Sunday, October 11, 2009

Newly Minted Editor for Climate Change at JustMeans

I have accepted the volunteer position for Editor for Climate Change at Exciting news. Chatting with Kevin Long, the co-founder, there are some exciting goals that Justmeans team have and I'm thankful to be a part of it. I should be receiving a small stipend, but I'd rather focus on the writing. I look forward to spreading the discussion.

For those wondering what Justmeans is: a social utility where you can talk about your good work with companies and people who matter. Discuss about health, climate change, corporate social responsibility, ethical consumption, sustainable development, sustainable finance, responsible career and many other topics of your interest and value

With this announcement I want to post some new expectations from this blog. I will be posting my personal thoughts, anecdotes, and developing ideas on climate change and renewable energy here on California Renewable Energy. At Justmeans, I will be posting to a more professional group so I'll provide more hard facts, an advantage to my personal knowledge growth- hey to win arguments you need hard facts! My concern is to not lose my personality while writing on such an important topic in a style that admittedly will be ad hoc. Here we go!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green Industry Needs Value, Now

Green Industry Needs Value, Now

Summary: Taking an example from my business experience I realize what the Green Industry lacks and needs, value right now.

Once upon a time, about one year ago I did what I usually do and picked up a project I probably didn't have time for, and as usual it profoundly changed my view on things. One year ago I embarked on the journey to start up a business. As part of the first ever UCSC Business Plan Competition my team of friends tried to develop a concept that would win us that $12,000 grand prize. Fresh off the plane from my Denmark trip for renewable energy, I immediately cast my vote for the green industry.* Months of hard work, presentations, and meetings provided me with an incredible new avenue to do good and of course how to make money.

My understanding of renewable energy is that currently it is not very profitable. A friend of mine that worked in solar panel installation liked to chime that one customer has close to a $0 bill for electricity. The customer also has acres of land, a production line, and payed thousands of dollars. Although, at this time, I strongly discourage the individual home owner from installing solar panel arrays, I support it for industrial use as the profits of renewable energy can be substantial.

Before the business plan competition I never looked at the world in terms of dollars and cents. To me you put up solar panels because it was good for the environment, even if it the idea wasn't necessarily good for your pocket. After many seminars, podcasts, and lectures I came to two quotes that define my business education: "You need money to make money" and "You can't do anything without money." Money, money, money, moneeey! To those that never tried to start their own business, this may sound like greed, but it's actually really logical and even rooted in human evolution. The question at the bottom line becomes: "What's in it for me?" Why should a business adopt renewable energy if oil is far (far and away) more cheaper?

Values. To make money you need to provide value. Guy Kawasaki the business start up guru puts this as his first point in the Art of the Start: Make meaning. To make money you need to make meaning for the world and provide value, value and values that customers can rely on. I worked briefly for a former CEO and business owner of a biotech that sold his holdings to start up an entertainment business. At first hearing I scoffed at the idea because helping find a cure to cancer is far better a value than trying to make someone laugh. Not everyone may support asthma research, especially if you're perfectly healthy because there would be no need. Everyone could, however, use a good laugh and would pay good money if the laughing was hard enough. It could be that the owner was really taking a detour to raise funds for more noble purposes. He provided a value that rallied more supporters and thus more money. More importantly he provided a value, comedy, that could be used here and now. The lesson for the green industry is it needs to provide value for the here and now.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Big Picture: Technology For Climate Change

While in Roskilde University I was introduced to project based learning, and it's exactly as it sounds. One of the first things Professor Tyre taught us was mind mapping - a technique of drawing lines and connecting ideas to see the bigger picture. The goal is to to cultivate the issue and find where you can fit a solution, which brings me too...

My Mind Map for Climate Change Solutions:

It was conceived a year ago and only now have I decided to put it down. Yes, it's small, but it's a work in progress.

Whenever there is a problem the consensus is technology will fix it. It's a complicated analysis, but for as many solutions that technology offers, it also can provide new problems. Too many examples to consider but the biggest one would be the car. When the Model-T first rolled out of Detroit the world was changed forever, people could make cross country trips in half a day, patients could be transferred by ambulance to hospitals quicker, and food could be shipped at a higher pace. Now nearly 100 years later the release of carbon from automobiles and manufacturing threatens the planet. Technology is helpful, but as I've described, if it isn't fully understood it can wreak havoc for us and our environment.

Global warming is our current problem, and if technology were the solution, we should be done, but we're far from it. When I first heard renewable energy was the solution to climate change I was relieved to hear that we have the technology to solve the problem, we're just not using it enough. We're also not using enough energy efficient technology like halogen lightbulbs, either. Supposedly, if the entire world would switch to halogen bulbs we would solve the climate crisis once and for all. If only we could. Back to renewable energy, how hard can it be to put up some solar panels and wind farms? Not very hard. We have the technology we need.
We just cannot just rush into adopting technology without fully understanding it.

For example, we can make a million electric cars to lower emissions, we have the technology for that, easy. But, what do we do 20 years from now when we have to toss out all those lithium batteries? I'll make a prediction and say it's going to harm the environment, and if it's in a landfill (likely) it will poison our freshwater supply. Did we consider the technology before we made it available on a large scale? Again, we have the technology to solve climate change, we just need to fully understand the drawbacks, it's sustainability, and discover repercussions ahead of time. We have the pieces of technology we just need to put them together in a system that covers all the bases. The right plan will require global cooperation between governments, business, and regular people. Let's understand the big picture because a global problem deserves a global solution.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Habits & Change for Climate Change: Sustainability Determined by Everyday People

I decided to surf today because of a tsunami warning due to the Samoan earthquake. My prayers go out to the victims and their families, thankfully California will be spared. As I was driving I noticed my Air Conditioning was on, something I almost never do, and it really got me upset that I drove 14 miles from my home neglecting to notice the extra cool air emitting from the air vents. Realization of my habits and my reaction had me thinking: How had I become someone that so adamantly hates energy inefficiency?

I was different after some classes and viewing a couple of documentaries namely: Who Killed The Electric Car and An Inconvenient Truth. That still represents a considerable amount of time, energy, and money to come to a lifestyle change and attitude adjustment. I realize I had lived in a bubble called college, shielded from three hour drives every day to work in Los Angeles and a forty hour plus work week. No not mine, but I've heard if it. Throw in the responsibility of raising kids and I wonder where is there time for my family or the average American family to pickup any cause, let alone change daily habits or raise awareness regarding climate change.

While in school I  administered a seminar regarding social issues for a quarter and even in a dense population of do good, feel good students in one of the epicenters of social change advocacy there was resentment to understanding problems and difficulty creating meaningful solutions. Often time at the end of a series of discussions the only way to create change for the better was determined to be education and specifically at the earliest stages possible. My personal work mulling over society's issues arrived to that same conclusion. But, we are faced with a problem that needed to be addressed 30 years ago. It's like we're at the top of a roller-coaster with bad or no tracks coming ahead; We're just starting to build a solution as our troubles rush towards us.

We are at a location where we can still ignore the problem, and unfortunately those of us that do continue habits and practices that slow down decision-making. A recent article I found on Justmeans.comregarding climate change ignorance, had me nodding my head in approval. As I progress through life I notice more and more of that kind of strong division on issues that have very complicated consequences. Simply put, you cannot change peoples' minds easily even if the health of the planet depended on it. We can't just wait for the next generation to handle climate change as there aren't any brakes on our way to the future. All our goals of implementing renewable energy technology and sustainable designs to lower emissions and improve climate change require a new outlook on how we use energy and carry out our daily habits from: cooking to driving (with the AC off), and all the in-between.