Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on October 20, 2012

Climate Change


Many have been disheartened by the lack of discussion of environmental issues, including climate change, in the recent political debates and ads.  Although most in Seattle believe climate change is happening, there is still much doubt and denial throughout America and many have turned pessimistic.  Our two speakers consider how we can avert this disaster.


First Speaker, A-P Hurd

A-P Hurd is a Vice President at Touchstone Corporation.  Prior to joining Touchstone, she was Director of Strategic Development at McKinstry Co. A-P is also a Runstad Fellow in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington where she teaches a graduate seminar on development economics. Her recent research has focused on metrics for urban and regional policy in China and in the U.S. She has worked on numerous environmental policy initiatives at the state and local level and recently published The Carbon Efficient City with the University of Washington Press.  She spoke to InspireSeattle about her new book.

In her role at Touchstone, A-P has been working for years to bring together the many constituents necessary for the successful completion of sustainable development projects.  Her experience has taught her that investors, the folks that bring the needed resources to a project, often drive development decisions, and return on investment is the primary concern.  This means that “doing the right thing”, (i.e., achieving sustainability) may only happen 15% to 20% of the time.  A-P has long focused on how to drive this percentage upwards.  One of her lessons has been that high hurdles (such as the cost, unavailability) of the next solution need to be overcome to “do the right thing”.  As an example, low-flow toilets initially had all the hurdles of a new technology but today are the standard, and demonstrate that sustainable solutions are truly possible.

A-P’s big goal today is determining how we can achieve the biggest bang for the buck with our use of fossil fuels.  This was the premise for her new book, The Carbon Efficient City, which she began in 2008 and wrote with her dad.  A-P discussed the many common obstacles to success sustainable development faces, and the key leverage points to overcome these, including new ideas on regulation, important feedback loops, and the idea of “delight”, i.e., the power of giving people something that truly delights them and leads them to a change in behavior.  A-P wrote her book directed at right-of-center folks, knowing that conservation is truly at the core of being a conservative, and that we need broad collaboration throughout communities for real success.

When asked about the inappropriateness of using GDP as a real indicator of the health and well-being of a community/society, A-P provided a great insight:  GDP is like a company’s income statement.  Investors use financial statements as the key tools to measure performance.  To do this right, an investor will not only look at income, but will also look at the balance sheet.  Just using an income statement to see how profitable you are can paint a false picture.  One needs to look also at what’s happening to your assets, and what liabilities you are generating on your balance sheet.  GDP doesn’t look at our disappearing assets, or our rising liabilities, which needs to be done.


Second Speaker, Ramez Naam 

Ramez is a computer scientist and award winning author.  He spent 13 years at Microsoft where he led development on early versions of Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Bing.  He’s the H.G. Wells Award-winning author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement.  His first science fiction novel, Nexus, about the development of and struggle to control an advanced technology that can link minds to machines and each other, will be released in December of 2012.

His second non-fiction book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet argues that innovation is the one and only force that can overcome climate change, finite energy, and other natural resource and environmental challenges that face us.  The book shows how we can embrace, accelerate, and steer innovation to surmount those problems and usher in unprecedented prosperity.  It will be released in March of 2013. 

[Click here to see Ramez Naam's PowerPoint slideshow]

Ramez told a highly engaging story using an awesome PowerPoint, with extensive images and values that showed how we, as a society, are currently experiencing both the best of times and the worst of times. 

The worst of times were highly apparent in the devastating data and images Ramez showed regarding environmental degradation, and in particular, climate change.  Both data and images were overpowering.  People still denying global warming would have an impossible task of rebutting what Ramez shared with us. 

But Ramez countered the worst of times with images and stories of the best of times, largely showing how much progress society has made over the years, and the truly remarkable success we have had with our clever creativity.  If we can keep this trend going, the past and the present show we can honestly solve much that we face.  Both the problems and the opportunity for solutions are in front of us.  What we need is the true leadership to move us forward. 

But this doesn’t mean political rhetoric we always hear in campaign speeches!   It means valid, honest leadership.  Ramez gave many examples of success, and boiled his assessment of the necessities to move us forward into a four point plan.  His point is that these steps involve us ALL, not just “those other folks out there”.  Step 1:  Communicate, to our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and even strangers in a friendly and caring way, not in an argumentative preach.  We all need to talk about the need for change.  Step 2:  Participate, all of us, at all levels.  Step 3:  Innovate.  We are a society of innovators, and by supporting a strong drive for innovation, we support ideas and solutions for a better society.  And Step 4: Optimism.  Many of the charts Ramez showed can lead to a feeling of this all being too big, too hard.  We need to keep the hope!  We have the intellect to solve great challenges.  Be hopeful!  What we need to add to this is the determination, willpower, resilience AND the effort to make change happen.



Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events


  Speakers, A-P Hurd (left)
and Ramez Naam (right)
  Dave Gamrath, emcee
  Thank you to Carrie Bogner for hosting





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