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Carl Pope is Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Since Pope’s appointment in 1992, Sierra Club has added 150,000 new members, bringing the total membership to 700,000. Pope has a[…]

Increasing access to information is a significant new development.

Question: How is technology changing the environmental movement?

Carl Pope: Well it’s fundamental obviously. Let me give you an obvious example. There are now tens of thousands of people who can look in our magazine and see my e-mail address and send me an e-mail. And many of them do and I read them, and they all expect me to respond that day. Now 10 years ago they could all send me a letter, which was more work, and people were for some reason much . . . It’s funny. It wasn’t that much more work. But many fewer people did it. Something about the speed of the Internet causes people to communicate with you much more often. So just the volume of information I get every day is probably tenfold what it was a decade ago. That’s a challenge. On the other hand I’ve got a cell phone here, and I’ve got the phone number of a taxi driver in Bangalore, India in it. If I call him, that signal doesn’t pass through a single piece of equipment designed more than a decade ago. Everything it goes through is new. On the other hand the electrons that are coming into this studio and enabling you to talk to me come from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant whose basic design dates back to the 1960s. And they pass through a bunch of electro mechanical switches between Indian Point and this studio that were designed 80 years ago. There is a huge disparity between the new economy and the old economy. And the old economy is the one that is built on using up stuff. The new economy is built on aggregating information. I mean Google is the ultimate example. You sit down, I enter something, some obscure technical publication from a Danish magazine published in 1980 and uploaded in 1998 . . . and they find it and 10,000 other things on the same topic. And in the upper right it says 0.015 seconds. That is a very different world than the world of a ________ era nuclear power plant.


Recorded on: September 27, 2007.