Feb 17 2010

Bill Gates: the Most Important Climate Speech of the Year

Kal @ 16:09

From Alex Steffen at WorldChanging:

When We Talk Zero, We Sound Crazy. When Bill Gates Does It, Bankers Pick Up the Phone.

On Friday, the world's most successful businessperson and most powerful philanthropist did something outstandingly bold, that went almost unremarked: Bill Gates announced that his top priority is getting the world to zero climate emissions.

And Friday, Gates predicted extraordinary climate action: zero. Not small steps, not incremental progress, not doing less bad: zero. In fact, he stood in front of a slide with nothing but the planet Earth and the number zero. That moment was the most important thing that has happened at TED.

Why is this important? The news stories focused largely on the clean energy aspect of the speech, and certainly the world's most successful businessman announcing that clean energy is the next frontier is a big headline. However, I think though that the real breakthrough was not Gates' answer to the problem, but his definition of success: zero.

To say, however, that the standard of zero impact is not widely understood and endorsed would be a whopping understatement. Most people rarely see the things they do, buy and use as directly part of the living systems of the planet. Few people who do think of their connection to nature have ever conceived their lives designed to have no impact at all. For most people, a ten percent or twenty percent improvement sounds like a big deal -- in large part because the improvements they're most familiar with involve giving things up. When they do encounter it, the idea of "zero" looms like a giant wall of deprivation in front of them. The idea that zero might not be the end of the good life, but in fact the beginning of a much better way of life, is simply inconceivable to the vast, vast majority of them. When we talk zero, we sound crazy.

But when Bill Gates talks zero, he sounds visionary. Gates, whatever else he did Friday, just made the most important idea on the planet mainstream credible. That's a big, big deal.

There is more including a critique by  Alex Steffen.


Category: Climate Change | Economics | Population | Resource Depletion | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability
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