Even as the US is at the cusp of a $700 bn bailout of Wall Street and stock prices are fluctuating like crazy, both closing keynote speakers former California Governor Jerry Brown and Vice President Al Gore remain optimistic about the state of the US economy.
The danger we are facing is quite grave, but the opportunity is right front of us.”
The past thirty years and and rapid climate change reflects the recklessness of the US government and a general disregard for the laws of basic economics. “Everything has a limit–our bodies have a limit, the earth’s resources have a limit,” Jerry Brown said.
“Ecology and economics are closely tied together”
Vice President Al Gore echoed these sentiments by stating, “We need to stop bailing out the financial crisis and bail in green energy. Green revolution is the solution to the financial crisis.”
SubPrime and the Short Term View
Gore pointed to the subprime mortgage, which the finance world assumed that a greater volume of subprime mortgages backed up by securities would handle the risk, and that assumption was wrong.
It is particularly not sustainable for solar companies who have included renewable tax credits in their business plans when government has allowed renewable tax credits to expire at least 17 times. This causes investors to turn over 80% of their portfolios, because they are driven mainly be short-term quarterly earnings.
To be sustainable, businesses have to look at the long term view and recognize the limits of natural resources.
America’s Moral Obligation
President Bush has set the precedent for emerging nations simply by being so outrightly against renewable energy initiatives. In the past he has threatened to veto certain continuing appropriations unless a bill for open drilling in northwestern North America would be put into place.
Many of these nations say that they are not interested in improving energy efficiency and excuse themselves because they still look to the US as a moral example of what they should do.
In response to inaction in emerging countries, Gore encouraged the audience to set an example. Addressing the builders and investors in the audience, he said the financing of green homes needed to be sustainable and the industry should look at identifying solutions and incentives that make sense for the homeowner, which would bring economics full circle by providing sound financial incentive for financial and service providers.
Optimism in unlikely times
While the times may look bleak and there is a nationwide panic, Al Gore recommended that we invest in green energy. “We need to set a goal for 100% energy from renewable carbon-free sources, he said. The economic system has to stop excluding the ecological factors and limited resources, and policies which affect people and the planet.
“I get asked often how do you maintain a feeiling of optimism in these times? I think being a part of the solution is part of the answer. I feel it in my bones, and yes the ice caps are melting, but not far below the surface, millions of people are going through a transformation and seeing a need for change. There will come a moment when there is an incredible shift and we’ll suddenly look around and find we are in the active majority of things.”- Vice President Al Gore
The Power of One
In 2005, founder of West Coast Green, Christie Graham dared to create a conference to raise awareness around energy efficiency and her efforts have received a greatly positive response from the industry of green builders, business people and entrepreneurs.
This same conference has brought long time luminaries such as David Suzuki, Hunter Lovins and now Al Gore to our doorstep, but the real heroes, moderator Don Scott said, are the people in the audience. The reason that these thought leaders have come to speak is because of the sheer volume of thousands of attendees and empower them “to look into your toolbox and make a change with the tools that you have,” or to make a change within your profession.
This sentiment should also be extended out to the readers of this post. Al Gore concluded his keynote by saying, “If in the future, our children were to ask one of two questions, what did polar ice caps look like and why didn’t you do something about this in all the frenzy around you? or how did you find the moral courage to solve the crisis to transform the world? I would prefer they would ask the latter.”
And, he says, you can make a difference, because with such a groundswell, there will come a tipping point where will become part of an active majority of things.
If you’ve made a significant contribution to social change and sustainability, or you are thinking about doing so, tell us about your ideas here. Or offer your feedback for some of the ideas already posted.
Today is a good day to drive innovation so that terms like “sustainability” are obsolete and are simple a normative part of best business practices. Leave your comments here!