On February 20th activist scientist Peter Gleick issued a public statement. He admitted to creating a false identity in order to steal the property (confidential documents) of a private think tank. There is a sound argument that, by doing so, Gleick has confessed to committing a federal felony called wire fraud.
According to Gleick himself, his actions demonstrated:
a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics.
In his own opinion, his “judgment was blinded,” his behaviour is something to be deeply regretted, and apologies were appropriate and necessary. In the opinion of the New York Times‘ blogger Andrew Revkin, Gleick had “admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins” (for more info see here).
So how long did it take Gleick’s community to forgive and forget? A grand total of 17 days.
Not 17 years. Not 17 months. Not even 1 month. Two-and-a-half weeks later Gleick is back in the saddle.
Yesterday he delivered a speech to a two-day California Water Policy Conference. There was nothing minor or low-profile about it. The conference website clearly labels Gleick’s appearance as the opening, “keynote presentation.” Last night Gleick advised his Twitter followers that the experience had been great. Josh Rosenau, an employee at the National Center for Science Education, thought that observation so momentous he himself re-tweeted it.
So let’s think about this for a moment. Gleick has admitted to lying and stealing. Not for monetary gain, but to advance the climate change cause. Gleick is a water specialist. Presumably he also considers protecting waterways to be a good cause. So how were the conference attendees to know whether Gleick’s remarks about water were accurate and honest – or whether they were being spun and twisted by a man who, mere days ago, admitted that he can become so frustrated when trying to advance his cause, that he resorts to dishonesty?
Three hundred people were reportedly in attendance at the conference yesterday (backup link here). It’s difficult to believe that all of them are grateful for the fact that their keynote speaker was someone who remains under a cloud as we await word of whether criminal charges will be laid and whether the think tank will be filing civil lawsuits.
Among the conference sponsors we find:
- the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power
- the San Diego County Water Authority
- the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
- and the Sonoma County Water Agency
In the past few weeks the California Water Policy Conference had to make a decision about whether or not to go ahead with its originally-planned keynote speaker. Its decision tells us a great deal about whether those talking about water issues in California can themselves be trusted.
Did they champion honesty and integrity? Or did they hand over their podium to a self-confessed liar and thief?