How Do We Grow From Here?

How Do We Grow From Here?

Image CC licensed by Flickr user OiMax

The headline is inspired by part of the title of Bob Gilligan's piece on where the Smart Grid should go, but I thought that there was a lot of interesting conceptual potential embedded in the semantics. I've written about the Smart Grid before, both in the context of new technology innovations and in the context of a pathway to the New Normal.

The notion of "how do we grow" also fits well into Dana Meadows' Leverage Point No. 4 of 12: The Power to Add, Change, Evolve, Self-organize System Structure. In the context of the fourth leverage point, the Internet may actually be the most powerful tool to hit humanity since the advent of agricultural communities. The explosive growth of global virtual communities of people united across borders, race, sex, religion, etc. by interests and beliefs, and the nearly instantaneous ability to share ideas -- both transformatively wonderful  and cringeworthy awful -- is clearly the kind of transformative tool that would legitimately be considered a leverage point.

However, being mindful of Einstein's admonitions regarding tools that we may not be sufficiently mature to wield, ("The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking . . . the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.") I wonder if we've grown enough to ensure that the Internet is a "Smart Grid" instead of a "Stupid Grid."  I suppose I should be encouraged by the fact that Googling the term "climate change problem" produced 40 million hits compared with the 700,000 returned by "climate change hoax."

Marc Gunther, in writing on the new report on "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States" worries that skeptics will distort both the science and economics of carbon pollution. The Global Climate Change Impacts report -- produced by the Global Change Research Program, which consists of experts across 13 U.S. government agencies -- echoes the unequivocal conclusion of the Bush Administration's National Academy of Sciences report that found climate change is real and that it is caused by humans. The Impacts Report also notes the importance of the timing of carbon pollution reductions in the overall impacts of climate change:  "Earlier cuts in emissions would have a greater effect in reducing climate change than comparable reductions made later." 

I really wish the rest of the states would learn from the example of California, which last week funded the largest state-level energy efficiency effort in U.S. to the tune of $3 billion over the next three years. Rather than building three fractally-stupid coal power plants, California is building the equivalent in a mega conservation power plan that will reduce carbon pollution by 3 million tons per year -- the equivalent of 600,000 cars -- while making the state's economy more globally competitive. The California Public Utility Commission's action, dedicated to energy efficiency pioneer Art Rosenfeld, supports the state-level mandate articulated by Assembly Bill 32, which calls for California to get to 1990 emissions by 2020.

As McKinsey has noted, buildings represent the largest and least expensive source of carbon reductions available.  This is old news.  It has been know by experts in this field for over 20 years.  The information is all over the Internet, so what is preventing it from being implemented??? Maybe it's Ego-nomics, which is wrapped up in the next two paradigm-oriented Leverage Points: "Changing the Rules of the System" and "Changing the Mindset or Paradigm Out of Which the System Arises."  Stay tuned for the earth-shaking conclusion.

The past week's Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you-said-was-fake-but-it's-real! award goes to CBRE for releasing a report on green building economics that indicates that the marginal investment on green certification is largely recouped through rent/occupancy premiums and that energy savings are the cherry on top.

Rob Watson is the executive editor of You can reach Rob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KilrWat.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user OiMax.