Podcast Radio Show—Episode #1: The Mind of the Climate Activist

Science Gone Wild with William M Briggs
Science Gone Wild with William M Briggs
Podcast Radio Show---Episode #1: The Mind of the Climate Activist


Welcome to the first show!

Update If you are want to download, but are unfamiliar how, click the Podcasts RSS feed on the left part of the webpage. You’ll see a link to the mp3 file.

Update 6:01 am Thursday One minute after I wrote my comment below, I received an email from Apple saying my podcast has been approved. It’s called the “William M. Briggs show“. Searching on Podcast Alley doesn’t bring it up, but I found it another way and update the link to that site below.

I want to know what you think, but please especially let me know if you have any technical difficulties, particularly of those who download the podcast onto an mp3 player. This show is available for subscription from iTunes and Podcast Alley.

Shows should appear each Wednesday morning (New York time).

I hate thinking how I’m adding to the cacophony, but I’d rather hear my voice emanating from somebody’s earbuds than what currently seeps out.

Today’s topic: the mind of the climate activist. Most of us are inactivists, a description of which is not needed, the word being obvious. But we need to understand what drives the opposite behavior. What makes somebody into an activist?

Climate scientists, the ordinary citizen, even politicians are acting rationally, but what about the climate activist?

All that, plus a word from Grouch Marx and a music lesson from Shemp.

The WMB show!


  1. Tom Vonk

    2 technical comments
    – while many people may be fluent in English , they are not necessarily fluent in oral american .
    F.ex b.AAk= block , vAAliium = volume (it took me some time to puzzle out this one) .
    So vocal communication will probably cut you off from your non anglo-americans readers , me among others .
    It is not a problem but you might want to know about it .
    – oral communication and thinking don’t mix well together (even if one is familiar with creative prononciation) . The short term memory is just that , a short term memory . So when an intellectually complex argument is developped during more than 5 minutes , 99 % of people have forgotten what had been said in the beginning . Obviously you cannot just scroll back to check if the exact word used 5 minutes ago was “probably” or “certainly” .
    In any case I find that this subject is particularly interesting and I have read a good deal about the “internal engine of activism .”

  2. Briggs


    You’re a sweetheart to provide such thoughtful response. I have already heard from others that I “talk too damn fast.” Next time, I slow down, way down. I’ll try to provide better “show notes” that my rambling is more accessible.

    And I’ll still have written commentary, usually Monday and Friday, and at other times when the situations warrant.

  3. DAV

    Oddly available for consumption on a TSD via subscription.

  4. Tom

    Thanks for your very helpful insights. I look forward to hearing your podcast next week.
    I’d love to here more on the same topic.

    By the way, I saw the Age of Stupid yesterday in Taiwan. I don’t remember any puppets, but it came down hard on the U.S. and surely promoted the restricting of freedoms. I’d have hollered out “YOU LIE”. but my wife made me promise before we went that I’d keep quiet.

  5. Briggs

    You were in Taiwan, Tom? I’m jealous! Are you there permanently?

    I’d only suspected puppets. Progressives seem abnormally fond of them.


    If you can’t beat them…

  6. JH

    Great idea! Love the music at the end.

    First off, please realize that I have contracted a virulent disorder called “In One Ear and Out the Other” after a number of years of marriage. So may I suggest the following?

    The show is long for me. I finished an apple (not a fast eater) before it was over. Perhaps my attention span is too short.

    Unlike writing, there are no paragraph breaks in talking. Could you somehow create a break by saying, for example, “the next part…” or whatever brilliant ideas you can come up with.

    Wrap up the story at the end?!

  7. JJD

    A great idea, and entertainingly done. My suggestion is that 30 minutes is too long, and probably not necessary for this and other messages you would want to deliver. Try for 10 minutes, or 15 at the most. It will be easier for us to sneak in a listen. Production will be easier for you, too. Can a YouTube series be far off?

    As to the content of this piece, I think it is worth zeroing in on the activists. There is much there to discuss. To focus on the main subject, it was reasonable for you to glide over the scientists and politicians, but maybe you didn’t need to be so kind to them in passing. The gross incompetence or outright fraud we are seeing from certain publicly funded “scientists” and institutions can neither be ignored nor forgiven, certainly not characterized as just scientists-doing-their-business. The politicians are not all just sincere blokes who respectfully trust what the scientists are saying and pursue the logical course, either. It is clear, for example, that a major effort is underfoot to pursue some unfinished carbon-credits business left over from Enron, regardless of the effects on the economy.

    Anyhow, you heroically managed to avoid producing a rant, and I look forward to more podcasts.

