The powerful winds and feet of heavy, wet, damaging snow of last weekend’s huge, encompassing storm that crippled the Northeast will be just an etching on the memory very soon. Much like something a lot worse, the tsunami of 2004 or Hurricane Sandy – you don’t really know unless you’re there. Unless you’ve felt it. Unless you saw your house destroyed, swallowed by the sea, or lost a loved one.
Amid the chaos were the reports: the 24-hour news networks lumbering through every minute of pre-hype, current hype, and post-hype of the storm. But what about their discussions of why storms like these are occurring more and more frequently? They didn’t discuss. They really didn’t. Former Bush strategist and public debate manipulator Frank Luntz did a very good job in 2002 in getting the words “climate change” snuck into the American lexicon, further diminishing the too scary “global warming.”
One source of hope right now is that renewable energy can be the next industrial revolution. Will the widespread adoption of wind, solar, and other clean energy production reverse global warming? Some scientists say there’s still time. While many others say we’ve passed the point of no return. The large oil, gas, and electric companies all have research departments devoted to renewable energy. A lot of them even get a healthy amount of funding. Can you imagine in 200 years time, ExxonMobil being hailed as a leader in clean energy? Neither can I. At the same time, the progress and cost decrease of renewables also brings down the value of oil. So, there are heavy lobbies in Washington and huge misinformation campaigns (like ones lead by said oil companies and the Koch Brothers) to downplay and/or deny the existence of global warming. Then how do we get this stuff into the minds of the everyday, consuming American when they’re scrambling in the chaos of a devastating storm or struggling to make ends meet?
A good answer right now lies in tech. Who are the kids listening to these days? Beyoncé can shill for sugar pimp, Pepsi, all she wants — but the App generation can see right through that: How she can warn of childhood obesity with the First Lady, but then gladly accept payment from the soft drink giant? Please. Has she created an app? Is she involved with using her power to move us forward — especially when the floods and fires really destroy? No. And neither are the politicians being lobbied to. Mark Zuckerberg is throwing parties for Governor Chris Christie, a smart move, especially as Christie most recently lead a charge during Sandy to work with the President without party bias. Zuckerberg is a hero to many and leaders like him have connected us in ways we never knew. But we must connect even more… go beyond the cat and baby pictures and talk about our carbon footprints.
So, the answer is in tech. Infotech. And people must know. They must start to not brush off the notion of receiving energy from alternate sources. We can use our social media wizardy. We can get this info into apps, infographics, in schools, in our news reporting. What will allow this? An industrial revoution. A new one. One in which new college graduates, looking to become billionaires in finance, can say there’s also opportunity (and goodwill) in renewables. Infrastructures will need to be redrawn. New energy grids built. Clean energy jobs created!
Global warming and the constant rarefying of fresh water and natural resources can lead to entire displacements of societies. And then what?
We will run out of oil one day, probably when most of us are gone. But your kids and their kids will still be here. Do you want your generation’s legacy to be prefaced with “Why Didn’t You…?” It’s time to promote energy literacy: the working consumer needs to know about renewable energy opportunities before it’s too late.