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

Dr. Mark Alexander Mikofski PhD mikofski at berkeley.edu
Thu Jul 2 13:18:54 EDT 2020

Thank you everyone. This is a fascinating thread, and very interesting to
see how it has transformed into constructive discussion of positive action.
Along that line I think it could be useful to curate a list of Python (and
OpenSci) packages using Numpy, SciPy, or any part of the Python scientific

For example I know there are several clean, renewable energy packages that
depend on Numpy, etc, especially in solar energy. The lead maintainer for
pvlib python presented a list at our annual IEEE PV Specialists conference
2 years ago, it's on GitHub here

In particular pvlib python and rdtools are two widely used tools that
depend on Numpy, SciPy, etc. (Disclaimer, I am one of the maintainers for

I think we could pull together projects from the journal of open source
(JOSS), OpenSci, and NumFOCUS. Then we could host/link/highlight examples,
case studies, and projects that use Numpy to combat climate change. There
is already a separate thread started by Inessa Pawson (Re:
[Numpy-discussion] Python for Climate Action session at SciPy'20) following
up on Juan's idea for BoF at SciPy to highlight climate change action by
the Python scientific community. We could try to encourage more climate
change and clean energy projects to participate in SciPy and PyCon.
Conversely, we could even promote Numpy with climate and clean energy
scientists at their conferences like AMS and IEEE PVSC. For example, next
year we are planning to host a Python tutorial at PVSC as part of the
tutorial program that preceeds the conference, but we need support with
logistics. (Thanks already to Yuvi Panda for help with mybinder & TLJH.)
This could be the opportunity for the Python scientific community, clean
energy & climate scientists, academic, & national labs to collaborate and

I volunteer to participate in whatever capacity I can to develop this
collaboration if folks think it is useful. I'm not sure how to proceed, but
whatever the result I believe some momentum is forming here, so there's an
opportunity to carpe diem.


On Thu, Jul 2, 2020, 3:35 AM Ilhan Polat <ilhanpolat at gmail.com> wrote:

> Ralf basically wrote the email that I was about the send in a much more
> structured way so thanks for that. I'd like to mention also that oil&gas
> industry practically cannot be cornered by these restrictions. So even the
> cause is very noble and I wholeheartedly agree, forcing this type of
> exclusions only will make their hand stronger in going to other commercial
> software (they can really afford even acquiring whole companies) and
> forcing their employees using it and finally boomeranging back to the
> reduction of the potential contributors to open source who would have
> otherwise contributed back just because they liked it (like most of us did
> back in the day). For example, Shell and Intel are corporate level
> collaborators. Should we ban also usage of MKL? Of course not, because this
> is not about driving Shell and others to software starvation but actually
> forcing them to take concrete steps towards the climate crisis. This is not
> to say we are desperate, quite the contrary, however this strategy seems
> dire against the possible outcomes.
> I really would like to take a more concrete approach that Ralf outlined.
> Again, it is not a crusade against commercial software, I truly think all
> have different shoes to fill in. However, making the switch from commercial
> software to open source as smooth as possible would actually emit the
> message that we are not bound to conglomerate structures to achieve noble
> goals. Thus this would make a bolder statement as far as what software can
> manage to display. Signal processing can make fuel consumption notebooks,
> stats can display bicycle usage results and their impact etc. Again it is a
> mentality that we are trying to build so it shouldn't be up to the level of
> annoyance so that everyone can hop on the bandwagon.
> On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 12:14 PM Ralf Gommers <ralf.gommers at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 10:58 AM Juan Nunez-Iglesias <jni at fastmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> 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.
>> Cheers,
>> Ralf
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