  8. Luis Dias

    I completely disagree with JDD’s advices, those would be great for a podcast, but such podcasts already exist and they are done by Glenn Beck!! Seriously, you’d do that, I’d never listen to them again.

    I also find 30 minutes very much okay. But then again, I’m not the usual listener. I’m used to listen to 100+ minutes talks and debates on google video and etc., about many complex themes, all this while I work (and it’s how I work better, believe it or not), so 30 mins to me is a snack, if at all. I really enjoyed the talk, except for the Groucho part, because I didn’t understand any of it.

    I just have a quick jab to make, similar to the one I made to WJBriggs, last post. I find it ironic that you try to psychoanalyze so much “climate activists” by doing what they do, because apparently, they aren’t even scientists analyzing this stuff, and then have a blog that frequently jabs and bullies around this same issue, and now even have a podcast to make fun of the very same action you are performing!

    Not that I dislike to hear about this stuff, but you should be more aware of these self-references and perhaps take it lighter.

    So I’ll be waiting for the next installment. Thanks!

  9. Briggs


    I forgot to put the music in the “show” notes! It’s Doc Cheatham, live from the River Walk cafe in San Antonio, home of the Jim Cullen jazz band. This was, I think, in 96 or 97, when Doc was 91 or so. A new year’s eve party.

    The intro is, of course, from a Ray Bradbury story, which was done in a Twilight Zone episode.


    30 minutes might be too much. But a little more than half (and about what I guessed) download the show onto some TSD, where longer formats are preferred. I’ll have to do a better job chopping things up so that I don’t run on and on and on with no breaks. That way, if somebody’s listening on the web, they can have some relief!


    You can hear Glenn Beck in Portugal? I’ve not actually heard his show, though I have heard the intro about a half dozen times: it starts at 9 am here in NYC, right when I’m taking off for work. I figured since he had a Morse code intro, I couldn’t.

    I’ll try and find some better Groucho clips for you. Not to be missed!

  10. kj

    Couldn’t find podcast on itunes by searching your name. What is show called?

  11. Briggs


    I just checked by trying to resubmit. It said “That podcast has already been submitted.” When I originally did so, it said that the show had to undergo a review, presumably to check for naughty/foul content (since this is one of the boxes you have to swear to; that you are “clean”). Though now I wonder if an anti-progressive slant is considered “clean.”

    So it’s probably still awaiting review.

    You can download the show from here from clicking the RSS podcast link to the left.

    I’ll check periodically and announce its clearance above, as an “Update.”


  12. Bob

    I couldn’t fine it on iTunes, either. Downloaded to my desktop, and will say that the production is good, and easy to understand. The only audio problem was the Groucho Marx parts where the audience noise interfered with Groucho’s speech.

    All in all, very good for a first shot.

  13. Time for my obligatory podcast whinge: as a control freak when it comes to my iPod, I like to manually manage its contents. That means no auto sync and so on.

    When it comes to finding stuff on my iPod, I rely heavily on the Artist and Genre ID3 tags in the MP3 file. If there are any.

    So, any chance of putting ‘Briggs’ or something in the ‘Artist’ field, and maybe ‘Talk’ or something in the ‘Genre’? Makes it easy to find for those of us who like to manually manage their content.

    Incidentally, I notice you are using mono at 128kbps. You could easily lop a quarter off the file size by going to 96kbps, and I suspect that it would still sound okay at 64kbps.

    But, then, I’m the kind of person who trims trailing blanks from text lines on my own website, so as to save bytes.

  14. I should add: I’m thrilled that you’ve included a podcast. It’ll be on my iPod whether or not you add the tags (I’ll add them myself) and I’ll report back about how it works portably as soon as I’ve listened.

  15. Briggs


    Thanks much! I thought I had added those tags. Naturally, it looks like I made a mistake. Must have pushed the wrong button. I’ll try again. Incidentally, I’m using Audacity 1.3.7 (on Ubuntu 9.04). It’s a little crash prone yet. When the next Ubuntu comes out, it’ll have the 1.3.9 Beta (then production?) Audacity which is supposed to have better crash support.


    I just checked (6 am EST, NYC time) and the podcast has still, presumably, not been approved. When I try and resubmit, it tells me it’s already submitted. I’ll wait another day and then send an email if it doesn’t show.

    Know what you mean about the other clips. I’ll try and do a better job with those, too, next time.

    Thanks for the tips!

