« Calculating the Gross National Trash | Main | Reinventing Mobility: It's Not Just the Cars, Stupid »

March 23, 2009


Jerry Yudelson

What's left out of this calculation of course is the amount of conservation and efficiency upgrades that can be done much cheaper than increasing solar generation by a factor of 1,000. With the world's entire efficiency of input energy conversion to useful energy running about 10%, we'd be better off working on increasing energy efficiency first. Then solar, wind and geothermal will be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. These arguments were all made in Natural Capitalism 10 years ago and are still as relevant today. These efficiency upgrades will take 5000 days, for sure, but have a much greater chance of success because they are also economically beneficial, something solar PV will hardly be (without strong subsidy) for at least another 5000 days.


With the current economic climate, those actions in those timescales (starting NOW) are daunting. However, Jerry's comment is on the money - figuratively and literally. Right now, efficiency is a sure-fire investment strategy, you know it will pay back (unlike my mutual funds!)

David Fox

Agree with Jerry - focus must be on conservation.
It is the conundrum of our time - how do we shift the focus to conservation and efficiency, doing more with what we have versus where the money wants to flow which is making more and more of the new new thing. We know conservation works, and is be foundation step, but it just ain't sexy enough to get investors and govt excited. Obama is talking about it (thankfully) but the funding is just a tiny fraction of the stimulus bill.
So lets make *conservation* the focus of our conversations. Spread the word...

David Britton


I agree with your number! There is perhaps another way to accelerate change. Reduce our GDP to something more sustainable, as we were 50 + years ago. That is happening right now but the government is trying to quickly move to fill the GDP decline by massive spending. Spending is ok but not to the levels that bring us back to what is now unsustainable. 30% of our recent GDP came from the financial community excess and was without value! It disappeared without a trace, except for bank financials. We must live within our means and that saves the planet! Science and innovation can play a major role, in our short future, if our Congress is sane?

Carolyn Brown

"Change happens in an instant; Getting ready to change takes time." - Deane Juhan, author of Job's Body.
While I'm enthused by the public and private sector investments in technology, very little attention or funding is focused on inspiring and empowering changes in behavior. Relevant topics include marketing, media, infrastructure and massive market incentives/disincentives. So many of the solutions are already at hand and well understood. It's time to move!


ネットショップ 構築


I made a similar point, but not as broad-based (or with the support of a genius, either) as Joel, specific to transportation on my blog the other day. The rate of change has to accelerate enormously if we have any chance of saving our cookies.
Joel asks the key question at the end: where are the game changing ideas?
I'm not sanguine.

John Grant

Hey Joel, great post. There is a lot going on around this question of timescales this side of the pond too. The New Economics Foundation http://www.onehundredmonths.org/ have been pushing 100 months (they are 7 months into this too). Different time horizon but similar concept of a countdown. The Uk chief scientist popped up last week and framed it as 2030 not 2050. By 2030 we will have a perfect storm of food, energy and climate crisis. Again the psychological impact is this brings it into most of the audience's lifetime. Best of all is the message coming from your own administration - I saw Bill Becker speak on this - which is to push home that IT IS REAL and IT IS HAPPENING NOW. I've been doing focus groups for the UK government and that does indeed seem to be a turnkey realisation, and one people are starting to be ready to adopt.

Dave Witzel

Hi Joel,

I agree with you about the urgency. I'm working on a new program at Environmental Defense Fund, the Innovation Exchange, and we're looking for "audaciously big" ideas to accelerate environmental innovation in business. We're asking for suggestions on what they would be and would love input.



Another good resource for thinking about this is the observation of "emergence" patterns in human societies. Led not only by big technical breakthroughs, but by breakthroughs in how we think and work together in turbulent times.

Peggy Holman is blogging on this at http://patternsofchange.wordpress.com. "Leaders and change agents are struggling to find a compass to guide them through the major changes they know are needed. And since their tried and true ways of changing aren’t doing the job, change itself requires an alchemical twist."

Justine Burt

In 2008, the installed wind capacity grew by 50%. California is now third in installed solar behind Germany and Japan. We're ramping up renewable energy pretty quickly now. Maybe we CAN turn this around in 5,000 days.


5,000 days sound like such a long time, but with the saying that the the 5 year olds would be in college they would be the coming generation to make the changes for the future. If nothing is done the environment will suffer greatly.


The comments to this entry are closed.