'Don’t delay, we need you.'
Q: Love the article. As Hunter says there have been many steps forward in sustainability, but also many setbacks. With such scary corporate abuses and depressing climate and environmental data coming out every day, it is easy to want to give up and call it a day. What keeps you going? Guessing the whiskey in the picture might help. –Anonymous
Lovins: It is all too easy to give into despair. As my dear friend, Dr. Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders once put it, “It’s daunting to try to save the world.” I focus on the great work being done, and don’t pay much attention to all that is happening that I can’t fix yet. It’s why I am writing this from a hotel room in San Diego, about to board the Semester at Sea boat. I’ll be mentoring in the Unreasonable at Sea program, where young social entrepreneurs take their ideas to the world. My trip will end in Hawaii, and I return to California to give a speech on profitable sustainability to farmers, ranchers and business people convened by Pacific Gas and Electric. I then journey on to teach at Bainbridge, then to Bhutan at the invitation of the King as part of an international working group seeking to transform the global economic paradigm.
Yes, whisky is clearly part of the answer, but having a heck of a good time doing this work is even more important.
Q: As a writer (and researcher) I began looking at climate change years ago. The media is beginning to publish online and in print more and more about climate change, but all too often it still lags behind. We need to concentrate on creating a unified chorus that cannot and will not be ignored. There still remains a vast portion of the public who hear little or nothing of the positive changes, applications and systems that are being put into practice. –Sam Crespi
Lovins: We seem to have turned a corner in media coverage of climate change. Perhaps that’s because it is hard to argue with reality. Joe Romm of Climate Progress, one of our best bloggers…about the issue, points out that 2012 saw 362 all-time heat records, but zero all-time record low temperatures. The Mid-western drought, Colorado fires, Superstorm Sandy (though as McKibben says, if there was poetic justice it’d be called Hurricane Exxon or Peabody) are part of a pattern that saw every state in the nation impacted by extreme weather. It’s becoming harder for ordinary people to deny global warming. I’ve had cowboy friends, who previously ridiculed Al Gore, ask me what we can do to deal with the heat and drought that ruined their hay crops.
It would help if the daily visitors to homes of citizens – weather forecasters – could be educated about the reality of climate change. There are vast numbers of households in the US without computers or high-speed internet connections. In the very near future the latter may also suffer from long rolling blackouts, as we saw with Sandy. This has meant that much of the ongoing environmental media flow has been distributed and shared online.
Bottom line, as it was in Germany and historically in the US, the kind of movement we need toward positive outcomes depends on the will of the people. We do seem to be gathering momentum, but without a well thought out and focused strategy for engaging the media, it's going to take longer than we wish.
The US military is a big polluter, but they are also invested in developing and employing alternative energy. Little of that is known by the greater public. Since the 70’s, many of the current and retired upper echelon have been gaming climate change effects on food, flash migration, water and unrest both globally and internationally. As large portions of Americans are invested emotionally in this branch of the government, targeting former or currently serving military influencers to help inform the public through media could be effective. With two degrees of warming and the affect that will have on food sources and potential unrest, initiating alliances will offer the opportunity to build alliances that could promote more positive change.
If you’d told me 10 years ago that the two entities on the planet doing the most to drive sustainability forward would be Walmart and the US Military, I’d have offered to eat my hat. But here we are.
Following on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis showing why the military should boost its overall readiness for and understanding of the threats that a disrupted global climate could pose to US national security, the Army issued request for proposals for $7 billion in renewable energy. Under Secretary Ray Mabus, the Navy is building the Great Green Fleet. Stating, "We simply have to figure out a way to get American-made, home-grown fuel that is stably priced, that is competitive with oil," Secretary Mabus has announced the intent to have half the Navy powered by renewables by 2020.
But as we wrote in the 1981 book Brittle Power, genuine national security requires communities where power cannot be cut off by tree limbs falling and taking out much of the Northeast, or hurricanes leaving thousands of people without power months after the event. Only diverse, distributed, renewable power can deliver such resilience. Despite advances in installing solar in the area impacted by Superstorm Sandy, it did local residents little good, because the systems depend on grid power to function.