  16. Tom Vonk

    Actually I don’t think that you were speaking too fast and I admit that I understood everything (yes , I listened to the whole speech) .
    I would even range you to the small american speaking minority that doesn’t drown every significant consonant in a roaring ocean of vowels so that one only hears “AA..OAA..AIIU..” .
    Hence my point was more the second one – listening prevents thinking (or mutes it strongly down) and for those not having american as their (quasi) mother language even more so .
    On a different but related note I have always been appalled to see how many americans actually LISTEN to books instead of reading them .
    This seems to me a very strange perversion .
    Reading is a complex process involving stops , back scrolls , thought pauses and visual representations .
    All that is not compatible with the listening process that is mostly adapted to vehiculate short and simple messages .
    Yes there is the theater but that is not only listening .
    I have seen that they are selling the Lord of the Rings in audio .
    Who would buy that and what pleasure/understanding would he derive from listening to it ?

  17. DAV


    And yet, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started as radio comedy. I think in images myself. Audio is just another sense channel. It’s video that interferes for me. I would have gotten nothing from the “Calculus in 20 Minutes” show if it were an unknown subject — and didn’t except for wry enjoyment. They should similarly toss prompter cards on nightly newscast. It would give a new meaning to “breaking news”. I would have found Briggs’s pace boringly slow except that it allowed time for reflection as the sentences seeped in.

  18. Tom Vonk

    I agree . Video is even worse .
    The thing is in the “density” of information (artistic and/or intellectual) .
    When it passes a threshold (variable for everybody and mostly depending on the quality of the short term memory) , then reading is the only way of communication that still stays efficient because you adapt your reading qualitative and quantitative process to the high density .
    Speaking and even worse , video , can’t be adapted so much goes lost .
    Both understanding and imagination .
    Video btw perverts imagination altogether even if it is a very good video .

  19. Briggs


    I loved your description of hearing English as a “roaring ocean of vowels so that one only hears ‘AA..OAA..AIIU..'”

    I wonder, are you reading LOTR in English or in translation? I wonder at the difficulty of translating that work because of the huge number of neologisms.


    Thank you to everybody who commented here and emailed me personally. I’ll be taking all your criticisms into account when I prepare the next show which will be, of course, New and Improved! Next time, a more sedate pace, better and coherent segmentation, improved show notes (in the text), and, I sincerely hope, more entertaining.

  20. Joy

    Splendid! Sir,
    I’ve listened three times. Enjoyed the manner in which the subject was handled, and the more accessible it is to the public the better. The audio medium is a breath of fresh air and full of possibilities. Half an hour is three times better than ten minutes. When they ask you to do a TV documentary you’ll have to talk for an hour, strange, it sounds like you’ve had some practice.

    Speech software is unforgiving, monotone and robotic, reading out the comments, exactly as the-y are typed. So in one way it’s too true to what is written as opposed to what is intended. One’s brain or imagination has to embellish the sound of the software, if it didn’t I’d go mad listening to it. Try listening to a robot read “Right-Ho, Jeeves”.

    Tom Vonk,
    I agree that reading is a special medium. I can recommend reading in the dark.

  21. I went for a stroll last evening, iPod plugged into my ears via Yamaha earphones, and listened. As always, you sounded nothing like I imagined. The academic experience shows with the clean vocal delivery. I thought the pacing was excellent: neither too fast nor too slow.

    As others have mentioned, the only part that lacked clarity was the Groucho interlude. A couple of the other inserts seemed to have compression artefacts, as though they’d been downloaded for low bitrate MP3 sources. Perhaps the opening clip, and the classical example.

    Still, in short, most enjoyable.

  22. Colin

    I want to remind you that on most websites, visitors stay for under 2 minutes before going on to another site or doing something else. I find that 30 minutes is too demanding and ambitious. Also, let me share the following quote with you

    “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.” ~Mark Twain.

  23. Colin may be right, but I for one prefer meaty content. If it takes 30 minutes to develop an idea, so be it! I also enjoy reading or listening to the content of someone who revels in the language.

    What I most enjoy about this site is the sometimes surprising angle of approach taken to issues, along with the occasional virtuosity in the way the approach is expressed. If I wanted only the statistical view, I’d read a textbook (and thereby avoid the blasphemous asides about certain music).

    But, once again, that might just be me.

  24. Briggs


    Thank you. That two minutes is about right for written posts, but probably far too short for a podcast, the lengths of which tend to be about 30 minutes on average. At least, the “information” podcasts have about that length. But I’ll be experimenting with various ideas. Plus, the majority of people who listened (so far) have downloaded it and not listened on the website, and two minutes for a download is almost certainly too short.

    And you cannot go wrong with Twain.

    Stephen, Joy,

    Thanks, guys. I blush.

  25. JH

    Garrison Keillor just sang on his show A Prairie Home Companion. I have a quick suggestion. Perhaps you could sing for us sometimes, you know, no one has a worse voice than Bob Dylan. I promise I will not do other things at the same time while listening to you singing. ^_^

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