This is preposterous. “Water leadership up for grabs as deception fells Gleick.” There are several things wrong with that statement, which I will list for you.
1. Deception isn’t going to “fell” Dr. Gleick. The dude has a track record of decades. Pearl-clutchers are going to clutch their pearls for another week, and within a month or two, Dr. Gleick is going to get invited to conferences again for the same reasons he always was. He knows the data, makes his point(s) clearly and is a good speaker.
2. This level of “deception” shouldn’t fell Dr. Gleick even if it could. This was a situation in which there were two morally impure effective outcomes, and a morally pure ineffective outcome.
a. Morally impure effective outcome #1. Gleick does nothing; the Heartland Institute continues to deny climate change, damaging what we recognize as a comfortable world. Billions of people in the Third World suffer more than they otherwise would.
b. Morally impure effective outcome #2. Gleick uses subterfuge. Heartland Institute is discredited, maybe can do less damage from here on out.
c. Morally pure, ineffective outcome. Gleick tries to get more out of the Heartland Institute in an above-the-board fashion. Nothing happens, except that the Heartland Institute now has the knowledge to hide the fact that they’re bought and sold denialists.
Of those options, Dr. Gleick chose the one that causes the least damage, which is the right thing to do. The folks who whine on and on about being perfectly morally pure aren’t acknowledging that there are moral costs on the other side of the balance. Sometimes all you can do is choose the least bad option.
3. “Water leadership” doesn’t depend on Dr. Gleick’s presence. Outside the field, people are super impressed with him. If I had to choose only one message to get out to laypeople, it would be Dr. Gleick’s, because it sets an enviro standard. But inside the field, he is one good thinker among a half dozen, and he’s lost a fair amount of credibility with people who simply cannot agree with the Pacific Institute’s claims that there is substantial wet water to be gained from agricultural water conservation. Lots of people agree there are very good reasons to manage ag water very closely, and many of them think that getting big yields of transferrable water is not one of those reasons. I don’t think Dr. Gleick should be discredited over the Heartland emails anyway, but if he were, it wouldn’t create a leadership void in the field.
After saying all this, which I could summarize by saying that I’ve got the same respect for Dr. Gleick that I always did, I cannot resist needling him some. He’s disapproved of my pseudonymity for years, but perhaps this has given him a new appreciation for separating your work from your identity. The reason I have the same respect for him that I always have is that he does damn good work. He does everything I want to see: collects and shows data, shows his derivations, shows how he arrives at conclusions. I have every reason to think that the next report they put out will be exactly the same, since he’s been doing that for thirty years now. When I read that report, I’ll do what I always do, which is to look at all those, and either agree or be able to point to where we diverge. It won’t matter to me that it now comes from Big Fat Liar Gleick or that it used to come from Sainted Holy Gleick. Fuck that noise. None of it should change how I read his reports. If it did before, that was always laziness and taking the shortcut of going by reputation. Which is a big part of why I blog under a pseudonym. I could be an extraordinarily debonair type with a wall full of illustrious degrees. More likely, I am a debauched lout who blogs from a bar covered in the remnants of my most recent meal. But you don’t know. You will have to read my work to evaluate it. Which is what I want you to do. And how I hope you’ll evaluate Dr. Gleick’s stuff from now on. And how you always should have.