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GLOBE Day 4: “Where the Puck Are We Going?”

Posted on March 27, 2010

The town hall is always my favourite part of GLOBE because it’s a chance for professionals—some of whom have been working side by side for decades trying to promote sustainability—can let loose, say what they really mean and reflect on three days of sessions. They can reminisce about trying to sell then alien concept, cleantech, only a few years ago in Silicon Valley and being told to talk to the janitor. They can make soccer jokes.

But even though it put me in a good mood to see Delphi Group’s Chris Henderson hugging the always inspirational Dianne Dillon-Ridgley (Interface Inc.) because he was so moved by her comments, I was left feeling, as Henderson put it, “anger and sadness.” As Dillon-Ridgley said, it’s not enough to make tweaks—a LEED building here; a carbon-neutral conference there—what we’re looking at to fight climate change is massive institutional change. Globally.

That’s vague. As Tony Manwaring with UK-based Tomorrow’s Company put it, it’s unclear exactly where we’re trying to get when we talk about striving towards a sustainable future. In the end, it means much much more than anyone at the conference has imagined. And that, according to Manwaring, is a critical barrier to success. “What we have is a failure to imagine the future possible,” he said. Cleantech Group’s Nicholas Parker made a similar point, quoting hockey star Wayne Gretzky who, when asked why he’s such the superstar player, said it’s because he doesn’t follow the puck, he goes where he knows the puck is going to be. Our problem is we’re following the puck—but, as Parker put it, “Where the puck are we going?”

Dillon-Ridgley may not know exactly where the puck’s going to be, but she knows where it’s not. “We cannot keep making solar panels out of sweat shops,” she said. “It’s not good enough.” The transition has to be absolute.

“We’re not creating an alternative, we’re transitioning into a new way of doing things,” said Dillon-Ridgley. When we continue to call “green” practices “alternative,” they continue to be seen as fringe. “At some point, the green economy just has to be the economy.”

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