Three-legged stool

September 27, 2007 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This post and first comment triggered me to scribble my first thoughts on a certain topic, however crumpled they may appear. I can iron them out over time, as I learn and reflect more 😉

Climate change is a symptom of an imbalance in the way we attribute, value and use natural (read: free for the taking) resources. This lack of equilibrium goes far wider and deeper than an energy problem: solving climate change ultimately involves changing the way we allocate many types of resources (real and virtual) at a global and local level. Solving it depends on our collective and individual attitudes to the planet (i.e. how we value nature) and relations with each other, as well as supporting investment in new technologies from government and private sources and by being discerning purchasers. Our predicament is, if not a function of trust and tolerance, certainly intimately connected with those traits. People who trust and tolerate each other, despite differences, are more likely to share limited diminishing resources and good ideas than hoard them selfishly.

As an optimist (and an engineer), I see the three legs as:

  • mitigation (which includes and requires innovation)
  • adaptation (–ditto–)
  • deep appreciation of ecosystems

I do not think the climate challenge can really be solved without bold systems thinking about the widest of contexts. All those who care have to act with a commitment to climate-friendly efforts (of the kind last heard of in Britain during the war years). Those who do not care need to be prevented from damaging our atmosphere further!

We cannot be “partly sustainable”, just like I cannot be “partly pregnant”.

Finally, I do not buy the argument that a higher standard of living requires us to increase consumption of energy (or of anything else) in America—and I am far from being a hermit or hippie 😉 Nor do I agree with the proposal that the primary focus for the U.S. should be on making clean energy cheap. We need to cut consumption and use energy from 100% renewable resources (which is not the same as ‘clean energy’) and support friends and neighbours when they hint they are thinking of doing the same.


1 Comment »

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  1. I see some tactical sales value in making clean cheap rather than making dirty expensive, but I can’t really see that in the grand scheme of things they will be substantially different in effect.

    I like the three legs, but I would like to propose a variation on how to express the third.

    Biophilia is an ideology. When you promote an ideology you meet resistance, the more so the more your audience already has an ideology.

    The existence of the distant future is a simple fact. We can always start interesting conversations by discussing what that future will look like. (It is rather disconcerting to raise this topic with young people, some of whom turn out to be remarkably pessimistic.) Then we can turn from the discussion of that future to the implications on what our current behavior should be.

    This perspective is advocated on a remarkable website I have recently discovered and highly recommend:

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