This past week I attended the 2015 Appalachian Energy Summit for the UNC System. It was amazing, educational, inspiring and scary. Not only was it highly educational, it also had integrity because it practiced what it preached, it was a zero waste event. What was fantastic was that even without generating waste, it was an even higher quality event than most. At the summit Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. of RiverKeeper and other organizations, and author and presenter David Orr of Oberlin College provided stunning and valuable information. The presentations from the conference supposedly will be available soon however even without those available I am providing a link to other presentations they gave and I encourage you to go these or search youtube and listen to some of the presentations by Amory Lovins, Robert Kennedy Jr. and David Orr.
To me the most important message I heard over and over was that the time is now, thus the title of the summit – “A New State of Energy”. What they were explaining by saying the time now was that it is time to decarbonize our economy, that is we are ready to stop using fossil fuels. The time is now because not only are renewables more cost effective than fossil fuels and the technology makes it more reliable when we consider our reliance on importation of oil from unstable countries. They also documented how decarbonizing our world would not be an economic detriment but an economic boon. When other countries such as Iceland, Sweden, and Portugal decarbonized innovation and their economy boomed.
The most stunning change they explained must happen relates to the democratization of energy. Right now we are dependent on utility companies for energy andwhen we all become energy generators with solar panels at our house – they lose that power. When we all have a reliable clean source of energy, everything changes. Most importantly we all get to live in a cleaner and healthier world that is not governed and controlled by what keeps us dependent on them.
I only had 2 sources of concern related to the conference.
1. Their continual referral to costs avoided or money saved through these efforts. As readers of my work know, if we are going to have an effective message it must be based on what we get, not what may not happen. This understanding is supported by Risk Homeostasis that create compensatory behaviors and Feature Positive Effect. This means it is necessary for us to demonstrate how we make it better, not just less bad.
Briefly, the reasons I emphasize why we need to focus on more good, not just less bad are because saving money is possible by just not doing things. We can use less energy if we cut classes or attempt to read in the dark. Also because seeing these savings can be understood as simply correcting past mistakes, thus not justifying finding a better way. If past mistakes are corrected, the status quo can remain. Also, savings seems to infer we must give up things to save which is not true, actually we should be able to get and do more.
I outline some of these ideas in a short 17 minute presentation I gave to our Sustainability Committee that you can view here or below if you are interested.
My second concern was their lack of recognition of the impact made from animal agriculture. Unless all the information I have reviewed and are being presented by many researchers including Ornish, Robbins, Esseltyn, Campbell, Barnard and many others is wrong – this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
This important issue of the impact of animal agriculture is captured very effectively in the new documentary “Cowspiracy“. Below are a few clips from Cowspiracy and the movie trailer. These clips are related to the overwhelming environmental impact of animal agriculture. I encourage you to review this issue and decide for yourself. Data I see says that 50% of GHG emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture and this does not get into the terrible health consequences related to an animal based food system. As noted in these previous posts – I encourage you to see the movie.
Here are some summary’s of implications outlined in the movie:
Here is the trailer:
Make it a Great Weekend.