Efforts to Thwart Innovation

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Four more slides, followed by a write-up, of efforts to stop progress…

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The point isn’t that farms, books, cars and computers are good or bad in and of themselves. They were all disruptive, innovative technologies that replaced methods of the day, and reshaped the world we live.

Coal, oil and gas weren’t new 150 years ago (they’re solar energy formed over millions of years), but it was the technology that sprang up to exploit them which enabled the creation of modern civilization.

Today, we rely on their concentrated, portable energy to make our stuff, grow our food, move everything around and keep us comfortable. Our economy, our rising GDP, wouldn’t offer so many conveniences and it wouldn’t be so global. ‘We’ would total far fewer than 7B+. It difficult to imagine our lives without fossil fuels.

Yes, it enabled a lot, but the damage done by our reliance on the combustion of fossil fuels is real- even if we’re largely shielded from it. We often hear about efficiencies with ‘economies of scale,’ but that’s often about replacing humans with fossil fuels and it excludes other costs, e.g. pollution, loss of biodiversity, climate change, unemployment. We continue to rely on the technology powered by fossil fuels even when alternative options that cost less exist, i.e. efficiency and better design.

Weaning off of fossil fuels and transitioning to a different economy hasn’t happened because efforts to incorporate all the costs of fossil fuels into the price we pay have failed. Ideas like significant carbon taxes, environmental taxes, cutting existing subsidies are barely part of mainstream political talk and to know why we have to consider profits.

There’s money to be made in maintaining the status quo. Consider: In just the USA and Canada, the publicly traded companies involved in extracting, transporting, refining, distributing and trading in fossil fuels earned $271B in 2012 (private companies are not included, so the total exceeds $271B)* There’s never been an industry in the history of money that earns as much. So, it’s only logical they invest a fraction of their wealth to control the conversation (media) and restrict democracy (politicians). They spread fear, uncertainty and doubt to ensure no significant change occurs. They, and the companies that benefit from a fossil fuel based economy want consumers, not citizens that understand connections and ask questions.

So, what’s gonna happen? I don’t know.

Each day, millions wake up to see that even as GDP grows, their quality of life declines. They realize that what’s good for those with concentrated power is bad for them, their families and the future. At the same time, millions wake up and get busy innovating something different- small farms and co-ops to smart homes and potlucks. They’re swimming upstream, but living a more meaningful lives. What would be possible if possible if the full costs of production we’re factored into the price we paid? Could innovation- towards doing good, towards a restorative economy, become easy, like swimming downstream?

People ask me what they think the future will look like. I say: What do you want to create? Will there be a world with more joy? More laughing? Definitely more dancing. What future are you working towards?

One thought on “Efforts to Thwart Innovation

  1. I like your analogy, but fossil fuels are different. Even if most people are upset about the status quo, e.g. working too hard for too little, they don’t see the connection between concentrated power and their struggles. So, what will happen?

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