The BHAG

“OOOhh! It’s Getting Hot In Here,” sang Energy Action before delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal this past December, “There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere.”

Speakers at a Green House Network workshop on climate change this past weekend included the youthful and energized leader of Energy Action, Billy Parish, and the beautiful, articulate–and young–Native American, Wahleah Johns, of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. (Black Mesa’s tagline is “Youth Empowerment while Building Stable Communities.” Want to break your heart? Listen to young Navajos—the five-fingered people—talk about Water and Coal on the Res.) The title of the keynote address by Eban Goodstein was “Global Warming and the Meaning of Life.” Throughout the weekend, people peppered conversations with the words ‘quality of life’–or, as a successful IT entrepreneur attending the workshop calls it, this ‘life crusade.’

Dr. Martin Hoerling of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce) covered the science of anthropogenic contributions to climate change–about which there is no doubt. Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism Solutions spoke brilliantly, as she does, about the human potential to innovate in the next industrial revolution. She can meld Al Gore- and scientist-speak with corporate-speak. Her clients, corporations, understand the financial risks of carbon and the money-saving upsides of efficiencies and getting ahead of the market. There was serious thought given to solar troughs and Stirling engines, wind, coal gasification and carbon sequestration, nuclear and negawatts, population and consumption.

What was new? The “L” words, a future of liability and litigation over climate change and its attendant instability and risks – and this growing youth movement. The movement is populated by kids who are growing up in a world heavy in human capital but short on natural capital–capital that has never been properly accounted and is fast degrading. (It was a bit unnerving recognizing that I, childless, could be the mother of most of the kids, college students, at this workshop. How did that happen?)

Old fogies (something I hope never to be, please!) and 20th century industrialists best not doubt the power of this brewing youthful BHAG, their Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal to stabilize global warming. Billy Parish (the other BP), who organizes students and forms wide-reaching partnerships, says the clean energy youth movement is not yet national; there’s a long way to go. But it’s getting traction…Rolling Stone, MTV, websites, perhaps a place at a LiveAID event for climate change. Rumors do fly. Energy Action and Black Mesa are perfecting their tools, including a guide on messaging and communications: U.S. in the World. They have successes and demands: “In what would be a first for the state and the nation, [the Hopi and Navajo] are asking the commission to ensure that the utility make up for a history of pollution violations by reinvesting any profits from the sale of pollution credits into clean, renewable energy projects to serve the region’s energy needs and create local jobs.”

I figure if a guy can get into Yale (and has the balls to drop out) and a girl can put her very being on the line to challenge status quo on the reservation, they have the chutzpah to lead this Quality of Life Crusade, this Big Hairy Audacious Goal, the legacy we leave to the next generation.

Monday evening several attendees from the workshop showed up at another venue for even more talk on climate change by Tim Flannery, author of “The Weather Makers.” Again, I heard the “L” words…and, not for the first time, the “M” word—moral. We were, after all, in a church…

Other going on this week:
AIG First Major U.S. Insurer With Policy on Climate Change
Market research on nuclear power (public opinion not looking good for nukes)
“Some Like it Hot” in Mother Jones (ExxonMobil’s funding of its echo chambers)

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