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Future tension

December 23 2009 | Culture Shifting, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

Reading the post-Copenhagen news blasts a few days ago, I immediately found myself drifting toward a cynical mood. I found myself wanting to pop out a tweet with a snarky comment like "what happened in Copenhagen? Nothing." That feeling lasted a few minutes and then the reality set in. The reality is that the last thing we need right now is cynicism. We don't need reactionary, over simplistic and self-centered sound bites designed to point back to ourselves.

We need collaboration. We need innovation. We need to move ahead.

What is becoming increasingly apparent is how challenging this will be.

Coppenhagen, almost by design and independant of the subject matter, had a massive hurdle to overcome. Look at it mathematically, how do you align 190+ (country) vectors? How does one implement a formula that enables a few super-players to mesh their interests while also providing transparency to the 180-something other actors? Again, take the subject out of this... how could you suceed with that model? Yet... what's a better model? I'm pointing to this as a way of illustrating the underlying challenges and tensions we will have as the decision makers on our globe.

It wasn't easy before. It will be more difficult now.

Here are three in-the-news case studies:

I'm not weighing in on this desert issue. Instead, I'm pointing to this as a good illustration of the challenges we'll increasingly seek. An oversimplification of this issue is that a proposed solar energy site is also in a protected space. One one hand, the proposal to make the Southern California desert the largest solar farm on earth sounds wonderful. On the other hand, the land is pristine and includes massive amounts that were set aside for federal protection. More here.

The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and most respected environmental groups in existence. They recently made statements that are pro-natural gas. The larger story is that they aren't so much pro-gas as anti-coal. It's easy for all of us to point out the environmental footprint of any energy source and it is an entirely different thing for us to not use energy. Is the choice of the lesser of two evils still too evil even when it is us who are demanding it to exist? The tension in this story is interesting, it's palpable and it's an indicator of things to come.
More here.

Surfrider Foundation isn't immune to these kinds of tensions. This became clear to me last year when we entered the evolving world of alternative ocean energy.

Our mission states "... protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches for all people..." Yet we, all of us that align ourselves with that mission, know we must lessen our dependancy on fossil fuels. It's impossible for us, as individuals or as a group not to see the overlapping issues in our lives. Wave and ocean energy are potential sources to help wean us off fossil fuels. Yet the last thing we want to do is turn our waves into massive electric grids. I happen to like how we've netted out on this issue. Our policy on this is here. My favorite part of our policy on ocean and wave energy is the phrase "adaptive management." That is, let's not implement anything on a large-scale without understanding it's impact on a smaller scale. Let's also do our best to align locations with the various user groups interests.

It's easy to take a side and assume everything else is wrong. My sense is that this stance is becoming increasingly difficult.

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't take sides as I think we should, it's the essence of our mission. My point with this post is to simply point out the increasing tension in decision making and the inherent, escalating complexity of our overlapping interests as people living on earth.

Copenhagen wasn't failure. It is simply a metaphor for the complexity ahead.

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