Bridge and the environment

October 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm 11 comments

I’ve been involved in online discussions lately about the desperate plight of the planet and how/whether it might be possible to save it.

It strikes me that of the many easy steps that could be taken, one is to end physical events which can take place virtually, bridge being an obvious example. Chess and conferences (eg academic) are other terribly obvious candidates of absolutely unnecessary travel with all that entails environmentally.

There is a human tendency to think ‘if nobody else is doing anything much, why should I?’ There is also a tendency to think, ‘hey, I’ve given up plastic bags, I have to do MORE?’ Yet it seems to me if everybody just started doing what they could, all sorts of small things – eg for us, giving up chess and bridge tournaments – would all start adding up.

Well, what do you all think about this? Opinions keenly awaited!


Entry filed under: thoughts on bridge.

Play problem concluded. Two bidding problems.

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ben Thompson  |  October 20, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Going online is not environmental one-way traffic. There are incremental costs, both dollar and environmental, to factor in – increased communications and electricity are obvious. Printing will be less efficient, as will heating/cooling.

    Online is a less efficient channel for exchanging information than face-to-face, and more open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Translation – more errors, more time required, and higher costs.

    Here’s another reason for real events. They increase understanding of other cultures and other points of view. In other words, you can’t go out to dinner with a bunch of people from somewhere else, and crawl home at three in the morning over the internet. It can’t be 20 world leaders once a year. It has to be lots of people lots of times. Hopefully that ultimately leads to fewer nuclear weapons being lobbed around.

    We could all sit at home in a dark room easting cold soup, but it’s not very realistic, is it? We have to reduce our environmental impact but we should choose the way we do it to get the biggest bang for our buck.

    I think there are bigger impact ways of helping the environment. To my mind, the big winner is low/zero emission energy production. I can’t invent that myself, but I can sure target my consumption that way.

    • 2. cathychua  |  October 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

      I’m certainly not suggesting it’s a fine idea to give up live bridge. Obviously we’d all like it and it would be better and…but it does interest me that nobody is willing to give up things that matter to them….Isn’t the trouble that we may well end up sitting in a dark room eating cold soup and we are trying to work out ways of avoiding that. Personally if that was the choice offered to me: live bridge in the dark with uncooked food OR electricity, cooked warm food and BBO, I’d take the latter!!

      As for the nuclear bombs, my impression from scientists generally, now that we no longer have Bush in power, is that things are far more desperate than a world where it would be a nice thing to stop nuclear weapon production. So my reading at the moment is suggesting to me.

      Of course there are bigger ways of helping the environment that need to be addressed, but still, my sense of the importance of micro activity is that if we were all giving up luxuries and I don’t see why we can’t consider live bridge a luxury, then this would all hugely add up.

      You are suggesting that if we all stopped travelling to bridge and chess and conferences and exhibitions and so forth that the environmental cost of not physically doing these things might still be substantial. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some hard data on this idea!

      • 3. khokan  |  October 20, 2009 at 11:51 am


        I agree it’s important to have a solid evidence base on which to model your actions. One of the things we try to do is just that – see

        Your tax dollars at work (maybe this comment isn’t relevant to bridge bums??)!!

      • 4. Rainer Herrmann  |  October 20, 2009 at 8:54 pm

        There was a recent article in the Economist that ongoing deforestation alone (mainly in Brazil, Indonesia and Congo) is responsible for about 18% of green house pollution worldwide.
        It may come as a surprise to some that this is significantly more than the impact of all current traffic on the globe, including planes and cars.

        I am not suggesting that we need not change on many fronts but I believe the view “nobody is willing to give up things that matter to them” will solve this problem.

        There is also a serious danger that we may take “symbolic” steps and some “hard” choices to feel good and it will hardly have an impact on the overall problem.
        For example phasing out old fashioned light pulps is such a symbolic step.

        Rainer Herrmann

  • 5. Richard  |  October 20, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Khokan’s first point wins. If you take their bridge away, people are going to channel their money, time and energy into other pursuits that are just as bad (environmentally).

    It’s like the Americans who argue against space exploration because there are children starving somewhere. If we abandon space altogether, are the children going to get fed? Realistically, no.

    If the rest of the world chipped in to pay the South Americans not to destroy the rain forest, we would be at least 90% of the way towards solving our (not the planet’s, the planet is just fine) environmental problem.

    • 6. cathychua  |  October 20, 2009 at 6:45 am

      Richard, It is up to people to do the right thing. So you think it is all simply impossible and we are going to kill the planet (I don’t understand what you mean by the planet being just fine?) and ourselves because we aren’t capable of doing anything else? I’m suggesting bridge players take their bridge away, not that ‘somebody’ does it….and, of course, if somebody or events DID take away bridge, they would take away the options. Obviously travelling to the Antarctic for fun would be off the agenda too. It won’t be a plan b.

      So, in general everybody reading this is simply setting about a policy of playing bridge tournaments for a few more years and accepting that the consequence of how we act is that there will be no more bridge, physical or virtual soon enough as catastrophe overtakes the planet?

      Hmm. I had somehow assumed that bridge players were an intelligent caring bunch who might be more likely to act in a responsible way than others, but maybe I am completely wrong there.

      Not that I’m suggesting I am…I haven’t given up bridge tournaments. But it is obvious that we should…

      Try this if you are wondering what I’m on about…Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air

      • 7. Richard  |  October 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm

        I haven’t read evrything yet, so this is just to address one point. You said “I don’t understand what you mean by the planet being just fine?”. Actually, I mean no more and no less than what I said. Climate change happens all the time, and the planet as a whole gets along just fine. Some species become extinct, new ones arise, etc etc but in general, life goes on. What is currently under threat is human life and civilization as we know it, but even if we (and a lot of other species) become extinct, so what? A million years (or ten) after we’re gone, planet Earth will be re-populated with a bunch of new species and will be just fine.

        • 8. cathychua  |  October 20, 2009 at 8:41 pm

          Well, yes, if it wasn’t clear, I was talking about life as we know it. I dare say one way or another the planet itself will be a happy little sausage, whatever happens.

  • 9. khokan  |  October 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm


    Strangely enough, I work to develop environmental policy – on air quality, specifically.

    Before you comtemplate the move you suggest, you reallly must satisfy a couple of questions:

    (a) Is abandoning “real” bridge likely to result in a significant greenhouse benefit through bridge players travelling less?

    (b) Is there a significant moral suasion element associated with bridge players not travelling to tournaments?

    Realistically, you would have to say “no”.

    There’s a lot more to be gained from making small adjusdments in your daily activities. For instances, don’t take the car on short trips (emissions from car startups are extremely high), take public transport, where possible, buy low-emission and energy efficient appliances etc.

    BTW, the real story about plastic bags isn’t as simple as you might think.

  • 10. Chris Mulley  |  October 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    One of the aspects that made my parents push me away from chess and towards bridge was that it engendered social interaction. How much of that would be lost in virtual tournaments? Most of it, I fear.

    For me, the big bridge events I play are as much about catching up with the people who I have met over the years but only manage to see a couple of times a year (at best) as they are about playing in the best quality bridge event that I can.

    • 11. cathychua  |  October 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      Yes, in a world of unlimited resources where we weren’t about to lose the battle of keeping the planet alive – well, at least in a format where there is human life in some meaningful way, Chris, of course we’d play real bridge. But that isn’t the case. As far as I can tell from all my reading desperate measures need to be taken by all of us right now in every way we can. I can’t logically see excluding bridge from that.


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