When R. got home, I changed clothes and went to a UCS thing at the Lenox Hotel. That was fun. I've been thinking a lot lately about how politically in-active a lot of the tech community is, and I've concluded that a large part of that in-activity is not really knowing how to be activist in a way that makes nerd-sense. Marching and chanting for the most part ... does not. Just donating money ... does not. Picking one of two political parties is very infuriating. Etc. Years ago, when I was trying to figure this out for myself, I picked UCS and CSPI as two organizations to donate money to and connect with (and, at the time, also the Washington Wilderness Coalition, altho I haven't given to them in a long while), because they were involved in issues I thought were important and I thought their approaches were valid and useful. I forget now whether I read _The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices_ before or after starting to give consistently to UCS, but if LibraryThing is telling me the truth, it may still actually be upstairs on the shelf right now (I wish I could find a review but in all likelihood I read it during the several years after the original website and before I started book blogging). I was at a table with one of the authors, so that was kind of fun. He does wind stuff now so I pestered him with questions that were probably not scaled well to sitting around with a drink waiting for the entree to show up.
Lots of nice people, and I managed to mostly keep my opinions to myself when the Hachette/Amazon controversy came up. It was nice to be able to relatively blandly relay the contents of the various announcements today associated with the resolution of the dispute, which the rest of the people at the table didn't know about yet. Kept me out of worse trouble, probably.
I was hoping that there would be some discussion of how UCS will navigate the current political environment (Republicans controlling both House and Senate). There was a little, which gave me a lot to think about. UCS seems to intend to focus a bit more at the state level, which I think is a really good idea. One of the people at my table is frustrated with UCS' focus on a liberal audience and thinks they could reach more people; others at the table had stories to tell of faith based organizations concerned with the impact of climate change on the poor, and how coalitions could be built across party lines through that shared social justice issue.
I'm happy to hear that UCS will be working a bit more locally. With the difficult national political situation, that is probably the most effective approach.
ETA: Oh, and a link!
You probably know who Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan are. Ricardo Salvador is the UCS food and environment director. I got to meet him at an outreach lunch a year or so ago; he's a very smart man with a lot of really interesting ideas. I'm excited to see him connecting people like Bittman and Pollan, who have substantial and diverse audiences, with other less well-known people with great expertise on the intersection of food, the environment and social justice, to articulate a potential rationalization of public policy. It's less clear to me how much buy-in this kind of approach could ever hope to get from mainstream food producers, but time will tell.