Rose Bird, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, said, “We have probed the earth, excavated it, burned it, ripped things from it, buried things in it, chopped down its forests, leveled its hills, muddied its waters, and dirtied its air. That does not fit my definition of a good tenant. If we were here on a month-to-month basis, we would have been evicted long ago.” We‘re not being good tenants. In the industrial nations, we’re the worst tenants. It’s way past time to become better tenants.
The Paris talks and resulting agreement between nations around the world, are focused on slowing the effects of global warming, reducing the acceleration of the damage that’s being done. Why is the focus only on setting a cap at an unacceptable level? Let’s put the brakes on, make a U-turn, and find ways to progress in the right direction.
We know what the causes are. Does anyone know how many solutions are being developed? In just one clean technology accelerator, the Cleantech Open, there are about 1,000 companies with solutions. How many accelerators and incubators are there around the world? How many problem solvers are there around the world? People are working on the problem. What’s in the way?
Too much is being done piecemeal. Clean technology failures are often the result of looking at just one standalone piece of the puzzle.
Collaboration, cooperation, and commitment are what we need. Problem solvers and the people who can open doors or keep them shut need to be working together to develop solutions and make the changes we all need. Here are some examples of the kinds of non-collaboration that stand in the way of getting a desired outcome.
Example 1: An acquaintance purchased a lot in the mountains. CalFIre said, at that time, to keep a 30 foot firebreak around your building. The County required a Redwood tree five feet from one corner of the building, cedar trees just a few feet from one side, and other historically correct trees well within that 30 foot space. All of it is gone now – the house, the trees, the dream, a result of the 2013 Rim Fire in California. A nearby house with an adequate clearing around it is still standing and occupied. Two government agencies could not agree on regulations and recommendations. Collaboration, cooperation, and commitment are what we need.
Example 2: In Nevada, where there is sun most of the year, residents invested in rooftop solar installations with a promise that they would be able to sell power back to the grid. For most of these people, it was a win-win. Their expenses would be reduced and they were proud of their commitment to a cleaner environment. The utility company put a cap on the amount of power they would buy back from these responsible people who invested heavily in their future and the future of all of us. The utility is considering grandfathering in the existing solar installations but residents are not going to add new installations if it’s financially disabling. Collaboration, cooperation, and commitment are what we need.
You’ve undoubtedly seen similar examples of adversarial relationships that prevent good things from happening. They’re all around us.
Electronic vehicles are hampered by the lack of an infrastructure, battery issues, safety issues, range anxiety, opposition by providers of existing options, regulations that may be out of date or favorable to other technologies, and more.
Grey water systems are prevented by City and Health Department regulations. Certainly, no one wants cross contamination but there are legitimate uses for grey water that do not impact health or safety.
Water departments encourage conservation but have to raise the cost to the consumers to maintain the infrastructure.
In some areas, it’s illegal to collect rain water. What motivation can there be for that decision?
Investing effort and money in a single piece of the puzzle isn’t going to make a significant difference. It may bring the sought after financial ROI but we need to be looking at an ROI in environmental impact.
Imagine the impact if all of the stakeholders were to come together to find ways to deliver solutions. Around the world cities are finding ways to reduce and even reverse their impact. We don’t have to imagine; we can see it happening.
This is an introduction to a series of articles that will touch on the most pressing issues and include interviews with experts whose insights, pro and con, can help us come together to deliver the solutions that are needed.
We can do better than the Paris Agreement. Let’s put the brakes on, make a U-turn, and find ways to progress in the right direction. Collaboration, cooperation, and commitment are what we need.