I N · T H I S · I S S U E
The Keynote Speaker
Greetings from Asia. It's been seven years since I'd last been to Asia. After managing a project in the Philippines for Russ Sturm at the International Finance Corporation, I was resolved to stay put and focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy in California. Hey, who wouldn't want our lifestyle? We need to set a really good example.
Peter DuPont asked me to speak at the third annual Asia Clean Energy Forum, and I'm glad I did. Peter has spent his career in Thailand bringing green lessons from America and Europe to Asia. The Forum was hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and U.S. Agency for International Development; the meeting was at ADB's impressive facility in Manila.
My job was two-fold: First, I'd be on the "regulatory panel" presenting the relative merits of the California Solar Initiative and the German Solar Feed-In Tariff. Second, I was honored to have been asked to present the closing keynote address. "No pressure, but make it really inspiring and upbeat." That was my challenge and one that kept me awake for several nights!
This third year of the Forum, 550 participants came from 49 countries. One could easily sense the collective wisdom of these dedicated professionals working on pathways to sustainability. I saluted them there, and I salute them now. We are a world community. Through a synergy of forces we will prevail in turning from a futile energy path to a clean future. The Forum proved to me that there is a will in Asia, and that there is a way. Through concerted efforts facilitated by ADB and AID and many others, rapid change in Asia can be shaded very green. It will take very hard work.
This begins a two-part series on our recent Asian adventure, beginning at the Asia Clean Energy Forum in the Philippines. We then went to mainland China to witness its extraordinary pace of growth. The next issue features an 8-day travelogue adventure in Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Beijing China.
Urban Democracy and Quality of Life
Mayor Enrique Penalosa (above, with Ted) served the City of Bogata, Columbia from 1998 - 2001. During his tenure, he'd bought public lands, created pedestrian and bike ways, and created the "Transmillenium" bus system, building on Curitiba, Brazil's noted success. Penalosa's remarks about creating high quality urban environments were passionate and democratic. In doing so, he established an ethical rudder for the conference. Effective urban environments have space and access for all.
"Why can't we stop making 'dumb decisions' and step up the dual challenges of development and sustainability?" he asked. Ironically, as cities get richer their transport systems get worse. Wealthy citizens buy cars, highways are built that destroy urban cultures, and quality of life deteriorates. Thus developing countries have a huge advantage: "They can see that the highest quality cities have moved past cars!"
In Zurich and Amsterdam, mass transit systems are mature. In these cities, 40% of people travel by bike, irrespective of income. In Los Angeles and Houston, cars rule and the quality of life suffers. Mature cities are lowering auto use through policies on congestion pricing and stiff registration fees.
"Shouldn't the public interest prevail? Transportation corridors ought to be for the people first. And the people need sidewalks, bus and bike lanes, not massive arterials for the rich in their cars, only to be gridlocked in traffic." Penalosa believes that a lack of sidewalks shows a lack of respect for human dignity. "The quality of life in any city can be measured by the width of the sidewalks. All great cities have great sidewalks. Think of Paris, Buenos Aires, and New York!"
The 20th century will go down in history as a disastrous era in urban planning. American cities that myopically feature low densities keep looking to add more freeways and lanes of traffic. "Increasing roads is like putting out a fire with gasoline! It's totally irrational." And the higher the density, the more opportunities for walking and biking and highly efficient, frequent, mass transit. "And if you must build new highways," Penalosa noted, "at least leave a few lanes for high-capacity buses."
"In safe and highly democratic urban environments," Penalosa remarked, "a $30 bicycle is just as prestigious as a $30,000 car. A good city is where people want to be out of their house, and not in a mall. The city becomes a playground, safe for kids and adults. It is where people are happy, not where there are happy cars!"
The Power of the Increment
Mayor Enrique Penalosa had raised the bar high with his opening keynote. My closing had to be good. It was one of my best speeches ever! With lapel mike set-up and able to roam among the audience, I was on my game. EcoMotion's theme -- the power of the increment -- was my topic. It was a hugely optimistic and hard-hitting closing perspective on three invaluable days of sharing. I asked all who had learned something to rise. The reaction was instantaneous, with a thundering applause for each other, a standing ovation!
Years ago, in feudal days, farmers shared commons to protect their herds from wolves and warring villages. Each farmer, said Garrett Hardin, maximized his gain by adding to his herd. Every sheep, as he told it, has a "utility" of 1 to the farmer. This was fine, until the commons reached its carrying capacity. Beyond that, any additional sheep would result in overgrazing and decline. But each farmer continued to add to his herd.
This is the tragedy of the commons, an inherent situation whereby individuals seek to maximize gain even to the detriment of society. Before the commons' carrying capacity was reached, each herdsman had a utility of plus 1. Once the carrying capacity is reached, every additional sheep will lower the productivity of the entire herd. Each goat and sheep now has a utility of just less than one.
The tragedy of the commons has resulted blight, land, air and water pollution, traffic jams, overuse of electricity and fuels. (It's readily apparent to each of us in the overhead bins on aircraft.) Asian cities, we'd see so clearly, are choking themselves in emissions, cycling deeper into the tragedy of the commons.
EcoMotion, thank goodness, operates with a far different guiding principle, taking the polar opposite perspective to the tragedy, what we call "the power of the increment."
We celebrate creativity and individuality; we feature good works and good stories that beget more and that result in great synergies. We believe that major change is not only tenable but inevitable if each us of chips in. EcoMotion is based on only the most optimistic perspectives: viral marketing of really logical eco-ideas and strategies.
Recycling provided EcoMotion the early faith that people want to be part of "the solution to global pollution." When we recycle, we take selfless actions for communal good. There's little or no money involved, but we do it because it feels good to be part of the solution to pollution. That's the power of the increment, the feeling that propels us to do more. "Many of you in the room will be net providers, pioneers who not only offset their own footprint, but that provide additional community benefit."
Imagine each of us - all Asians, all Americans -- taking action for the collective good. Together, there would be revolutionary change. At the Asia Clean Energy Forum this philosophy was reinforced. We can solve the massive environmental problems of the day through "the power of the increment." As the EcoMotion theme song lyrics say, "You can't move a mountain alone, but if each of us carries a stone, you turn back and see that the mountain's been moved."
Good planning and sound investments in clean energy can and will result in profoundly positive change. Consider the transformation of Iceland's energy economy thanks to geothermal development, cooperatively-owned wind systems in Denmark, the solar revolution in Germany, and wind in Spain. EcoMotion's "great Metrolink CFL giveaway" demonstrated how to leverage major changes through simple steps. Collectively, these will lead us to a sustainable energy future and one that eradicates the tragedy of the common as a plague on society. Each eco-action creates a synergy, and spells responsibility and opportunity. "Set your sights on a vision, and make it happen. Defy short-term economic thinking, and take a leadership position. Thanks to your advocacy and hard works, you will create an Asian sustainable energy future!"
And then we were off to the airport, headed to China. (More about that in the next issue!)