Climate Hawk Down: Grist’s Inimitable Dave Roberts To Go Off-Line For A Full Year!

My favorite climate blogger is burnt out.

Dave Roberts — the man who gave us “climate hawks” — has posted on Grist that he’s taking a year off. Really off:

I won’t be writing for Grist (or anyone else); I won’t be reading or responding to email; I won’t be on Twitter….

It has been a dream job. I’ve loved it. I still love it.

But I am burnt the fuck out.

I spend each day responding to an incoming torrent of tweets and emails. I file, I bookmark, I link, I forward, I snark and snark and snark. All day long. Then, at night, after my family’s gone to bed and the torrent has finally slowed to a trickle and I can think for more than 30 seconds at a stretch, I try to write longer, more considered pieces.

Since blogging is well-known to be a burnout job, especially climate blogging — I’m looking at you RealClimate! — I have read his cri de coeur several times.


Let me also not bury the lede too deep and offer my close virtual friend Dave (close friend virtual Dave?) some unsolicited advice up front: When you come back, don’t tweet so damn much! Tweeting is fleeting!

I’m biased, of course, since I never tweeted much to begin with (other than CP headlines). But while I know how many people, including me, enjoyed Dave’s stream-of-tweetiness, it’s his blogging that has had an enduring impact, I think. I certainly don’t think you can be obsessive about multiple things — say, blogging and tweeting — without burning out. I had no idea virtual Dave was saving his blogging for the evenings — even after his family goes to bed:

I enjoy every part of this: I enjoy sharing zingers with Twitter all day; I enjoy writing long, wonky posts at night. But the lifestyle has its drawbacks. I don’t get enough sleep, ever. I don’t have any hobbies. I’m always at work. Other than hanging out with my family, it’s pretty much all I do — stand at a computer, immersing myself in the news cycle, taking the occasional hour out to read long PDFs. I’m never disconnected.

In my first few years of blogging I would routinely blog from morning til night. I wanted to scoop everybody else. But the evening blogging was too much. So readers probably noticed I don’t break quite as many stories as I used to. I also don’t answer every email.

Also, rather than obsessively tweet, I would read all the comments, responding to as many as I could, while moderating out the disinformers. I have learned a lot from my commenters — and still do. They often direct me to an important story, a good PDF, or a must-see chart. Readers may have noticed I don’t respond to anywhere near as many comments as I used to (though I still read all the comments, particularly on my posts). It isn’t really sustainable if I want to keep blogging, and I do, since it is the best job in the world, for me.


Blogging happens to keep me sane. I do appreciate that the grind of meeting a daily deadline is tough for non-journalists, but I was raised by two world-class journalists, so for whatever reason, I always have more I’d like to say every day than I have time for. If I couldn’t blog I’d burn out.

That said, running the whole blog plus blogging once or more a day was also not sustainable year after year after year after year. So I was delighted when the Center for American Progress Action Fund added a deputy editor two years ago. And one of the reasons I have been so excited by this latest expansion and redesign of Climate Progress is that we have a social media person, Andrew, who is doing an awesome job on twitter and facebook, which I simply couldn’t possibly do. And we have a bunch of great new staff who can, as a team, cover the whole day and even much of the evening while bringing in the new viewpoints and investigative reporting. (Note to self: Set up some sort of a rotation to keep them sane).

I am aware that not all of my readers are thrilled with all of the changes. That is inevitable with any change. Just know that our web traffic has already more than doubled. Personally, I am more than thrilled with all the changes, since I can blog as much as I did before and do so both to a larger audience and in a sustainable fashion, at least for now. As for the future, that is notoriously hard to predict (except of course in the case where we keep taking no action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which, as Roberts says, would mean we’re screwed).

Virtual Dave, I wish you the best in your year of exercise, housework, and novel-writing in the real world. I have more unpublished — and unpublishable — novels than I can count. But I did have an awesome idea for a climate novel that I am going to give to you no strings attached. One word: Vampires! Remember where you got it.

Whether this is the medium chill, as you call it or the big chill or just a very short-term cooling trend, know that in my book, you are the coolest and deserve all the hammock time you can get! We don’t just need more climate hawks like you. We need you.

Oh and when you come back, don’t tweet so damn much!