During yesterday’s Sustainable Industries Economic Forum, keynote speaker Paul Hawken suggested that it will take a somewhat monumental effort to get back to 350 ppm in our atmosphere (we’re at 387 right now). His list was daunting. We’d need one new olympic sized pool of bioalgae fuel production every second for 25 years, for example. He said that while being a ‘doomer’ has a negative connotation, the facts are the facts, and that there is a role for this kind of startling statistic. An audience member asked the question that was on all our minds: “It seems untenable. Do you have hope that this can actually happen?”
In fact, if we were to mobilize on a concerted effort, our power and capability would likely surprise even the skeptics among us. If, for example, we took all the energy used to create newspapers in the world and used it instead to create solar panels, we could get it all done in 11 days. Of course, there’s the issue of ingredients of the solar panels, and logistics of their distribution and installation, but it serves as just an example of how quickly we can make change when we want to.
What is happening, he said, is extraordinary. So many people are getting on board with sustainability so quickly. “We’re moving in that direction and the momentum is growing and likely to be unstoppable,” said Hawken (paraphrased).
One of the panelists at the Economic Forum, however, took issue with this answer. “Crisis leads to change,” said Matt Cheney, CEO of Renewable Ventures. “Yes, that part is true. But there is a disconnect between this optimism in our community and what’s actually happening in Washington. When it comes to energy security, which is comparable to our national security, our Department of Defense probably has plans to invade every country in the world, probably even Canada, to help secure our energy future. However, our Department of Energy is lacking a plan to implement wide-scale change that everyone knows we need in terms of energy efficiency.”
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill)
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. As a serial eco-entrepreneur who has started, grown and sold multiple green businesses, Scott believes that capitalism, true capitalism, can be a powerful force for change, but that our current version of capitalism is severely hampered by perverse subsidies and negative externalities that make unsustainable products less expensive than healthier alternatives. Scott is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, and an organic gardener. Find Scott on Google Plus