This Sustainable Life

Share

176: The folly of chasing efficiency

Ep. 176

Silicon Valley, governments, and lots of people are pushing for efficiency. I do too, but only after changing systemic beliefs and goals.

The greatest cause of global warming would have looked like the greenest clean energy innovation ever: the Watt steam engine. It led to our environmental problems today more than anything else.

We'd be fools to think today's green clean energy will do any different. Changing beliefs and goals will create results, not ignorantly continuing the patterns that got us here, thinking we're different.

Efficiency is different than reducing total waste. An LED will never compete with simply turning off the light. If you thought, but the light enables things, that belief, especially if you reflexively believe that the alternative to technology is the stone age, is the cause of global warming and our other environmental problems because it drives continuing the behavior that got us here.

What I'm saying won't change that belief. In my experience few things change belief, rarely facts, figures, doom, gloom, guilt, shame. Definitely not continuing what you're doing. What does? New experiences and community.

I'm not going to get into leadership and what influences motivations, emotions, beliefs, and behavior, but I'll tell you that if we don't change our behavior and beliefs, if we could magically return CO2 levels to pre-industrial revolution, we'd be back here pretty quickly.

And our behavior for centuries has been to make things more efficient, ignoring total waste, which we've increased. Almost nobody wants to consider consuming and producing less, despite reduce, reuse, recycle starting with reduce.

Folks, when people say that not acting now means we'll have to act more later to keep the earth able to maintain a population and society something like ours, they mean it. And people have been saying that for generations. If you believe efficiency only will make a difference, you aren't changing at all. You're doing exactly what got us here.

Change would be to reduce.


Here's one of the papers I alluded to. Quoting the paper:

we find that higher energy efficiency increased rather than reduced energy use, because lower capital cost enhanced energy use by more than the increase in energy cost reduced it. This casts strong doubts on the view that energy-saving technological change has lowered fossil energy use.

More Episodes

3/23/2021

449: Chad E. Foster: How Do You Handle Huge Challenges? Not Big. Huge.

Ep. 449
How do you face challenges? Not little ones like a pandemic lockdown for a year. Big ones.Regular listeners hear me talk about role models like Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela in the context of handling life challenges. During the pandemic, for example, I recognize there was suffering before, there will be suffering after, and there's suffering now. Our challenge is not to take on things outside our control since we can't, but to figure out how to respond, not just to the world but within our hearts and minds.We're locked down. Nelson Mandela was locked down for 27 years. If he could create meaning forced to break rocks, I can find meaning in my home, able to go out every day, with access to communicate with everyone, access all the culture ever digitized, and so on.In the context of sustainability, do we just give up? How do we find hope and resolution to act even when everyone around us says what they do doesn't matter or that only governments and corporations can make a difference? What role models can we find.Today's guest, Chad E. Foster, lost his eyesight as a teenager, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an executive for Red Hat, the world’s largest open source software company and securing over $45 Billion in contracts throughout his career.He is the first blind graduate of the Harvard Business School leadership program and did what Oracle said could not be done; he built a software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people. His direct and confident style, combined with a go-for-it inspiring belief system (he is an avid downhill skier… and that’s not a joke), has made him a high-impact speaker for leaders at companies such as Google, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, GE and Microsoft.He also skis double black diamonds, which he talks about learning.From Chad's Quotable Quotes page:Happiness is not a feeling, happiness is not an emotion, happiness is a decision that each of us make every single day when we wake up.You do not know what you cannot see when you cannot see it.The facts are far less relevant than the stories we tell ourselves.Life without obstacles removes opportunity for growth.If you’re not getting outside of your comfort zone, then you’re not growing.Life begins outside of our comfort zone.You have to take advantage of your disadvantages.It is a great time to go blind.This stuff is so easy I can do it with my eyes closed.All of us are blind. Blind in some aspect.Don't let other people define your vision of your future.If you never dare to be great, you'll always be mediocre.Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing something despite the presence of fear.If you're not failing from time to time, you're not aiming high enough.
3/20/2021

448: Robert Bilott: The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

Ep. 448
Your blood contains PFOA, also known as forever chemicals. They cause cancer of several types, birth defects, and more.Dupont and other companies produced this stuff after learning it caused harm and dumped it into our environment. As best we can tell, they chose enormous profits over the health of their employees at first, and eventually all Americans and all humans because this stuff takes millions of years to break down and accumulates in our bodies.We know because Robert Bilott, today's guest, took on a small farmer's case. His cows were dying, we now know from water poisoned from Dupont dumping these chemicals. They pulled on the thread and the whole sweater unraveled. Robert's story became on par with those in the movies Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action.The highly-reviewed 2019 movie Dark Waters featured Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins playing him, his wife, his coworker. The New York Times featured him in its 2016 magazine article The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare. The most personal account is his 2019 book Exposure.In our conversation I tried to bring out what we who want to conserve our environment could use: what is it like to face something we feel is right, to fix a great problem, to act on our values, even when it seems like we will have to swim upstream?Because regarding sustainability and nature, we all sense how much easier swimming upstream would be.Or would it? The more I act, the more I find new role models like him who make the choice I feel right more clear. Listen for yourself. Would you like to feel about your life and family how he feels about his? Could acting even when it's hard help?People often call my not flying or taking two years to fill a load of trash extreme. Not by the standards of role models like Robert. The more I act, the more I find people like him and the closer I feel to them.Maybe I could fantasize about living in a world where I could act without caring who feels the consequences of my actions. Not really, because I find caring for others creates value, not ignoring them. In any case, I don't live in such a world. Everything I do connects me to others. I've come to find that connection improves my life, even if it means not flying or ordering takeout.I've got a long way to go to reach his level of giving and his level of getting. He said he wouldn't change a thing.Exposure at Simon and SchusterThe New York Times 2016 profile of Robert Bilott: The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst NightmareThe Intercept: The Teflon Toxin How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA