Brad Feld

Category: Government

Amy started out my Sunday morning with the Select A Candidate Quiz from Minnesota Public Radio.  I’ll leave it to her to decide whether or not to say who she selected (but it was a surprise to me).  So – I figured I’d take it also. 

Given that I don’t know who Dennis Kucinich is, I was perplexed by how strongly I matched him.  Now that I’ve read his story, I get it.  My top five were Kucinich, Richardson, Gravel, Dodd, and Edwards.  Clinton and Obama were tied for #6 – I disagree with them on Iraq, Immigration, Social Security, Energy, and the Death Penalty.  It’s no surprise to me that the Indians (I mean Romney, McCain, Gilmore, Huckabee, and Brownback) are in the cellar. 

Go Red Sox.

The Value of Heresy

Aug 11, 2007
Category Government

Heresy makes you think.  Amy sent me an essay about heresy written by the great physicist and thinker Freeman Dyson titled Heretical Thoughts About Science and SocietyFollowing is the setup to what is a phenomenal essay.

“The main subject of this piece is the problem of climate change. This is a contentious subject, involving politics and economics as well as science. The science is inextricably mixed up with politics. Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, but there are violently diverging opinions about the causes of change, about the consequences of change, and about possible remedies. I am promoting a heretical opinion, the first of three heresies that I will discuss in this piece.

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans, not to mention easy problems such as the timely construction of adequate dikes around the city of New Orleans. “

About halfway through Dyson’s essay, I came upon what I consider to be a simple yet brilliant paragraph.

“When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models.”

I’m a huge environmentalist, but really struggle with all the popular / political stuff going on around climate change.  I’ve studied it some but am not expert.  I’m careful about expressing my opinion because much of it is simply opinion and reaction, rather than data driven conclusions.  As a result, my personal focus on improving the environment has been around land conservation and intelligent land use and management.  Interestingly, Dyson touches on some of this in his discussion of the dynamics surrounding the evolution of the biomass of the earth.

I mentioned this casually in a conservation with a colleague the other day and he pointed me to an article titled Walking to the shops ‘damages planet more than going by car.’  While a knee jerk reaction from a climate change believer would be “that’s total bullshit”, it was another intriguing set of thoughts from Chris Goodall (Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford West & Abington) about a different approach to thinking about the problem.

While it’s currently popular to “think green”, it’s always been less popular to put forward heretical thoughts.  But the heretical thinkers are often the most innovative ones.  Hopefully they get us to think.

Tags: environment, global+warming, critical+thinking, freeman+dyson, heresy

It was inevitable that, with the endless crush of the upcoming elections, I’d start writing the occasional post on politics.  I’ve decided to ignore the primary elections for the presidential elections, but there are some local Colorado candidates that I am putting some effort for in the primaries.

One of them is my long time friend Jared Polis.  Jared was one of the first people that I met when I moved to Colorado (I think we met in early 1996 via my first business partner Dave Jilk.)  We’ve been involved in a number of things together, including a company called Net.Capitol, TechStars, Young Entrepreneurs Organization, and a bunch of non-profit stuff.  Jared has had remarkable entrepreneurial success at both (acquired by Excite@Home) and Provide Commerce (IPO, then acquired by Liberty Media.)

I believe Jared represents the new generation of leadership in government – one that is desperately needed.  Jared has been passionate about public service since I met him and his experience is extensive.  He’s an articulate independent thinker – willing to dig into data and draw his own conclusions.  And he’s a phenomenal human being.

I encourage you to get to know Jared and – if willing – support his run for Congress.

My dad has gotten involved in a Dirty Coal plant issue in Texas.  The environmental issues are directly linked to the health care issues and – as usual – he’s direct, articulate, and deeply engaging about the issue.  Very cool Dad!  I knew you’d eventually become an environmental activist.

The very first angel investment I made after I sold my first company was in a company called NetGenesis.  Will Herman and I were the initial seed investors; I was chairman of the company for the first couple of years.  Eric Richard was one of the co-founders and one of the technical brains behind the company.  Eric stayed actively involved with company for much longer than I did – through the IPO and then the ultimate sale to SPSS.

I haven’t seen Eric much over the last eight or so years, but we email periodically.  This morning, among other things, he pointed me to the first letter to the editor that he’s had published.  It’s a letter in his local paper (the Sudbury Town Crier) titled: Nobody cares about 50 years from now.  Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” had an impact on Eric and he writes eloquently about it.  Regardless of whether or not you believe in “the crisis of global warming”, Eric’s thoughts and suggestions apply.

Now – that’s a mission statement.  I’m on the board of the Colorado Conservation Trust and we had a board meeting last week.  CCT is one of the best organized non-profits I’ve ever had the privilege to be involved with and is unambiguous about its goal.  The mission statement says it all – “Conserve 2,000,000 Acres in the Next Decade – Let’s Get Going.” 

I’ve lived in Colorado for 10 years.  Part of the magic of this place is the mountains, the open space, and the wide stretches of undeveloped land.  Boulder benefits greatly from the city and county’s forward thinking conservation attitude from many years ago, resulting in a magnificent city in an environmentally protected setting.  None of this was by accident and I’ve tried to do my part in the last decade to help locally.

CCT broadens this view across the entire state.  There are numerous environmental organizations in Colorado – some effective, some not.  There is the typical conflict you’d expect from an area that is undergoing huge growth ranging from private property rights to zoning issues to wildlife protection.  In addition to actively participating in conservation, CCT has taken a leadership role in understanding what is going on in conservation across the state.  Recently, they released Colorado Conservation at a Crossroad – their first comprehensive report on conservation in Colorado

Since it was founded in 2000, CCT has contributed to the protection of more than 30,000 acres in Colorado.  It’s raised $10 million from 30 foundations in and over 300 individuals.  It’s leveraged the $10 million with an additional $24 million of public and private dollars.  It does this with a staff and organization that is 100% underwritten by its board of directors – we cover 100% of CCT’s operating costs so that all of the money that is contributed can be directly deployed against land conservation programs.

If you live in or enjoy Colorado, you should be happy there are folks like Will Shafroth and his team at CCT working hard to help keep it special.  We’re always looking for additional support of any kind and – as the end of the year rolls around and you consider any philanthropic giving – I’d encourage you to consider a gift CCT if you are conservation minded and enjoy Colorado.  Remember – 100% of your money will go to land conservation – we (the board) has got the admin stuff covered.  If you want to learn more or get involved, feel free to contact me.

I’m on the board of the Colorado Conservation Trust.  I think it’s currently the most impactful environmental conservation based organization in Colorado – I am so enthusiastic about it that I merged a non-profit environmental organization that I helped start – the Front Range Alliance – into CCT last year and joined the CCT board.  CCT is continuing the mission of the Front Range Alliance with the Front Range Mountain Backdrop initiative.

One of the really fun projects that CCT did last year (at the request of one of our major donors) was to hold a high school video essay contest.  The winner – 10th grader Michael Beggs of Boulder High School – produced a remarkable video titled “Grasslands”.  Second place was titled “Oil and Gas Development on the Roan Plateau” and third place was “Eurasian Milfoil – A Non-Native Grass that is Polluting Colorado’s Rivers and Streams.”

If you are conservation minded, you should be pleased that we are “growing them young” here in Colorado.