Archive for Miscellaneous Thoughts

How to move Investment Capital to Sustainable Technologies

Upon reviewing an article from the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) and based on studies from the (IEA) International Energy Agency on the needs for energy in global development, one issue became crystal clear; that without investors feeling the need to move their funds toward Sustainable Technologies and Sustainable companies, there would be insufficient capital to keep up with growing global energy demand. While this causes a major problem for “developing” countries, it also causes a major challenge to move towards sustainable energy in “developed” countries. Note that I have added the quotes because, in a world that is being injured by much of the development we have experienced, one may question the long term efficacy of the whole notion of “development” as we currently know it. The term “Developed” in the fullness of time will more likely be something like “mature” and mature has a very different implication. What mature country would continue to destroy it’s own environment? Well, that’s a different topic so let’s move on.

In a quote from the report the author states that “Today private sector investments constitute the largest share (86%) of global investment flows and are expected to be essential to addressing climate change. A large additional flow of tens of billions of dollars will also be needed for adaptation.”

One of the most effective means of a government to weild it’s financial power is to influence the direction of Private Investment Capital. Rather than trying to “be” the investor as in many of the current government incentive scheme’s which directly invest, wouldn’t it be possible to take a different approach? » Continue reading “How to move Investment Capital to Sustainable Technologies”

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US Cash for Clunker program

When I heard about the existance of the Cash for Clunker program, it seemed like a reasonable approach to start stimulating the economy and to get some potential benefits for the environment. After hearing a few of the details, I thought perhaps there is room for improvement. Mr. Obama suggested that if there’s a better idea, then use it no matter what the source. So here are a few ideas to improve the program, for what their worth. » Continue reading “US Cash for Clunker program”

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Impact of the economic crisis on renewable energy and other environmental issues.

A question was asked in April on one of the leadership forums about the impacts of the economic crisis on Renewable Energy suppliers and other environmental concerns. At that point, most answers were speculative. Now we have a little more insight and these are my answers to the questions that were posted: 

  1. How will this crisis affect the renewable energy industry?
  2. Will the possibility of creating green jobs surpass the additional cost that a customer would be able to afford to have clean energy?
  3. Should environmental consciousness prevail?
  4. Would governments change their commitments by reducing incentives to renewable energy in a moment that tax payer money has more important uses?
  5. How would a renewable energy company adapt to this market of lower capital and possibly much lower revenues? » Continue reading “Impact of the economic crisis on renewable energy and other environmental issues.”

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Commentary on Star Article related to Green Energy Act

This article in the Star about Ontario’s Green Energy Act makes some valuable points about the Act. Click on the link below to read the article if you haven’t already. (Note the article was printed Feb 24, 2009 and came up in my research on the Green Energy Act which has now passed. It did generate some thoughts.)

Can Green Energy Act clean up Ontario’s electricity supply?

My own thoughts: Let’s look at current and future solutions with the goal of learning from our mistakes. Limiting our time-frame is unfair to future generations who are equally entitled to resources we are consuming. Any act which promotes 100% renewable energy is consistent with justice for future generations. Any act inconsistant with that goal denies future generations of their rights.

» Continue reading “Commentary on Star Article related to Green Energy Act”

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What in the World is going on?

Except for organizations, individuals or businesses that see themselves as being from other worlds, it is probably a good idea if the rest of us pay close attention to what’s going on in this world.

Paying attention to bad things, however, only heightens our awareness of the negatives and does little for making the world a better and healthier place to live. As human beings, it’s easy and natural to dwell on the negatives. The brain is designed to shortcut the thinking process by noticing abnormalities in our surroundings and then problem solving them to find solutions. There is a limit to the amount of awareness we can have towards our surroundings without driving ourselves crazy and this is one of the brain’s strategies to limit input.

Unfortunately, this also means that only about 40% of people are motivated by positive goals. The rest are motivated by becoming aware of problems and then finding solutions to those problems. On the down side of this statistic is the fact that focusing on the problems doesn’t really help us on bigger issues that are not immediately perceptible to our self-focused emotions. In other words, if the problem doesn’t immediately injure us or make us feel bad, we don’t really notice how serious it is. This explains why we don’t do much about issues which afflict other people in the world such as starvation, AIDs, homelessness and climate change. The impact to us as individuals in North America is not so immediate that we feel an urgent need to change what we are doing.

