The Perfect Storm: A Hopeful Sign

Jul 18, 2016

Something happened last week that provided a strong ray of hope with respect to our ability to weather the perfect storm.

     For newer readers, the “perfect storm” describes the looming collision of seismic economic, energy, environmental and behavioral forces and the dramatic impact it will have on our lives. Our current practices are unsustainable.

     The concern of this publication has always been that public apathy and/or denial is preventing us from addressing these perfect storm threats. That said, we believe in the resilience of people to respond to the threat once awakened to it. We experienced such an awakening last week and want to tell you about it:

     The U.S. Energy Information Administration, held its EIA 2016 Energy Conference last week in Washington D.C. Our expectation was that it would deal strictly with energy matters, but we were pleasantly surprised; in fact, caught off guard. It went far deeper.

     A key thrust of the conference was clean energy – and in particular, its role in the fulfillment of the Paris Accords, the Clean Power Plan and its pivotal part in a circular economy. The international speakers, business leaders, and policymakers affirmed their bias for proactively addressing several of the perfect storm challenges; a hopeful sign of collaborative resilience.

     They challenged the underlying assumptions of the linear economy – the “take, make dispose” model and offered instead the advantages of the circular economy model. The linear model, they opined, was heavily dependent on large quantities of cheap and accessible material, energy, and resources, and would become increasingly unsustainable – and economically disruptive – as these finite resources became scarcer and costlier.  

     The circular model, by comparison, is restorative and regenerative, by design. It calls for the systemic – versus single purpose – use of reusable resources and renewable energy, and it constantly works to design waste out of the system. It features a planned way to reuse, recycle, refurbish and repurpose resources to optimize value throughout a diversified cycle of usages.

     It provides a viable way of sustainably growing within the confines of a finite resource base; and, in the process, reducing our carbon footprint, growing our economy and creating a host of  new economic engines of growth. What’s not to like about a business model like this?

     Guest speakers at the conference presented case studies on what their companies were doing within this circular economy construct, and it was impressive. The overriding economic advantages, protection of their supply sources, customer loyalty and new business opportunities were quantified. Their examples transposed an abstract concept into a real-time, profit-making reality. It works!

     Two industries, in particular, are really clicking; the paper/pulp and the steel-making industries. It takes little imagination to see how their “best practice” efforts could be used in almost any industry. (We will feature examples in our future “Best Practices” postings that illustrate the effectiveness of using the circular economy model).

     So as not to overpromise, we need to remember that the perfect storm is a complex challenge. Among other things, it pits the insatiable demands of a growing population against the environment and finite resources of the good planet Earth. Left unchecked, it puts us on an unsustainable trajectory that will constantly feed the perfect storm. While not a panacea, the circular economy model provides a game-changing strategy for mitigating significant parts of the risk while there is still time. 

     Bottom line: While systemic challenges require large scale responses, effective solutions often come from within the grassroots of a concerned public; one that is motivated by their own economic self-interests and willing to take a longer view toward problem-solving. The circular economy model provides this, and the real-life examples provided by the conference speakers was a powerful breath of fresh air. Keep the faith and stay posted!

     For more information, contact our website at www.weatheringthestorm.net or visit the EIA’s website on the 2016 EIA Energy Conference contact: www.eia.gov/conference/2016/

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