Home » Hunter Lovins: The Madrone Project at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Hunter Lovins: The Madrone Project at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Hunter Lovins at TEDxMileHigh

Hunter Lovins – TRANSCRIPT

These are turbulent times. Think that the revolutions in the Middle East were kicked off by a food riot in Tunisia. Why? Because food is at record high prices. What Robyn said is correct: it’s not because we don’t have GMO foods the world around, it’s because of high oil prices, it’s because the climate is changing, it’s because of the droughts, it’s because of what Sally was talking about, it’s because of the bad choices that we’ve made in energy policy. It could get worse.

In the last month or so, oil hit $120 a barrel. It could hit $200 a barrel if Algeria goes offline, or if the oil fields in Libya get hit, it could go as high as $250 a barrel. What would that do to our economy? Well, we’re going to get to find out because along with the International Energy Agency, WikiLeaks has now joined the scene, pointing out that the Saudis have been cooking their books. There’s less oil than we thought. Charming.

The fundamental unsustainability of the way that we do business is what drove the financial collapse of ’08. Recollect that six months before the economy went off the cliff, oil hit $150 a barrel. And if we fail to implement sustainability throughout every aspect of our lives, we will lurch from collapse to collapse to collapse. We know what unsustainability looks like. It’s the Russian fires. Last year was the hottest year ever in recorded history. It was the Pakistani floods: 20 million people displaced in a country that has nuclear-tipped missiles. It’s the failure of our political institutions.

This sign was in the airport in Copenhagen about a year and a half ago when the world gathered to in theory, put into place a regime to deal with climate change, and we failed. And we failed again in Cancun last December. This is daft because we have all of the technologies that we need to solve all of the problems facing humankind. The work that Bernard Amadei is doing – you want to talk about a living, walking, breathing saint – that man is working in some of the worst parts of the world for all of the problems that we like to sit here in this country and lament about, and he’s out there getting it done. We have the technologies, we have the engineering, we know what to do.

We can feed the world’s people. The UN agencies have finally agreed, we can feed the world’s people on organic agriculture. And we know how to power a modern industrial society just using renewable technologies. Doing that will unleash the greatest prosperity that the world has ever known. And if you don’t believe me, look at what’s going on now in Germany, which is on a path to become 100 percent renewably powered by 2050.

Scotland will do it by 2020. You start with efficiency. My staff at Natural Capitalism Solutions walked into a company, had 6,300 computers and monitors they left on 24/7 because of some urban myths: “It shortens the life of the computer to turn it off and on.” No. “IT needs it left on 24/7.” Not true either. In that company, just publishing a policy, “Turn the darn thing off if you’re not sitting in front of it,” would save the company $700,000 the first year. This is free money! Nationally, we waste $28 billion every year buying and burning energy to run computers that have nobody sitting in front of them.

That releases a lot of C02, and is a big chunk of the cost of running a typical office. The team walked into a seven million square foot distribution center, big warehouse, floor-to-ceiling boxes, 500 watt light bulbs shining down on the tops of boxes. The guys down below had task lighting so they could see where they were going. We said, “Do you all have a switch?” $650,000 – again, free money! Throughout this country, we waste $5-10 billion every year running lights that have nobody underneath them. Renewable energy is coming on very rapidly.

Solar: In Southern California before the economic collapse, we were building a megawatt a week. In the last year, the world brought on 15 gigawatts of new solar Southern California. Edison built a 250 megawatt power plant at a price point eerily close – $875 million – to what it would have cost to build a coal plant that was canceled up in Montana, $800 million. We’re getting near what’s called grid parity, where the cost of solar crosses the cost of coal. And wind – second-fastest growing energy-supply technology – in the last two years, we’ve brought on 69 gigawatts of new wind.

That is more than the nuclear capacity of all of Japan. We don’t need nuclear. And I’ve never heard anybody call for an evacuation plan from a wind farm. Wind spills: now there’s a problem. Why was the Montana plant canceled? Because the Public Utility Commission said wind is cheaper than coal.

And check out China! China has now surpassed the US as the world’s wind power. What? We invent modern wind technology and we’re going to start buying it from the Chinese? The companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index have outperformed the general market for over ten years. Those wild-eyed environmentalists at Goldman Sachs have shown that the companies that are the leaders in environment, social, and good governance policy have 25 percent higher stock value than their less sustainable competitors.

Economists Intelligence Unit: Companies with the highest share price growth were those that paid most attention to sustainability. Conversely, the worst performing companies in the economy: most likely to have nobody in charge of sustainability AT Kearney, even in the financial collapse: The sustainability-focused companies outperformed their less sustainable peers and had a market capitalization averaging $650 million more. The business case is in. And this is essentially the thesis of climate capitalism: We know what to do; we have the technologies; this is the route to prosperity; it is the route to job creation; and we’re not doing it.

I’ve spent 35 years in the sustainability field, and I have failed. And that’s a hard thing for a Colorado cowgirl to admit. GB03: If you haven’t read it, at least go read the executive summary. We’re losing every major ecosystem on the earth. Three of them are tipping into collapse.

Coral reefs: Sorry, scuba divers. The Amazon: That’s a little more serious. And the oceans are acidifying. Now that could be ‘Tilt: Game Over.’ We’re looking at the end of life as we know it on the planet, to the point that my friend, the business leader, Ray Anderson, said, “What’s the business case for ending life on earth?” I’m a professor. I teach sustainable management at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, up in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve taught it at University of Colorado, at Colorado State University, universities around the world. I write books. And I’m irrelevant, at least doing that. My graduating class last year was 75 people. That’s not enough! All the work that all of us have been doing in this field is not enough.

So, a colleague, my co-professor, Gregory Miller, who was the founding managing director of Google.org, and an inveterate TEDster, posed the question, “If we were to invent a university today, what would it look like? Would we do it the same way?” The answer’s obvious: No, of course we wouldn’t! How is it that people are learning today? How many of you watch TED Talks? And you better get every hand in the room in the air because you’re watching them!

Suppose you could get a degree in sustainable management from the equivalent of TED Talks, beautifully curated, the world sustainability thought leaders, in ten-minute, 15-minute, at most, 18-minute segments, with a little syllabus along with it? Digital education is happening. How many of you watched Sal Khan’s TED Talk from the last TED? Pretty amazing stuff; he’s revolutionizing education.

But math is easy! You take sustainability; it’s a complex subject. We’ve just had a TED Talk on complexity, yeah? Dr Eric Berlow is a member of the Madrone Team, and he is bringing this concept of ordered networks to the field of sustainability, so that we can take the complexity that is sustainability, because essentially, everything we’ve talked about here tonight is sustainability, and organize it so that you could grab ahold of any of these nodes and then go one degree, two degrees, three degrees away, and follow your passion through education.

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