So the question is this, if we want to solve the more complex problems of the world, and even more importantly, start working towards a world that is a genuinely healthy place for all it’s inhabitants, how do we make ourselves more aware of the problems faced by others in a way that creates an immediate and personal impact? How do we change the way we percieve these challenges and opportunities?

As organizational leaders, we have an opportunity to educate people. This is part of the solution but not the complete solution. If we can find a way to change the entire culture of our organizations so that they become pro-active, rather than re-active, united in action rather than dis-united, long term and short term thinking rather than only short term, wouldn’t we do that, especially if there is no real down side?

Here are some examples of thinking from a personal perspective vs. from a world perspective:

1) The Economy

Let’s say we work for GM and we are concerned about loosing our job or pension. It is only natural, that we would experience fear and concern. We would naturally be motivated to vote for someone if they showed concern for us and promised that they would specifically take actions to help save our jobs. From a direct and personal emotional stance, this is the most striking problem we may be facing and finding an immediate fix is what we will naturally want to do.

The question I would pose, is this, “Is it the right thing to do and will it benefit us in the long term?”

Here are some thoughts:

a) An individual living in the USA, Canada or Europe for the most part will always have a better standard of living than most people in the world based on our current and immediate observations. Even though we might have fears about our financial situation, it’s not too hard to conclude that the vast majority will somehow survive in relative comfort. We have all been relatively well educated. We can read and write, we have some skills that we’ve gained over our years of work. We have some social safety net and we are collectively able to produce more than enough for our family and therefore are able to create products and services to export or sell to others.

b) In many other countries there is relatively little education. War is rampant, women are raped regularly, children die from malnutrition and disease and people live in dire poverty. They have very little ability to solve even their most fundamental problems.

c) It is only by the grace of God we were born into our own good fortune. After all, how is it decided what your fate will be? If we had been born into that situation, we would also lack an education and the capacity to solve our own challenges. Most of us would find it impossible to imagine ourselves in this situation even for one day when many are faced with this on a daily basis throughout their entire lives. If we were able to get a sense of what this is like, our minds might begin to see this as a more pervasive and serious problem and, in that case, we would naturally start to look for solutions because we would be emotionally motivated to do so.

The challenge is that the emotional pain is separated by geographic, personal and political boundaries from the source of the solutions, namely those who are so fortunate to enjoy the benefits of education.

Let’s think about this a little more. If you think of the world as a whole organic entity, we might think of the individuals and families as cells, the businesses as organs that process the good and provide services to the body, transports systems as the arteries, governments of the world as the skeletal framework, military as th protective layer (i.e. the skin), the information transfer mechanisms, internet, telephone, journalists, librarys, teachers as the nervous system. Looking at the world from that perspective we would have to look at the economy as being lopsided with a fat belly (e.g. first world nations) with mal-nourished limbs. We might see economic cycles as binging and purging, not a very healthy behavior. We might see consumption of our own irreplacable resources as a flesh eating disease and war as an auto-immune disease where one part of the body is trying to kill the other part.

Now looking at it from this perspective, it’s difficult to conclude that putting money back into the fat of the world to continue feeding it and making even fatter, makes any sense. if you had 1 billion dollars to spend, would it be better for the world in the long run to spend it on a car company that is having challenges selling the amount of product it is capable of producing, or would it be better to spend that same billion dollars on educating people to become teachers and then sending those teacher to places where education is desparately required so that other parts of the world can become more self sustainting?

In the end, those other parts of the world, as they become viable and healthy economies, also begin to sustain us.

If each of us was able to feel emotionally the anguish of someone who lives in poverty, would we be more likely to focus on different solutions?

It is wonderful that Barack Obama has called upon all people to take personal responsibility for their own situations. I suspect that he’s quite aware of the needs of the world but as a leader of the US has specific responsibilities. I can only hope that he and other western leaders will begin to focus more of the wealth and resources on creating a sustainable world, not just a sustainable economy for their own countries.

