Defeating excuses

As you might recall, last February I began a new program to begin to improve my overall health. After losing thirty pounds in 6 months, I have spent the last month maintaining that but not inching any closer to my end goal. I have been eating pretty appropriately but not getting in much exercise. My bike had been sitting on the garage hooks for several months and I kept finding myself too busy or distracted with other things to get it down. So, on Thursday I purposefully painted myself in to a corner and had the kids drive themselves to school despite me planning to attend my sons school soccer game 15 miles away. This left me one free option, to ride my bike. Thursday morning my brain started randomly producing excuses about why I should just stay home. These included the unusual heat and humidity, that is was too far and unsafe, that my bike should have a tune-up first, and my favorite – that I would likely get some chaffing, In and amongst those, I put air in the tires, lubricated the chain, prepared an appropriate song playlist, and began to pre-hydrate. Since Bing currently lacks an integrated bicycle mapping solution (vote for it here), I turned to Google. It showed the path I should take and estimated it should take 90 minutes on a bike to go the 15 miles. My first thought was to give myself 3 hours and if I was running ahead of schedule I could stop somewhere on the way, but as the day wore on I settled on 2 hours, sprayed some arm and hammer powder to alleviate chaffing concerns, put on my ear buds, and was on my way. For the first few miles, the excuses and doubts continued to creep in but I kept peddling and was eventually to a point where it would be less effort to keep going towards my destination rather than turn back. I arrived at the game 30 minutes early which was spot on with the Google estimate. I wonder if Google knew I was a middle aged somewhat out of shape man riding a fat tire trail bike.

Sometimes we need to push (or pedal) through our doubts and excuses and stop letting fear, uncertainty, laziness, or complacency hold us back. It has been several months since I have written a blog entry, in part because of an underlying feeling of despair. I have watched many of the decisions that our current U.S. elected and appointed officials have made related to environmental protections and have been truly saddened for future generations who will feel the impacts much greater than I will. The current status quo is unsustainable and the global scientific community has been telling us this for decades. We have been treating the sky like it is a limitless expansive sewer, where we dump 110 million tons of man made global warming pollution every day, when in reality there is a thin shell of an atmosphere less than half the distance that I biked yesterday. It is no coincidence that 16 out of the 17 hottest years ever recorded on planet Earth have occurred since 2001. I could go on and on but to simplify what you hopefully already know, the problem is complex and the solution is simple. My good friend Tim said it well, we need to fix the market bug and have taxpayers stop subsidizing the very things that we turn around and socialize the costs of.

The good news is that there is growing bi-partisan support for addressing this issue head on but we need to keep the momentum. Today there are 56 US House of Representative members (28R / 28D) in the Climate Solutions Caucus working on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, and public safety. While 56 is a good number, it is not like being past the halfway point on my bike was. We need to keep peddling and push through any discomfort, go up some hills, avoid some potholes, avoid some distracted drivers, and eventually we will have enough momentum that moving forward will be easier than turning back. You can use the previous link to look at who is in the CSC and easily ask your representative to join the caucus as well as thank the current members. Please take a few moments to nudge your representative. As we have seen, addressing climate change with partisan solutions is not sustainable because a change in leadership after an election cycle can quickly negate progress in that area. Mother Nature and Climate Change do not care about your political affiliations and neither should you when it comes to this topic. We need to embrace our representatives with a positive mindset and find common ground with them to move forward.

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Avoiding a Kodak moment

In the mid 1970’s, Kodak had a 90% share of film sales in the U.S. and owned numerous patents for digital photography.  In 1975 they even made a digital camera but scrapped it out of fear that digital photography would hurt their own film sales.  At the time Kodak faced little competition and their executives could not comprehend a world without traditional film so they continued business as usual.  By the 1990’s they began to struggle financially because they did not adapt to the market and bankruptcy, patent sales, and division divestitures followed.  While a portion of the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2013, they changed the meaning of the phrase “Kodak moment” for many.

Today, many businesses are faced with similar dilemmas of how to adapt to a changing marketplace.  It is a delicate dance as evolution and change are often viewed as risky as staying the course.  Many corporations have created the position of Chief Environmental Strategist or Chief Sustainability Officer to focus on reducing energy consumption and costs and to make more sustainable choices.  Some companies (like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Dell, Ecolab, and more) have taken it a step further and are making significant investments in renewable energy, running and cooling their data centers in creatively efficient ways, and even self-imposing a carbon tax in an effort to be responsible about emissions and be prepared for the pending government imposed carbon tax.  California, Quebec, British Columbia, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, and France are just some of the geographies leading by already putting a price on carbon.  More are going to follow and for those in the energy sector, diversifying and embracing other products are likely necessities for evolving.

Six of the ten highest revenue producing companies in the world deal in oil and gas, one of them is Saudi Aramco (The Saudi Arabian Oil Company).  Owning a company that has nearly a hundred years’ worth of reserves and assets totaling about $30 trillion dollars might make going with business as usual tempting.  Many suspect that Saudi Arabia has slashed the price of oil to stick it to Russia or Iran, or to stall other drilling projects and all of those might be accurate.  However, a new theory is slowly taking shape that Saudi Aramco is recognizing the problem it has with owning more oil than the world can possibly consume before oil demand drops significantly.  This theory seems further evidenced by their recent shift in R&D spending in renewable energy fields.  It would seem plausible that Saudi Aramco is attempting to prevent having their own Kodak moment. In 2000, the former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani said “Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil and no buyers.  Oil will be left in the ground.  The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

Not so different than when we once enjoyed slashed prices on the Sony Walkman cassette player, console television sets, and rotary telephones; perhaps oil will join the list though not likely to be abandoned quite as rapidly as the others…