As you can imagine, running a swanky science publication ends up getting me a lot of press releases.   People want to get the word out about what they are doing and I make no secret of the fact that I want to know what's going on because I don't have time to proactively go out and find the latest stuff.  So I like getting them, including the ones I want to make fun of.

One thing I have noticed in 20 plus years of supporting a variety of causes is a tendency to try to make a big umbrella and attract as much attention as possible.   Conservatives call that a "coalition of the oppressed", basically 'I'll believe in your cause if you'll believe in mine.'   I don't know what liberals call it because liberals tend to be the people out there going door-to-door trying to promote awareness in the causes conservatives make fun of, so they don't come up with terms for what they are busy doing.

I did that job myself decades back, working for PA PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).   You can imagine a Republican Army officer with two months to kill working for PIRG stood out a little but I was good at it because I believed in it in a way others did not - I did not think people were stupid and I had to educate them (I wrote on the risks of  'deficit thinking'  in "The Pitfalls and Perils of Communicating Science To The Public" CAPJournal V1 Number 2 , 22-23 2008) I just wanted to get the word out.    I had to walk up to the homes of Westinghouse employees and try to raise money for support of a "bottle bill" (a fee on bottles to encourage capitalist profit-driven recycling rather than having the government porkbarrel recycling we all ended up with anyway) but PIRG's 'coalition of the oppressed' mentality also had big, bold literature slamming nuclear power.   So I was in a town full of Westinghouse people who knew nuclear power better than anyone at any PIRG corporate office and I was trying to raise money for a good thing but was being forced to talk about one stupid thing in their literature.

I didn't agree with killing nuclear power then and I don't now.   If America is the number two CO2 producer in the world and that caused global warming, the American environmental movement is to blame.    France is a hero to environmentalists for support of Kyoto but France did it solely by switching to more nuclear power.    In France all those individual causes can get their own candidates - very few 'coalitions of the oppressed.'   In America I go to San Francisco and see Trotskyites palling around with Maoists who are standing next to Leninites who are cheering for the downfall of Israel and want to stop global warming unless it means nuclear power, etc.   It can be darn confusing.

Why mention all that?   Well, I get these press releases, like I said, and one of them was interesting to me and I want to support them, but I have a little bit of a disconnect.   It's a group called Live Small and they are holding an event in Philadelphia later this week and want to get it some attention (link at the bottom).
Now, I read their stuff (yes, I really read all 50 of these things I get per day) and I am all for the following:  

* Governmental funding of research and development should be a priority as it is necessary help us recover from our current economic decline

* Incentives for manufacturers to reduce their waste in production processes

* Incentives to Live Small by moving into small houses which use less gas and electricity (well, I believe in that for you all - I am living in whatever size house I want to live in)

* Promoting awareness of the benefits of living small and decreasing your carbon footprint

That's all good stuff.   Yes, people can argue about specific causes of global warming but less pollution is a good thing, warming or not.    What hung me up was ...

* Research supporting the isolation of growth genes

Now, I don't know what that means.   Do they mean genetic modification?   The sentence is so poorly worded I couldn't even figure out what they are against - and I read 10,000 science pieces a year - so I was having a hard time really supporting them because, as you just read, I am not a fan of 'coalition of the oppressed' groups that try to slip stuff in.    If I want less pollution does it mean I have to buy into junk science like 'all genetic modification is bad', even though I know that the tens of millions of people who have eaten genetically modified crops haven't had so much as a single stomach ache but hundreds of people who ate 'organically grown' spinach got food poisoning last year?

Well, that sentence baffled me even more than Trotskyites hanging around with Leninists but I assumed that was because, like the communist factions mentioned, the people behind them don't really know what they are talking about.

So I went to their site to look and by 'living small' they literally mean ... living small.   They want to make people shorter.

Live Small believes that if the average height of humans were reduced to four feet, many of the world's problems would be drastically reduced. Research has already found that by reducing the average height of humans by one and a half feet, the consumption of resources can be decreased by as much as thirty percent. This reduction will lead toward a path of less destruction and damage to our environment.
It's Christmas and BMJ is sure to prank people plenty this month so my assumption is that this is a joke too.   But what if it isn't?  What if they really want to shrink us all to the size of Christmas elves?  It's too big an issue for me to handle.

Our height is the reason for global warming, not CO2.   So become an elf for Christmas - literally.

If you like the idea of being four feet tall, or you like all their other stuff and are okay with stomaching some silly positions in order to support what you do like in true 'coalition of the oppressed' fashion, here is the petition they created:

Live Small’s Philadelphia chapter will also hold an event on December 19, 2008 at 12:00 PM for three hours in the Rittenhouse neighborhood. Their goals are to inform the people - in busy downtown Philadelphia - about the benefits of living small.

I don't know about you, but it is almost worth a plane ticket to see the reactions of Philadelphia residents when they're told they need to grow a foot shorter to save the planet.