We all need to make an effort to become conscious and start to feel and think on a global basis. Yes, you will always be most aware of your own pains first. This is natural. But by envisioning what the world is really like for people who are less fortunate and then striving to solve there challenges, we ulitmately benefit ourselves as well.

Granted, this is a simplification of how the world works. But if the world is ever to become truly healthy, there is a need for a much greater global consciousness.

In the words of 19th century visionary and prophet founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u'llah, “Let your vision be world embracing…”

Garth Schmalenberg

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The World as an Organization

In reading the IPCC report on Climate Change mitigation and their other reports, inertia is mentioned repeatedly as part of the cause of our situation and the reason why we won’t be able to reverse it any time soon.

In fact, inertia is part of every human challenge. We are unable to change our own mindset when we are on a different side of an issue and it is only natural that we would come to different conclusions about different issues. We each come from a different background, have different priorities, see different concerns.

In the end, however, we do need to recognize that the world is one place and ultimately with one outcome. The human race will most likely survive all adversities. But what will that survival look like?

Let’s look at one example of why inertia seems to impact our world so significantly.

Just for the purpose of this example, let’s assume that the IPCC is correct and climate change is a very real issue. Since this is an exercise in thinking, emotional reaction and inertia, it is not necessary to debate the issue. But suppose for this example that relatively minor changes in the climate begin to cause massive crop failures and food shortages and we start to realize that massive starvation will happen. We generally don’t think that far down the road because we are busy with the concerns of today and we don’t do much about it because we never anticipate that the people most likely to starve may be us. We have always had an abundance of food in North America and just can’t imagine not having it. And historically, we have always found solutions to the challenges of our world, albeit, not always without suffering and often at the expense of other countries. What if we knew for certain that we would be hungry and that we would see our children starving within ten years? Would we convince ourselves to act differently right now to try to avert the disaster or would we throw up our hands and give up? And if we were unfortuate enough to be born in a country already in need of food, water or shelter, we simply wouldn’t have the energy to do much about our situation. All of our energies would be used on struggling for immediate survival.

So the inertia is this. We who have the ability to do something don’t fully believe we need to do anything and those who are already suffering know that we need to do something but they can’t do anything.

Interestingly enough, there is no guarentee that we will not be impacted by a food shortage or other types of challenge in the future. Most of them we will handle. It’s those challenges that we can’t handle that we must have contingency for.

This year alone we saw minor shifts in “food power”. A simple example: the country of Vietnam which is one of the top rice producing nations, in the face of rising demand on rice, began to temporarily withhold its’ exports. Why? It was a simple reaction to ensure it’s own preservation first and then only after ensuring it’s own food supply it re-opened the exports. It was a measured and reasonable reaction. But what if they had decided not to open their trading again? Or what if their crops had failed. Most of the worlds rice exports are from only a few countries. Now supposing the situation had been even more severe and even more of the rice producing countries had the same reaction of withholding exports. How quickly would the world, including western nations, be facing major rice shortages? True, we wouldn’t likely starve due to a rice shortage. But let’s add to that some other looming economic or ecollogical challenges such as a major crop failure in our part of the world. This year, my wife and I noticed on our daily walks that the local cherry trees didn’t bear any fruits. I don’t know much about cherries so I found this interesting, not threating. But it might be a problem. In the B.C. Okanogan Valley, 25% of the fruit production was destroyed by hail. Other types of challenges can impact us too. What about when the power grid failed a few years back for several days in much of Ontario and across the nothern US states. Gas stations couldn’t pump gas, many people lost the contents of their freezers and food rotted in stores. And that was just a few days. What about the increase in hurricanes in the gulf of Mexico. Recently we’ve all seen more damaging storms. Regardless of whether it is climate change related or not, it does point out that it wouldn’t take that much for our system to start breaking down. And even just due to current economic conditions, at least some North Americans are already having difficulties feeding their families. In some of the eastern Canadian Provinces, rising prices and a weakness in the economy have caused unprecedented food bank demand and lower contribution rates. Malnutrition already exists for many of our northern citizens.

My goal is not to dwell on the negative or predict catastrophic failure. It is to hi-light the potential for these situations to be influenced by our attitudes and approaches to solving them. Inertia is a problem and the type of change we need is a change of heart and action.

