Filed under: Carbon, Environment, Greenpeace, Innovation | Tags: Environment, Greenpeace, Innovation
The rate of innovaton is increasing – that’s what Matt Ridley told TEDGlobal last week. New ideas “have sex”, and create new innovations. Examples: location-based services are the love-child of social media and smartphones; cloud-services are the result of a romp between faster access speeds and cheaper storage space. Ideas are like rabbits – rampant little love beasts having indiscriminate sex, and before you know it we’re overrun with them.
So, just as sexual reproduction speeds up the rate of evolution, this “mashing” of ideas speeds up innovation. What’s more, just as faster evolution helps species adapt to changing environments, Ridley thinks that faster innovation will help us solve the world’s problems.
Instinctively, I love it. So much more positive than the dreary language of sustainability: reductions, caps, and the most uninspiring word of all – neutral. We need progress, not sustainability. Human nature is compelled by more, not less.
Still, there was a time when I was beguiled by innovation in banking – yes, really… the sheer complexity and inventiveness of it. Well, we all now know what a house of cards that was. Now, there are those who argue that blind innovation – too much indiscriminate sex, to torture the metaphor – can do more harm than good.
Greenpeace recently raised the alarm about the growing number of energy-hungry data centres, full of whiring disks and fans. WorldChanging.org responded that the benefits in terms of efficient working and reduced travel are much greater. Either way, it shows that innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
So what to do? Ridley misses a big difference between evolution and innovation. Evolution is driven by chance mutations in the genome; it’s random. Innovation doesn’t have to be random – it can be guided by our ambitions and values, both at an individual and corporate level. All that’s required is a bit of self-knowledge – maybe the toughest bit of all…
Image of idea fornication from Cote’s photostream.
Filed under: Carbon, Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Public Opinion | Tags: Carbon, Climate Change, energy saving trust, Environment, environmental, Politics, Public Opinion
Will climate change be an issue in next years election? Unlikely. The green movement failed to make it an issue last time and this time looks like being even worse. Why?
Firstly, HSBC’s Carbon Confidence monitor shows a fall in concern about climate change in the UK – down from 26% last year to 15% this year. This figure is also much less than developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and India – prompting an excellent rant on Alistair Campbell’s blog:
Is that because [people in developing countries] are more used to weather driven destruction? Or because they have not fallen victim to the ‘not bovvered’ syndrome which says instant gratification belongs to the individual and any long-term problem belongs to somebody else?
Secondly, research we’ve seen by our clients at the Energy Saving Trust suggests people are increasingly confused about carbon – not surprising giving the confusing language: carbon offsets, carbon emissions, carbon calculators, carbon trading, carbon footprints, etc.
Thirdly, there’s no clear story for people to get behind. We’re lost in the din: all kinds of consumer brands are talking the talk; government messaging comes from the Carbon Trust, the Energy Saving Trust, and Act On CO2; and in the run-up to Copenhagen, dozens of campaigns are competing for public engagement.
Fourthly, climate change cynics are on the increase. George Monbiot points to an explosion of books denying climate change: on Amazon.co.uk, anti-climate change books currently rank 1,2,4,5,7 and 8 in the global warming category. The British book-buying public clearly wants to be told that climate change is some kind of conspiracy.
Finally, Armageddon really doesn’t sell well. As climate change becomes a reality, we can expect some public antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Worse than this, we might even expect people to consumer more: an extraordinary piece of research called “Of Wealth & Death” finds that people often respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. They begin with a cheery quote form Tolkien:
But the fear of death grew ever darker upon them, and . . . those that lived turned the more eagerly to pleasure and revelry, desiring ever more goods and more riches. (from The Silmarillion)
I’m going to suggest a new acronym. Already we have SISO (shit in, shit out). Now we have DIDO (disaster in, disaster out): the more we talk about Armageddon, the close it gets. The green movement is good at disaster scenarios. Where are the gleaming possible new futures? If we want a positive response, don’t we need some positive inputs?