunity and do the public a grave disservice by not calling for thorough studies of any and all possible connections between global disaster on Mars and the potential threats on Earth.”
    Hopefully this summary already explains my position fairly well.
    “Another point your audience may find interesting: even if Mars is successfully terraformed and human settlements begin to thrive there, the assumed dominance of our species on the model we think of as a natural extension of our dominance on Earth is, at best, highly speculative. Your viewers may be surprised at how many environmentalists actually find that idea comforting.”
    While I think your viewers would, indeed, do well to think about this idea, it is really aimed much more squarely at my book’s main audience, the environmental community, and I am not particularly invested in its discussion.
    I understand your concern that association with a book which has as much reliance upon the irrational as mine does would be detrimental to your credibility with your audience, and I am perfectly happy to minimize reference to it. That is, essentially, what I have been trying to suggest in these exchanges.
    As to your specific concerns:
    “Around Space would be the right place to discuss
    planetary science, settlement, terraforming, life science, and space
    policy. Most of the statements made on our show are “positive” (how the
    world is) rather than “normative” (how the world should be).”
    I wish to speak directly to space advocates’ current approach to policy, both in general and as to how terraforming ought to be advanced politically. One of the most glaring deficits in current advocacy is its almost totally unrealistic assessment of how the public at large perceives it.
    If anything, my position is much more sensitive to “how the world is” than is that of a great many space advocates. When New Orleans is forgotten because Phoenix dies of thirst, the VSE will be even further out of mind than today, when not one in ten thousand Americans have any idea what those initials stand for.
    “Many of our guests are scientists, astronauts, policy wonks, government officials, andothers who, in order to protect their credibility, must be careful about what and whom they become associated with.”
    Granted. So let’s soft peddle the book. This, in no way, diminishes the point that your audience needs to hear some less optimistic assessments of their future prospects–if they are to hope to have them.

    “There are many statements in the book that we (the show, our guests, the host) should avoid becoming
    associated with.”
    Again, granted, although I think picking them out and quoting them out of context is, at best, unfair. Remember, the audience for the book is not that of the interview and the book is telling a true story of my experiences, many of which even I do not pretend to understand.
    But, also again, the point that the space advocacy community needs to have a reality check, combined with my proposal to de-emphasize the book proper and accentuate the issue of how the environmental community and the space community interact negates the concern.
    “[There] may be more suitable [shows] for debueing your book. One show that comes to mind is “Telepathic TV,” which is also produced by Donnie Lowther.”
    K, this recommendation makes me wonder how carefully you did manage to read my book. Nothing in that title suggests it is pertinent to the book.
    I have already made arrangements to be in DC on Saturday. I have rearranged my entire east coast tour around that date. I am not at all appreciative of such a last minute attempt to withdraw. I hope these comments can allay your concern and that we can still have a productive, and interesting interview.
    Sincerely,
    George
    *** End of e-mail transcript

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