Consider this, if we were to reverse the current situation and think of ourselves as the recipients of global aide, how would we feel if the rest of the world failed to recognize our plight and come to our rescue? What if you, as a Canadian or American parent found yourself unable to find work, unable to pay for a home, and unable to feed your family? What if, under the strain of a challenged econonomy, our social system became so depleted that it was unable to help us? Would we hope for the rest of the world to help or would we suffer in silence as so much of the world does now? Would it be acceptable to us in that situation to look back and say that inertia drove us to this situation? We are not suffering severely now but many other countries are. And based on the current notion that inertia has such a great influence, could we expect the world to do very much for us? Not likely.

So my questions are these:

  1. Is there a way for us to create a better system of learning, communicating and sharing that will take us all to action more quickly with less resistance, greater coordination and cooperation, and with less impact from the effects of mental and emotional inertia?
  2. Is there a way we can make “change” a concept that is easy to swallow logically and emotionally and one which enroles our interest and passion to get the job done as quickly as possible?

Traditional change management theories count on creating projects which enrole and involve the ideas of those they may impact. This is a great start. But have you ever noticed what causes major changes in a human being? In each of us, we have a certain way of thinking based on our history and our defence of that historical perspective. As a coach, I’ve witnessed that simply asking someone the right questions will have them completely drop a long held view and consider something new. We all need to learn how to start asking those kinds of questions and this is especially true of our leaders. Here’s an example. I work with people who are in work and family relationships and some have huge challenges. They disagree as a result of their personal views and beliefs and they argue, shout, insist, blame, defend and then learn to shut others out with the inherent belief that if they explain more loudly or just one more time that they will eventually win the day. One question I often ask is “Is this the way you want your relationship to continue?” or “Is this approach working for you?” These are simple questions but they bring up the need to slowly examine our thoughts and beliefs about the outcome and they to begin to re-think their approach. Before the question is asked, there is an assumption that they would eventually prevail. The question makes them realize that this may not be so. 

We need to have a vision of our future that is inclusive. If anyone is left out, there will always be tension and as long as there is tension, there will be major disputes. This is true of any organization. If we think about the global picture and conceive of what is possible for the world, we can also begin to think about how we do our part and work together. We also need to think about how we support those who will be most negatively impacted by changes that are good for the world but which may not be initially positive for them.

Imagine if we could all agree that some great initiative (e.g. establishing peace or reducing climate change) as something so vital to us individually and collectively, that we all want it desparately and we are willing to forgo the inertia associated with taking sides, holding on to old views, insisting on what is best for us personally, or striving for the dominance of our own perspectives. What if we learned to consult frankly, bring positive ideas to the table with a sense of detachment and maturity, and only with the idea of sharing information and adding to the ideas of others? What if we elected government representitives who demonstrated wisdom, worldly experience, enthusiasm for getting things done and a deep respect for others rather than those who represent a particular party or current point of view (inertia)? What if we gave our politicians manditory training on how to consult effectively and insist that they show respect for others rather than rewarding them for making clever remarks to put down the points presented by others? What if we all simply recognized that we are all the benefactors of whatever world we create and start thinking about how to make the entire world better, not just our own peice of the world? And to be fair, there are many people who already have this attitude and who devoted their lives to making the world a better place for everyone. What if we could, through new methods of communication, have everyone moving quickly together toward a common goal?

What if we really did think of the World as an an Organization?

We all understand the principle of inertia in the physical realm. If a large object is in motion, it requires a force to change that motion. We can think of a large ocean liner or train and how difficult they are to stop. This principle appears to apply in the mental and emotional realm as well. People are resistant to change and often change only when forced. However, are the minds and hearts really bound by the principles of inertia or is it simply that we don’t know how to influence others in ways that make change easier? In addition, what if we were able to make changes that allowed us to use inertia to our advantage by getting everyone aligned to the same goals.

