March 16, 2012 | Energy Policy, Sustainability + Energy

During the rough and tumble of everyday life, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the immediate moment and lose sight of the broader perspective. This is true in all areas of our lives. In sports, a defeat can be overwhelming if not viewed as a learning experience. For parents, where “rough and tumble” can take on a literal meaning, the ability to see a future of peace and quiet once children have left home is key to finding patience in the moment.  And in business, frustration with immediate challenges, particularly those we cannot control, can lead to insanity (e.g., trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result) if we do not continually assess and tweak our course of action.

In the wind industry, the current circumstances are bleak, but we need to keep our sights set on the long-term.  Calvin Coolidge defined persistence by saying:

 “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

In the wind industry, we need persistence now more than ever. Two recently published articles prompt me to say this. The first, from the Guardian, criticizes the U.K. government for pulling back its commitment to wind energy despite abundant off-shore resources.  Apparently a large number of Tory Members of Parliament do not believe in climate change or the need to move to a low-carbon economy. As the author points out, this pull-back puts thousands of jobs at risk, and drives potential investors to look elsewhere.  Instead of driving growth, the government’s reversal on wind has precisely the opposite effect.

On the bright side, this gives the U.S. an opportunity to show leadership in accelerating the growth of manufacturing, innovation and service jobs in wind, whilst expanding the supply chain and tax base… Oh, wait – the US is doing the same thing! Both countries are engaged in a race to the bottom leaving the field clear for others.

The second article concerned Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific halfway between Hawaii and Fiji. (Yes, I had to look it up.) The government is concerned because many of the islands are only a few feet above sea level, and may disappear entirely as the compounding effects of climate change become more severe. This leaves Kiribati with few choices. They can build walls like the Dutch. But will they work?  They can build floating islands.  But the technology is experimental; and where would they float off to?  Or, they can buy land in neighboring Fiji on to which the population can relocate when necessary. This is currently the solution of choice.

(And what a brilliant solution, but it  makes me wonder: Should the State of Florida experience the same fate, where will those residents end up?)

This brings me back to persistence. The problems we face due to lack of foresight are deep and bleak, but the impact of not reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is much bleaker. So we check our goals, reassess our strategy and  press on.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate: a Vermont full of Floridians!