Let’s bring it to a higher level

So this petition to yank The Boom as the Penn State Reads book now has thousands of signatures. The fact that a university’s reading choice has garnered this much attention from genuinely concerned people is kind of awesome.

The attention to climate change, to dangerous technologies and to the influence of the fossil fuel industry has on higher education in general and Penn State in particular is great.

The tactic is really bad. Censorship should remain in the dustbin for acceptable tactics. It’s alienating, dogmatic and against the spirit of a democracy. Right or wrong, some people will immediately invoke all kinds of totalitarian images of book burning and the “real” agenda of the environmental left which they say is “watermelon,” green on the outside (environmentalist) but pink on the inside (communist and anti-American). On Twitter, there’s already been some mockery.

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But we are dealing with a real issue and we can learn a lot together.

The petition isn’t going away. Russel Gold is coming to campus. Students, faculty and staff are going to read the book. If we can attend to our own motivated reasoning and at least be conscious of our tribalism, we might actually get someplace really good. I’m not sure that the most polarized will be able to do much besides shout, but the rest of us sure can. [It’s pretty funny for me to not feel polarized on this. I’ve fought fracking for years.]

How can we ride the energy here to elevate the deep and difficult conversation about our energy past, present and future in a free society? Can we ride a wave of (understandable) resentment to a better place and use it to push for a cleaner energy economy and better decision-making? So I am going to make a request.

If you are an activist who signed this petition, what would you want readers to understand? What is missing from The Boom that you think students HAVE to know? What questions would you ask them so they can develop a new or richer perspective?

The Boom is not leaving the Penn State Reads program and the battle over fracking is real. How are we going to spin it up to move us to a better place?

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