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Editorial | With ‘Four A’s,’ energy conference hype an exercise in buzzwords

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 08:02


The Tufts Energy Conference this weekend, which promises to bring experts and students of energy policy and security to the Hill for collaboration on the theme of “Powering Global Energy Security,” suffers from an apparent and unfortunate tendency to rely on buzzwords in its approach. Though a positive development for the university and for the developers of the conference, the conference does not appear to be doing much outside of repeating platitudes about the concerns commonly found at the crossroads of energy, environment and politics. A weakness in presentation does not necessarily condemn the conference to being limited to these popular terms — world-class speakers and a crucial global theme make this year’s conference sure to be worthwhile and provocative of tangible solutions — but an emphasis on strategic buzzwords does no favors for its attempt to be dynamic and thought-provoking. The conference has the opportunity to make real strides in discussion of what is unquestionably important subject matter.

Energy and environmental causes have been spread as dogma for many on this campus, on other campuses and in various media sources everywhere. These dogmatic codes are not immediately incorrect or wrong to pursue — rather, their approach is what has weakened the cause. Endless repetition of similar calls to action has desensitized a cynical audience, who are not as quick to jump on board with the newest frontier activity in the sciences or against a degrading environment. This phenomenon is by no means positive, but it is recognizable. As such, what has all intention and likelihood to be a thoughtful and constructive conference falls into the trap of using buzzwords about the environment or energy without expanding on that information or offering a potent angle, or even enumerating in some way what makes this conference unique. The conference makes a point of emphasizing their “Four A’s”: availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability. All of these are positive, and all of them mean roughly the same thing, acting as little more than an attractive billboard, suggesting importance without necessarily earning it through bold ideas or content.

Once more, this is a phenomenon not at all solely found at Tufts or within this conference, which, again, may on Saturday break from this tendency and leave participants with a sense of possibility about real progress. The goal of slowing or perhaps stopping the degradation of the environment is a great one. The cause for solving the energy crisis before it begins to cause real, tangible chaos is worthy. Those involved should be commended for taking up the banner. They should be mindful, however, of the fact that their banner looks a little too much like every other one, glorious and fundamental, without the force of words promising real change to back it up. 

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