We are always on the lookout for like-minded pundits and experts who share our vision – as expressed in the 9-18-06 post “Redefining Environmentalism” – of a green revolution that legitimately appeals to a wider, mainstream constituency, and challenges many assumptions of traditional environmentalism. Last month, on “VCMike’s Blog,” we read a very astute commentary on what we may as well call “new environmentalism.” The post was written by Bob Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com Corporation and currently a general partner for Polaris Ventures. The following are some particularly memorable excerpts from that post.
On the public vs. private sector:
“I am from what politicians and professors often call, a little too dismissively, the “private sector.” I think nobody else but the private sector will meet the world’s energy needs… And then there are politicians — the public sector. The big danger in what they call “policy making” is that large companies have lobbyists and small companies don’t. Using an endless variety of rationales, the old boy network of large company lobbyists and policy makers make it difficult for young companies that might compete with them and thereby drive accelerating innovation. So, please be careful out there.”
Where global warming alarmists & deniers agree:
“The best way to frame the challenge is to say we aim to deploy technologies that will meet world needs for cheap and clean energy. Note that meeting the world’s energy needs is not exactly the same as solving global warming. There are other reasons, like prosperity and security, to want cheap and clean energy. What the world needs is not just cheap energy, and not just clean energy, but cheap and clean energy. The market opportunities and other motivations are huge. There is one thing about which Global Warming’s alarmists, deniers, and us techies agree. It is that not nearly enough is known about Earth and energy. So, for starters, Global Warming alarmists, deniers, and us techies all agree that we need to support Earth and energy science.”
On the role of the technology sector in the green revolution:
“The people, processes, and institutions that built the Internet will themselves help bring the world cheap and clean energy. I’m talking here about the Internet’s teams of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. I hope techies deliver cheap and clean energy faster than we delivered the Internet… Sure technology bubbles eventually burst. So, to mix metaphors, it’s important to have a chair when the music stops. But, mixing metaphors again, trying too hard to avoid bubbles causes what control theorists call over-damping. Over-damping the growth of our “Enertech” Cluster would delay the arrival of the cheap and clean energy that the world so badly needs. Let our Enertech Bubble inflate!”
On traditional “old school” environmentalism:
“When you look at groups who call themselves GREEN, you find a good many ulterior motives and a veritable toxic waste dump of bad ideas. As pointed out by NYT Columnist Tom Friedman at Pop!Tech in October, Greens tend to be various combinations of environmentalist (a good thing), but also anti-urban, anti-technology, anti-nuke, anti-corporate, anti-globalization, and anti-American. Our Enertech Cluster needs to be careful about how we align with Greens, they are welcome when they can help bring the world cheap and clean energy.”
On the “Parasol Effect” (my favorite):
“One of my private investigations is finding ways to enhance the so-called Parasol Effect. The odd thing is that sulfur pollution in the upper atmosphere, which we are carefully working to reduce, now enhances the Parasol Effect to offset about a third of the Greenhouse Effect. Large volcanoes cause Earth’s temperature to plunge when they enhance the Parasol Effect by belching reflective particles into the atmosphere. We should be looking harder at how to send benign reflecting particles into the stratosphere in order to enhance the Parasol Effect on purpose, to keep the temperature of Earth wherever we want it, which seems to be the same as it is now (or maybe a little bit cooler).”
These principles – faith in the private sector, faith in technology, and creativity in solving problems (such as developing technology to deploy benign aerosols in the stratosphere) – these are hallmarks of new environmentalism. Click here to read Metcalfe’s post in its entirety.