[Numpy-discussion] Proposal to add clause to license prohibiting use by oil and gas extraction companies

Ralf Gommers ralf.gommers at gmail.com
Thu Jul 2 06:12:13 EDT 2020

On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 10:58 AM Juan Nunez-Iglesias <jni at fastmail.com>

> Hi everyone,
> If you live in Australia, this has been a rough year to think about
> climate change. After the hottest and driest year on record, over 20% of
> the forest surface area of the south east was burned in the bushfires.
> Although I was hundreds of kilometres from the nearest fire, the air
> quality was rated as hazardous for several days in my city. This brought
> home for me two points.
> One, that "4ºC" is not about taking off a jumper and going to the beach
> more often, but actually represents a complete transformation of our
> planet. 4ºC is what separates us from the last ice age, so we can expect
> our planet in 80 years to be as unrecognisable from today as today is from
> the ice age.
> Two, that climate change is already with us, and we can't just continue to
> ignore the problem and enjoy whatever years of climate peace we thought we
> had left. Greta has it right, we are running out of time and absolutely
> drastic action is needed.
> All this is a prelude to add my voice to everyone who has already said
> that *messing with the NumPy license is absolutely *not* the drastic
> action needed*, and will be counter-productive, as many have noted.
> Having said this, I'm happy that the community is getting involved and
> getting active and coming up with creative ideas to do their part. If
> someone wants to start a "Pythonistas for Climate Action" user group, I'll
> be the first to join. I had planned to give a lightning talk in the vein of
> the above at SciPy, which, and believe me that I hate to hate on my
> favourite conference, recently loudly thanked Shell [1] for being a
> platinum sponsor. (Not to mention that Enthought derives about a third of
> its income from fossil fuel companies.) Unfortunately and for obvious
> reasons I won't make it to SciPy after all, but again, I'm happy to see the
> community rising.
> Perhaps this is derailing the discussion, but, anyone up for a "Python for
> Climate Action" BoF at the conference? I can probably make the
> late-afternoon BoFs given the time difference.

Thanks for this Juan. I don't think it's derailing the discussion. Thinking
about things we *can* do that may have a positive influence on the climate
emergency we're in, or the state of the world in general, are valid and
probably the most productive turn this conversation can take. Changing the
NumPy license isn't feasible, because of many of the pragmatic reasons
already pointed out. That said, the "NumPy is just a tool" point of view is
fairly naive; I think we do have a responsibility to at least think about
the wider issues and possibly make some changes.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is the educational material
and high level documentation we produce. When we use data sources or write
tutorials, we can incorporate data and examples related to climate issues,
social issues, ethics in ML/AI, etc.

Another thing to think about is: what do we, NumPy maintainers and
contributors, choose to spend our time on? Not each issue/PR opened
deserves our time equally - we're (almost) all volunteers after all. A PR
that for example improves the classroom experience of teaching NumPy may be
prioritized over a PR that helps fix an issue for <insert big corp
framework that's not contributing back in any way>.

I'd be interested to hear if others back thought about this before or have
any ideas.

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