The example we can use to look at change is 9 people in a racing canoe. Five people row in one direction and the other four, who are in disagreement, row in the other direction. How long does it take them to row to the other side of the lake? If they were to change direction and still have disagreement, how long would that change take? How much more quickly could they move if they all row together? How much more quickly would they find out if they were heading in the wrong direction simply by going with the majority, finding the wrong side of the lake, taking notes and then heading off in another direction? This example is similar to resisting change. We believe the change is wrong or detrimental to us personally so we do whatever we can to resist it and slow it down. This is usually out of a sense of preservation of our current situation. But what if the boat we are in is sinking and what if only some people in the boat are able to see the leak and yet others are convinced that it is not so they resist rowing to a specific destination? I’m not saying the world is a sinking boat. I’m just saying that maybe it has a few holes and that we will be better off to row together than to row all in different directions. 

In our current method of change, the higher level of power will ultimately prevail. But how much easier would it be if we could devise systems where we all consult about the most desired outcome, devise measures to ensure that we are reaching those outcomes, work along with the majority even when we don’t necessarily agree, adjust the path to help those who are struggling to keep up, and determine whether our actions have resulted in the predicted and most desirable outcomes? If the outcome is not what we anticipated, we at very least have more information to use for the next leg of the trip which will also be much faster.

Let’s tackle a hypothetical problem. Climate Change. There is an endless amount of discussion about it. Who’s right, who’s wrong, and whether it is caused by human activity or not. Even if you are someone who doesn’t agree with the IPCC position, supposing we accept that this is the majority view. If we were to jointly agree that for the next 10 years we have a serious problem to address that will require the cooperation of every country, every person and every company. We would agree to create and support major initiatives to limit carbon output and create green alternatives, stop the debate and simply do it. We could improve measures and models which determine the results of our efforts and keep track of those results. At the end of that period, we could determine the results of those efforts and decide if the world is better off as a whole and better prepared for the future, or not. Even if there were sacrifices of jobs and positions along the way, even if it caused us to pay higher taxes temporarily (especially those of us who could afford to), even if we had limits on certain freedoms, like how much we are able to drive our cars or how much carbon based energy we could use, we would know much more than by using most of our energies to debate the issue. We would know if the world was improving or not and we would have new alternatives. Many of the people who had lost jobs in one segment would have found positions in another. For example, perhaps some would have moved from the oil patch to green energies and some to agriculture. If this approach made a positive difference to climate, we would know. If not, we would also know. We would have gained experience in knowing how to shift resources in a planned, organized and cooperative way. We would have learned how to take care of those who were displaced by the change. The notion of change for the sake of change is not necessarily the right approach but it has the benefit of allowing us to learn how to be more flexible. Even if the science of climate change ultimately turns out to be wrong, we would know much more and likely with relatively little sacrifice and many potential benefits.

If we learn how to function together, to “row in the same direction” so to speak, we can begin to look at the world as one system and one organization working in harmony. And potentially we can do this on a voluntary basis as we each step forward to do our part.

What does this mean on an individual basis? Of course, speak your mind. Vote for those who you trust to think clearly, who are best able to evaluate effectively what’s best for the world, not ignoring local issues but someone who sees local issues within the scope of a bigger world. And when the directions are set, support them whole heartedly. If you see a social ill, use some of your time, energy and wealth to act on behalf of those who aren’t able to act for themselves. View all the people of the world as having equal rights and do what you are capable of doing to help the underprivileged to achieve all that they can. Learn the secrets of respectful, cooperative and detached consultation. And most importantly, learn how to encourage others to do the same.

What does it mean for a country? Look at the UN as an essential forum for discussion in which all countries begin to recognize and address the global challenges, encourage and support the research that will predict future outcomes based on specific initiatives, strive to encourage open dialogue and encourage a system where the majority of nations become educated to vote for those issues that promote the betterment of the world and suggest the removal of UN Vito’s for certain countries. Within the country, spend lots of money on issues that are essential for the longer term health of the planet especially education.

What does it mean for companies? Companies need to see themselves in a broader context especially from an environmental perspective. They can also take initiatives to learn better methods of implementing change, improving leadership, and ensuring their future viability in a rapidly changing world. They can also invest more of their profits in training, R&D and establish colaborative ventures that will help other companies that are supporting similar initiatives. 

What will I do? I will strive through my writing and through my coaching efforts to devise, learn and share ideas that I see which help Organizations to work together more effectively for the benefit of everyone and promote the green concepts in Organizations. I will strive to teach others how to work together in harmony and to spread the message that we can create a better world for everyone.

All the best,
Garth Schmalenberg

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