Beat the hangover

The air is full of those traditional sounds of fall- sniffles, coughs, and feverish moans. As the days shorten, pessimism has spread with the flu. This fall’s version builds upon a spring and summer of agitation and insecurity as the public discourse over a wide variety of issues has been a sort of headache hangover of last fall and winter’s giddy sense of optimism and accomplishment.

Historically, it was a justified buoyancy. But the tempering of realism and the lack of unity on just what sort of change we can actually accomplish sets us up for a new hangover, which unfortunately can’t be excused by a landmark accomplishment.

While it has only recently gotten front-page notice, the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference offers a historical opportunity that actually has equal if not greater potential than electing the first black POTUS. Imagine the impact of a truly meaningful enforceable climate plan agreed upon by all the nations of the world. Imagine the years since Kyoto of effort and organizing and politicking on all sides around the world.

Which is why there is going to be a hangover. Regardless of what is agreed upon in Copenhagen next month, what is generally agreed upon to be required of humanity to both mitigate and adapt to our climate won’t be included. The actions called for won’t be enough for some, and too much for others. Based upon past performance, they won’t be executed by many.

So just like drinking as much water as possible after a night of drinking, taking that aspirin just before going to inebriated sleep, today I want to share with you an example of something you can get stoked and high about and with, that won’t give you any hangover. You might have some after buzz with the prosperity, but the relative stability promised by this example will give the platform that inspires more risk taking.

As I moved into fall, I had the chance to hear Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials speak at UCSB. His talk is titled “Last Chance to Save America”. His company, one of several ‘clean’ tech companies that “Proof or Propaganda” source Marc Porat is involved in. Serious Materials has reinvented sheet rock- you know that thing holding the paint up near you. More specifically they reinvented how sheet rock is made. And what it does both when installing it and just being part of your wall. Surace tells the story in the talk. Among the key points, huge reduction in energy used producing, and great increase in R factor of the wall it is a part of. Results in faster payback for home, and, especially when it goes to scale- reduction in energy use overall. Surace’s personal goal- save a billion tons of carbon release.
Better than all that, Serious Materials has gained the first national recognition for its deal to purchase a notoriously closed domestic door and window plant, retaining the jobs and reinventing windows the same way they reinvented sheet rock.

Invest in the time to hear the Surace presentation, or peruse a few of the much more compact videos on the company website. The shortest slickest bit is a very compressed TED talk here or here. You’ll see something to get excited about, feel confidence in and what has to be accomplished at a mammoth scale. If the United States is to continue as the leading country in the world, in freedoms of all sorts, it needs to lead economically.

The prosperity of the 50′s led to the social revolution of the 60s. Progress in democratic freedoms, and quality of life, almost always follow prosperity- especially broad based prosperity.

As you’ll see Surace show in graphs and charts, there is plenty of profit to be had, and rapid payback in energy savings, in retrofitting our structures. There is no outsourcing replacing your windows and doors or insulating your walls. And energy savings pays dividends in our national security. Again this needs to be scaled way up.

So chin up. According to Surace, there is plenty of work in the material sciences, since we really haven’t done any since building materials became a commodity.

Here at CU, pushing the POP project is one of those jobs. Seems the nation hasn’t been sold on this idea that adapting to climate can produce prosperity and security. Beyond your personal practices or politics, I hope you’ll get enough of a lift from Surace and Serious Materials to want to share it with someone else.

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